Apartment Tips

What Does Your Landlord Consider Normal Wear and Tear?

January 14, 2020

Your lease discusses normal wear and tear, and you want to get as much of your security deposit back as possible. How do you predict your chances?

No matter how careful you are while living in a rental space, damage is bound to happen. Sometimes you’ll open a cabinet, and the handle will fall off. Perhaps your dryer quits working overnight. “Normal wear and tear” refers to the inevitable deterioration of a living space.


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If you’re worried about your security deposit, read on to learn what most landlords consider normal wear and tear. Use these tips to inspect your living space and determine how much damage is considered your responsibility.

Inspect Wall Damage

Some of the most obvious damage is what happens to your walls. When you move furniture around, you might leave scuff marks. Thumbtacks or nails can leave holes in your walls. Plus, what about those dried splashes of food just above your kitchen counter?

The legal definition of “normal wear and tear” isn’t hard and fast. As a rule of thumb, think through any action that can be considered negligence. Use Command strips instead of hammering nails and make sure you wipe messes up promptly.

Some minor wall damage is considered normal or can be fixed before leaving. You can easily buff away most marks and fill in holes with spackle before you move out.

The only time a landlord should really become concerned is if your stains become permanent or giant holes are left by a TV wall mount or door handle. Pen and paint marks that you can’t clean off may also work against the return of your security deposit.

Assess Flooring Condition

Flooring is another part of a rental unit that won’t evade destruction over time. You’ll naturally wear a path in your carpet because you have to walk in the same places around your furniture. The same process will happen with hardwood or laminate floors, just a bit slower.

Your landlord will assess your flooring condition to see if you’ve peeled up any corners, worn holes into the carpet or created permanent stains. However, they should keep in mind that floors will get run down naturally — carpets have to be replaced and hardwood refinished every few years as it is.

If management replaces your flooring, some projects can cost well over $1,000, depending on the type in your unit. A replacement will require money from your security deposit and possibly additional fees at the time of move out.

Consider Pet Destruction

Rental teams know that pets accidentally damage apartments. It’s why you put down a separate security deposit when you brought your pet home.

Bathroom accidents on the carpet are routine, but other damage goes well beyond natural wear and tear. Doors and wall fixtures that your dog gnawed on — or scratches left by adventurous cats — will cost you extra whether you report it upfront or wait until management discovers it.

Look at Broken Appliances

Appliances like your dishwasher and fridge should last fifteen years or more, but sometimes you end up with a worn-out or malfunctioning model.

If you have a broken appliance, talk with management to see if it’s still under warranty. Otherwise, the cost will either come from your pocket or security deposit.

Did any action you take cause the problem? Then you might be held liable. However, if the equipment breaks down of its own accord — due to age, failure, etc. — then the landlord should accept the cost of doing business.

Think About Dirt and Grime

Once you live on your own, you learn that cleaning is an everyday occurrence. There will always be laundry to do and dishes in the sink, but what about months worth of grime?

It’s unfortunately easy for some people to get used to a dirty home, which won’t do you any favors when your landlord completes your move-out inspection.

Avoid extra cleaning fees by making a cleaning plan for each room in your apartment. Get the supplies you need to make your home shine. Plus, don’t forget about easy-to-miss areas like your outdoor patio or hallway closets. 

Check Out the Countertops

Most of the time, short- and long-term renters can move out without paying for anything regarding countertops. Even cheap options last well over a decade, so yours should pass an inspection without issue.

The only time you would likely lose your security deposit or pay fees is if they had multiple irremovable stains or burns. 

Have Questions About Normal Wear and Tear? Contact Your Landlord

If you have any questions specific to your unit, email your management team and ask them about your concerns. They don’t want to delay a new tenant from moving in any longer than they have to.

As a result, they’ll likely be willing to offer tips and advice regarding stains, scratches or other damage. 

The more time you have to look over these areas in your apartment, the longer you’ll have to decide if it’s normal wear and tear or a problem that needs fixing.

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