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How to Determine Normal Wear and Tear Vs. Tenant Damage

House Model With Crossed Band AidIf you’re a rental property owner, you expect your unit to be left in the same condition as when the tenant moved in. If you’re a tenant, you expect to receive your entire security deposit back if you’ve kept the place in good shape.

Often, however, there are differences of opinion when it comes to the condition of a rental property upon move-out. Sometimes these differences involve disputes over what’s normal wear and tear (not subject to withholding a security deposit) and actual damage, for which the tenant would be responsible.

If you want to avoid such disputes, it helps to know what’s what. Here’s how to determine the difference between normal wear and tear and tenant damage to the property.

First things first

One of the surest ways to avoid disputes is to document the condition of the property before move-in and after move-out. The documentation should include photos of the property and be coordinated with the tenant.

Professional property management companies tend to handle the documentation with a uniform checklist and a tenant walk-through. If you own rental property in Santa Clara County, for example, a local south bay property management company would inspect the property with the tenant prior to move-in, noting the condition of everything on the checklist along with supporting pictures.

Upon move-out, the walkthrough with the checklist and photos would be done again, giving the owner or manager a clear picture of any changes in the condition of the property.

What’s normal?

Normal wear and tear is the natural deterioration of materials in a property over time. Like you wouldn’t expect a pair of shoes to look brand new after wearing them for a year, it’s normal that a residential living space won’t look the same either.

For example, faded or dingy paint on walls is expected over time. Even chipping old paint is just wear and tear. But if there are bad gouges or complete holes in the walls, that’s damage. Thinking back to when the walk-through was done, photos can prove whether a hole was there before a tenant moved in.

Normal wear and tear will also occur with floor coverings, window treatments, wallpaper, tile grout, windows and doors, exterior siding, and more. “Damage” is anything that’s caused by something other than time and regular use.

A window that sticks is wear and tear. One that’s broken is damage. Carpeting that’s dirty and worn in traffic areas is experiencing wear and tear. Carpeting that has burn holes is damaged. Also, anything that’s missing from the unit, or unapproved repairs or improvements done to the unit, may be considered damage for which the tenant is responsible.

Age isn’t just a number

If you buy a rental property in say Campbell, CA, you’re likely getting a place that’s been around for decades. It’s likely undergone renovations and remodeling over the years, but when? A local company that provides property management in Campbell, CA, should have some information on how old components of the property are. These are some of the things reviewed when property inspections are done.

If the life expectancy of carpeting is, say, 15 years, and it’s already seven years old when a tenant moves in, the tenant can’t be charged for the total cost of brand-new carpeting even if it has some damage. Even damaged parts of the home are valued with depreciation in mind.

That’s why it’s important for property owners or managers to keep accurate records regarding when materials have been replaced or updated in any property. Keeping such records, along with photo documentation of inspection walk-throughs, will also help paint a clearer picture of normal what wear and tear looks like over time.

The bottom line

Professional property management allows rental owners to have more free time, peace of mind, and less stress dealing with the issues of a rental property. If you own a rental property in San Jose, Santa Clara, Campbell or elsewhere in Santa Clara County contact Valley Management Group. Valley Management Group has providing trustworthy and affordable south bay property management services for over 40 years and offers new clients a free property management quote with one free month of monthly services.

Reviewed and Approved by Lloyd Kipp
Property Manager and Owner of Valley Management Group

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