Neglect vs. Wear and Tear: How to Spot the Difference

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Burned hole in carpet (Photo: @Lisa.A via Twenty20)
A house, like most anything, will experience normal wear and tear. Over time, all things suffer damage from regular use. This is a natural occurrence that can be minimized with care and maintenance. However, sometimes the damage to a property is caused by abuse or neglect.
There are often times 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. Here’s what to look for on carpets, walls, windows, and other parts of the home.

Carpet

Carpets naturally fade over time, even getting thin in some areas after quite a few years. 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.

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. With this in mind, signs of abuse and neglect in windows include large cracks in the glass, ripped screens, and broken glass and hardware.

Paint

Newly painted walls in a home are like a breath of fresh air. Paint 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 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

Think about the number of doors you have in your home. Probably quite a bit more than you realize. 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.
These are only a few examples of the many things considered normal wear and tear on a house or rental property. Also keep in mind, if you plan to charge a tenant for damages beyond normal wear and tear, you can only charge them 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 and for you to enjoy for years to come!