What Is Considered Normal Wear and Tear?

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A house, like most anything, will experience normal wear and tear, or damage from regular use. This is a natural occurrence that can be minimized with care and maintenance. Sometimes, however, the damage to a property is caused by abuse or neglect.
It helps to be able to tell the difference between normal wear or tear on a house or rental property compared to carelessness or negligence. A tenant in a house is expected to cause normal wear and tear just by living in the house, such as faded carpets from walking.
In the case of normal wear and tear, the landlord is responsible for covering damages. However, any actual damage beyond simple wear and tear is the responsibility of the tenant.
Normal wear and tear vs actual damage can get a bit iffy, especially since homeowners insurance usually doesn't cover it. Here's everything you need to know about normal wear and tear, including what to look for on carpets, walls, windows, and other parts of the home.

Normal wear and tear vs damage

Normal wear and tear is any damage that occurs to a home due to aging or expected damages from a tenant occupying a home. When someone occupies a space, it's only reasonable to expect minor damage to happen. It may even be entirely out of their control.
However, if the tenant is purposefully neglecting their living space or they are abusing it, they are liable for property damage. This could include flooded bathrooms, shattered windows, holes in walls, and more. Tenants are liable for any property damage they cause outside the bounds of normal wear and tear.

What is considered normal wear and tear?

The line between normal wear and tear and neglect can be a little grey. Sometimes, things can face heavy damages over time, and it's tricky to tell if it's the tenants fault or not. Here are a few examples of what's considered normal wear and tear and what's considered neglect and abuse.

Carpets

Carpets naturally fade over time, even getting thin in some areas after quite a few years. Slight fades, discoloration, imprints, and thinning are all considered normal wear and tear.
However, if there are large stains, rips, missing sections, or holes, chances are someone living in the house has damaged the carpet through abuse. Pet stains are a sure sign of abuse and neglect. If a tenant is the cause of excessive damage, then he or she would be liable for its repair.

Walls

The walls in a home take on a lot. People run into them, put nails in them, and push things into them. Walls even suffer from small cracks when a house settles. This is all normal wear and tear.
However, if you walk into a home and see large cracks, excessive nail holes, gaping holes, and excessive stains, this is neglect and abuse.

Windows

Windows are made to be resilient. They withstand the hardships of the elements: wind, heat, cold, rain, and more. Over time, these elements take their toll, causing small scratches, loose hardware, and faded and brittle seals. There may even be small holes in the window screens. This is normal wear and tear.
Signs of abuse and neglect in windows include large cracks in the glass, ripped screens, and broken glass and hardware.

Paint

Painting a wall can brighten up a room and bring it back to life. But over time, paint will fade and suffer from minor scratches and scuffs. This is a normal occurrence.
However, if you notice writing and carving in paint, this is abuse. If you're renting a home and have rules on painting and your tenant paints with an unauthorized color, they will be liable to fix it.

Tile

Tile is commonly used in homes for its durability and ease of care. It's most often in kitchens and bathrooms but may be used throughout a home. Used on floors and walls, normal wear and tear in tiles includes small scratches, minor cracks, chipped tile, and dirty or missing grout.
If you find tiles that are missing or broken, have permanent markings, or an excessive amount of grout is missing, chances are there has been abuse.

Doors

Normal wear and tear on doors include faded finish on handles and minor scratches and dents. If you find doors with holes, missing hardware and stains, there has been neglect and abuse.

Charging tenants for normal wear and tear

These are only a few examples of the many things considered normal wear and tear on a house or rental property. If a tenant causes damage beyond normal wear and tear, they can only be charged for the remaining lifespan of an item.
For example, if the carpet was already three years old and it has a lifespan of five years, you can only hold your tenant liable for the last two years of its useful lifespan. This is otherwise known as standard depreciation.
No matter the circumstances, proper maintenance and upkeep will greatly extend the life of your home for years to come!

FAQs

Are broken blinds normal wear and tear?

Broken blinds are more often considered tenant-caused damage. If your window blinds have frayed strings, are heat-blistered, or get faded, it's normal wear and tear. But further damages such as torn or missing blinds are usually the fault of the tenant.

Are nail holes normal wear and tear?

Nail holes are usually considered normal wear and tear unless it's explicitly stated otherwise in the lease agreement. However, an excessive number of nail holes or especially large nail holes could be considered actual damage.

Is carpet cleaning normal wear and tear?

Carpets get dirty over time–there's no way to avoid that. Even if a tenant is careful to vacuum often, there are still going to be spots where the carpet traps dirt or grime. Typically, deep carpet cleanings are the responsibility of the landlord.
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