Normal Wear and Tear

QUICK FACTS
  • Definition. Only 5 states provide a specific definition for wear and tear. Generally, it means deterioration from intended use. (read more).
  • Normal wear and tear vs Damage. Normal wear and tear occurs without the tenant’s fault whereas damage, to be chargeable to the tenant, must be due to the tenant’s fault or negligence. (read more)
  • Charges against the tenant. Tenants are responsible only for damage that they caused in the unit and not for pre-existing ones. (read more).

What is ‘Normal Wear and Tear’?

At the end of a tenancy, the unit must be restored to its original or pre-tenancy state so that it can be rented out again. Who, between the landlord or the tenant, will be responsible for the cost of doing the same will depend on whether or not it counts as “wear and tear.” If repairs or restorations are for ordinary wear and tear, then the landlord must pay for it. If the same of for damage beyond or not included in normal wear and tear, then it may be chargeable to the tenant or the latter’s security deposit.

Only 7 states that provide a specific definition of normal wear and tear in their statutes.

StateStatutory definition of “wear and tear.”
Alaskadeterioration that occurs from the intended use of the rental unit and without negligence, carelessness, accident, misuse, or abuse of the premises or contents by the tenant, members of the household of the tenant, or the invitees or guests of the tenant.
Coloradomeans that deterioration which occurs, based upon the use for which the rental unit is intended, without negligence, carelessness, accident, or abuse of the premises or equipment or chattels by the tenant or members of his household, or their invitees or guests.
Idahodeterioration which occurs based upon the use for which the rental unit is intended and without negligence, carelessness, accident, or misuse or abuse of the premises or contents by the tenant or members of his household, or their invitees or guests.
Mainedeterioration that occurs, based upon the use for which the rental unit is intended, without negligence, carelessness, accident or abuse of the premises or equipment or chattels by the tenant or members of the tenant’s household or their invitees or guests.
Nevada(normal wear) means that deterioration which occurs without negligence, carelessness or abuse of the premises, equipment or chattels by the tenant, a member of the tenant’s household or other person on the premises with the tenant’s consent.
Texasdeterioration that results from intended use of the premises, including breakage or malfunction due to age or deteriorated condition, but the term does not include deterioration that results from negligence, carelessness, accident, or abuse of the premises, equipment, or chattels by the tenant, a member of the tenant’s household, or a guest or invitee of the tenant.
Vermontthe deterioration which occurs, based upon the reasonable use for which the rental unit is intended, without negligence, carelessness, accident, or abuse of the premises or equipment or chattels by the tenant or members of his or her household or their invitees or guests.

Some states refer to it as “reasonable” or “ordinary” wear and tear instead of normal wear and tear. Also, most states, even the ones that provide statutory definitions for it, rely on case law and practice to determine what falls within normal wear and tear. There is no definitive or black-and-white list of what is and what is not normal wear and tear. What we have are 2 requirements:

  1. It must be deterioration that resulted from the use of the property in the way it was intended to be used; and
  2. The deterioration or damage must not have been caused or accompanied by some sort of fault, negligence or abuse by the tenant or the people the tenant allowed into the unit.

If the damage to the unit complies with the two above then it is likely to fall under normal wear and tear and should not be deducted from the security deposit or otherwise charged to the tenant.

Damage vs Normal Wear and Tear

Landlords are responsible for fixing normal wear and tear while tenants are responsible for damage that they cause. Making the distinction is simpler in theory than in practice. As such, we include below a table of the usual damage and where they fall:

Material or SurfaceNormal Wear and TearBeyond Normal Wear and Tear/Damage
Walls
  • Minor nail holes from thumbtacks or hanging posters
  • Small chips, spots, dents(door knob eg.), or cracks due to settling
  • Large holes from careless drilling, weighty wall hangings, or large nails
  • Multiple nail holes needing repair
Paint
  • Fading paint due to sunlight
  • Minor scrape from daily use
  • Cracked paint
  • Unapproved or unprofessional paint job
  • Water damage on wall from hanging plants or constant rubbing of furniture
Counter tops
  • Light scratches and stains
  • Minor water marks
  • Chipped countertops
  • Burnt patches
  • Multiple stains
  • Knife cuts
Wallpaper
  • Faded, loose slightly torn
  • Ripped, marked-up with crayon, marker, or pen,
  • Unapproved wallpaper
Windows(including frames and screens)
  • Lightly scratched panes
  • Worn and loose parts and accessories
  • Faded
  • Warped windows
  • Broken or cracked panes or frames caused by tenant or invitee
  • Ripped or bent screens
  • Broken window parts and accessories
Window/Lamp Shades
  • Dirty
  • Faded
  • Torn or stained shades
  • Mildew
  • Missing lamp and window shades
Tile Flooring
  • Dirt and grout around tiles
  • Light scratches
  • Broken or chipped tiles
  • Missing tiles
Carpet
  • Furniture indentation
  • Gently worn with limited
  • Thinning from foot traffic
  • Seams unglued or unravel
  • Moderate dirt
  • Heavy stains
  • Pet damage (urine)
  • Ripped carpet
  • Burns in carpet
Hardwood Flooring
  • Fading of flooring due to sunlight exposure
  • Scuffed varnish
  • Dark patches due to lost finish
  • Deep scratches
  • Missing pieces
  • Chipped flooring
  • Water stains
Doors
  • Stick due to moisture
  • Sun faded and heat blistered doors
  • Ripped hinges
  • Broken
  • Excessively scratched
  • Missing handles or locks
Cabinets
  • Warped doors(won’t close)
  • Light scratches
  • Broken or missing doors
  • Missing hardware or accessories
  • Interior and exterior sticky
Shower
  • Mold due to limited ventilation
  • Mold due to poor cleaning habits (lack of regular cleaning)
Bathroom Tiles
  • Dirt around tiles
  • Loose grouting
  • Cracked
  • Missing
Bathtubs
  • Worn or scratched enamel
  • Chipped and broken enamel
Shower Rod
  • Rust
  • Worn varnish on plumbing fixture
  • Missing or bent shower rod or plumbing fixtures
Sinks/Drains
  • Partially clogged sinks
  • Clogged drains due to aging pipes
  • Clogged sinks or drains caused by blockage like hair, food, etc.), or improper use
Blinds/Curtains
  • Moderately dirty blinds or curtains
  • Missing or broken blinds or curtains
Bathroom Mirror
  •  Black spots(“de-silver”)
  • Missing, cracked or broken
  • Caked makeup
Refrigerator
  • Worn gaskets
  • Light dust
  • Broken refrigerator shelf
  • Dented front panels
  • Missing handle, rack or tray
Garbage Disposal
  • Smelly
  • Damaged due to metal, glass, or stones on inside
Toilet
  • Wobbly toilet
  • Worn toilet seat
  • Cracked tank
  • Missing tank lever
Curtains/Drapes
  • Faded
  • Light Dust
  • Torn or missing curtains and drapes
Sliding Door
  • Door off track
  • Door stick
  • Damaged or missing sliding door
NOTE

Some states, like Wisconsin, prohibit landlords from charging repairs or restorations for normal wear and tear to the tenant or the latter’s security deposit. In these states, the landlord is will not be able to do so even if the same is provided for in the lease any agreement with the tenant.

Routine maintenance and replacement of deteriorated itmes are 2 other expenses that occur at the end of a tenancy that are caused by normal wear and tear.

Routine Maintenance

To mitigate wear and tear and also to comply with the implied warranty of habitability, landlords must conduct routine maintenance of the rental units. Most wear and tear problems or damage can be fixed with routine maintenance. This includes, but is not limited to, checking for leaks, painting the unit between renters, changing light bulbs that don’t work, professionally cleaning carpets, testing smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, cleaning gutters, and re-caulking showers and bathtubs.

Replacing Deteriorated Items

Some units come with furniture and appliances. Sometimes some of those items may need replacement at the end of the tenancy. If the tenant has broken or damaged the item provided by the landlord in the unit, then it is only right that the same must by charged against the tenant. However, it’s not reasonable to charge the tenant the full price of a 20 year old item that has when the tenant used it for 1 year or less. In cases like this, the concept of an item’s “useful life” comes in handy.

Useful life is the estimated lifespan of a product. It’s the period of time during which the product remains usable for its primary function for which it was created. It important to understand how to differentiate between a damaged item and one that has outlived its usefulness. Using this concept, the landlord can account for a level of “normal wear and tear” when charging the tenant for the broken item. For example, if the tenant broke a 5-year-old sofa with a useful life of 10 years, then the amount to be charged to the tenant should just be around 50% of the original price as it had already outlived half of its useful life.

Below is a general guide of items and their life expectancy

ItemLife Expectancy
Hardwood Flooring25 years
Hot water heaters10 years
Tile Flooring25 years
Plush carpeting5 years
Windows20 years
Air conditioning units10 years
Ranges20 years
Refrigerators10 years
Countertops20+ years
Interior painting- enamel5 years
WallsLifetime
Dishwashers9 years
Dryers13 years
Ovens15 years
Washing Machine5-15 years
Fiberglass  Bathtubs and Showers10-15 years
Toilets50 years
Carbon Monoxide Detectors5 years
Ceiling Fan5-10 years
Enamel Steel Kitchen Sinks5-10 years
Ventilator7 years
Medicine Cabinets20+ years
Faucets and Fixtures15 years
Interior painting-flat3 years
Smoke Alarms9 years
Tiles and linoleum5 years
Paint3 year
Window shades, screens, blinds3 years
NOTE

Useful life varies with usage, installation, maintenance, weather and quality of materials.

What can be charged to the tenant?

Damage to the rental unit can only be charged to the tenant if it:

  1. Is beyond normal wear and tear; and
  2. Occurred during the tenancy and did not exist before the tenant moved in.

To identify those that comply with number 2 above, walk-through inspections are very helpful.

Walk-Through Inspections

Doing walk-through inspections before the tenant moves-in serves to establish the pre-tenancy status of the unit. The landlord can have a checklist of all the elements to be inspected including walls, paints, finishings, appliances and furniture where the landlord and tenant can clearly indicate the condition of each. At the end of the tenancy, the parties can perform another walk-through inspection to identify the any damage at that point and whether or not the same existed before the tenant moved in. This way, disputes are avoided

Normal Wear and Tear FAQ’s

What is considered normal wear and tear in a rental property?

Normal wear and tear in a rental property is “deterioration of the property that occurs from the intended use of the rental unit or premises and not from negligence, carelessness, accident or abuse caused by the tenant.”

Are nail holes “normal wear and tear”?

Nail holes are considered part of normal wear and tear if they are minor holes as in small nails or thumbtacks for hanging posters and the like. However, large holes from careless drilling, multiple nail holes, large nail holes and holes made for hanging heavier things may be considered beyond normal wear and tear and become chargeable to the tenant.

How much can a landlord charge for nail holes?

The amount landlords can charge for nail holes made by the tenant is limited to how much restoring the surface to its prior state costs the landlord.

Can a landlord charge you to paint?

A landlord can charge a tenant to paint if the tenant changed the paint color on the wall without receiving prior written or oral approval to do so, or if the repaint was unprofessional or substandard for the rental property.

Are dirty walls considered normal wear and tear?

Dirty walls are generally considered normal wear and tear if the dirt is dust that has accumulated over time, or reasonable scuff marks from bumps, furniture or shoes that are minimal in nature.

Are broken blinds normal wear and tear?

Broken blinds are not usually considered normal wear and tear especially when they would require replacement or servicing. However, minor dents or scratches on the blinds may be considered as normal wear and tear.

Can a landlord deduct cleaning fees from a security deposit?

A landlord can deduct cleaning fees from a security deposit under specific circumstances and if state laws allow. Colorado and Georgia allow deductions for cleaning contracted for by the tenant, while Oregon allows a deduction for carpet cleaning that requires more than a common vacuum cleaner.

Can a landlord deduct for light bulbs?

A landlord can deduct for light bulbs if the tenant burns out the bulbs that were newly replaced when the tenant first occupied the rental property, or if bulbs are missing, broken or replaced with substandard bulbs upon the tenant’s move out of the apartment.

What is considered normal wear and tear in Florida?

Normal wear and tear in Florida is defined as a matter of case law or practice. The statutes do not specifically provide a definition but generally, it is deterioration that occurs naturally as a result of the tenant using the property as it’s designed to be used without fault or negligence from the tenant.

What is considered normal wear and tear in California?

Normal wear and tear in California is defined as a matter of case law or practice. The statutes do not specifically provide a definition but generally, it is deterioration that occurs naturally as a result of the tenant using the property as it’s designed to be used without fault or negligence from the tenant.

What is considered normal wear and tear in Texas?

Normal wear and tear in Texas is “deterioration that results from intended use of the premises, including breakage or malfunction due to age or deteriorated condition, but not deterioration that results from negligence, carelessness, accident, or abuse of the premises, equipment, or chattels by the tenant, a member of the tenant’s household, or a guest or invitee of the tenant.”

What is considered normal wear and tear in Illinois?

Normal wear and tear in Illinois is defined as a matter of case law or practice. The statutes do not specifically provide a definition but generally, it is deterioration that occurs naturally as a result of the tenant using the property as it’s designed to be used without fault or negligence from the tenant.

What is considered normal wear and tear in Oregon?

Normal wear and tear in Oregon is defined as a matter of case law or practice. The statutes do not specifically provide a definition but generally, it is deterioration that occurs naturally as a result of the tenant using the property as it’s designed to be used without fault or negligence from the tenant.

What is considered normal wear and tear in Nevada?

What is considered normal wear and tear in Nevada is “deterioration which occurs without negligence, carelessness or abuse of the premises, equipment or chattels by the tenant, a member of the tenant’s household or other person on the premises with the tenant’s consent.”

What is considered normal wear and tear in Maine?

What is considered normal wear and tear in Maine is “deterioration that occurs, based upon the use for which the rental unit is intended, without negligence, carelessness, accident or abuse of the premises or equipment or chattels by the tenant or members of the tenant’s household or their invitees or guests.”

What is considered normal wear and tear in Idaho?

What is considered normal wear and tear in Idaho is “deterioration which occurs based upon the use for which the rental unit is intended and without negligence, carelessness, accident, or misuse or abuse of the premises or contents by the tenant or members of his household, or their invitees or guests.”

What is considered normal wear and tear in Colorado?

What is considered normal wear and tear in Colorado is “deterioration which occurs, based upon the use for which the rental unit is intended, without negligence, carelessness, accident, or abuse of the premises or equipment or chattels by the tenant or members of his household, or their invitees or guests.”

What is considered normal wear and tear in Alaska?

What is considered normal wear and tear in Alaska is “deterioration that occurs from the intended use of the rental unit and without negligence, carelessness, accident, misuse, or abuse of the premises or contents by the tenant, members of the household of the tenant, or the invitees or guests of the tenant.”