Landlord and Tenant Disputes: Normal Wear and Tear

One of the most dreaded parts of renting a place to live is moving. Tenants generally bank on the fact that they will not see their security deposit again. This does not necessarily have to be the case, and tenants as well as landlords should stay informed about their rights to know how much of their deposit they are entitled to receive back from the tenant’s perspective, and how much can be held back from the landlord’s perspective. For one thing, damages for “normal wear and tear” cannot be deducted from a tenant’s deposit. Naturally, this raises the question of what exactly normal wear and tear actually is.  A landlord may legally only use a tenant’s security deposit for unpaid rent, cleaning the rented premises, repairing damages other than normal wear and tear, and replacing or restoring furniture, furnishings, or other items of personal property.

Naturally, this raises the question of what exactly normal wear and tear actually is.  The can be law vague in addressing head-on what constitutes “normal wear and tear,” but a fair and good faith approach can establish what is and what is not normal wear and tear. For example, simple wearing down of carpet and drapes because of normal use or aging would constitute normal wear and tear. A few spots and moderate dirt are also probably normal wear and tear. However, massive rips or permanent stains will likely exceed a reasonable definition of the term, and would justify a deduction from the tenant’s security deposit.

When it comes to walls, minor marks or nicks are normal wear and tear, and are the landlord’s responsibility to fix. On the other hand, several holes that require filling, patching, and repainting could justify withholding the cost of repair from the tenant’s security deposit.

Deciding whether something constitutes normal wear and tear generally involves subjective discretion. If you think you have been charged for normal wear and tear though, you should fight to have that portion of your security deposit returned.

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