Property Damage Vs. Normal Wear and Tear: The Difference & What You Can Do

By Ashley Paskill on February 14, 2020

As a landlord, you manage multiple apartments and possibly multiple apartment complexes. Part of your duties and responsibilities includes maintaining your properties. Sometimes, there are huge things that need to be repaired. If these things are caused by your tenants mistreating the property, you need to address the issue. Knowing what is caused by tenants and what is caused by normal wear and tear is the first step to figure this out. Look out for these signs to decipher whether the damage was caused by your tenants or by wear and tear.

Tenant damage

Damage is typically be classified as unexpected issues that arise. You expect an occasional clogged drain, scratched wall, or appliances that need to be fixed. However, it may be obvious that your tenant does not care about taking care of their space or are not fixing things that are laid out in the lease.

One sign of damage caused by your tenants are scratches on the wall. While a scratch or two may be expected, especially if your tenants have to bring in their own furniture. However, if there are a significant amount of scratches on the walls and your tenant is making significant efforts to hide the scratches or are not contacting you for help to repair the issue, it is likely that the scratches are damage caused by the tenants.

While clogged drains happen every once in a while, if your tenants are constantly clogging drains, especially after you tell them what can and cannot go down the drain or how to keep the drains clear, this is considered tenant damage.

If you have installed things such as blinds or mirrors to help offset the things that the tenants have to bring, these are your belongings and if your tenants do anything to damage them, it is their responsibility to fix them. This damage includes recklessly closing blinds so they fall out, smashing a hole in a mirror, or damaging any furniture you may have supplied for your tenants. Other examples of this kind of damage include broken toilet seats, broken doors, and broken appliances.

A few small holes are to be expected, especially if your tenants are hanging pictures or art on the walls. However, multiple holes or really, really sizeable holes in the walls, doors, or other places are signs of damage.

While some landlords are okay with tenants painting the walls, others are not. If you do not want tenants painting the walls but they go ahead, especially without asking or after you specifically said no, the unapproved painting can be considered damage.

Other general examples of damage include stained or damaged rugs caused by pet urine, damage (including burn holes and stains) caused by smoking, and excessive bathroom dirtiness.

Image: Joseph Albanese via

Normal wear and tear

If you have owned your properties for a significant amount of time, it is normal to expect that things will eventually fade or break. That means that you will need to make repairs or replacements. However, keep in mind that expenses from

Carpet or hardwood color fading due to sun exposure is something that cannot be completely avoided, especially in apartments and rooms that have direct access to windows. Other signs of fading include finishing on various fixtures wearing away and paint fading.

While some plumbing issues can be considered damage caused by tenants, if there are issues that arise from normal use, this is considered wear-and-tear. Plumbing systems, like everything, wear down after constant use. This is not the fault of your tenants.

Other examples of normal wear and tear include dirty blinds, worn batteries in emergency detectors, dead lightbulbs, and some dings and dents in the floor.

Preventing and dealing with issues

The best way to handle issues is to prevent them from happening altogether. Make sure your tenants know about the best ways to maintain and keep up with the property they rent. The lease should clear and thorough about what you expect from them in terms of upkeep, and make sure that you spell out the work you are willing to help with. Give your tenants information about who you use to repair your properties, and be open to help them get in touch with the companies.

Have regular walk-throughs and inspections. If you see anything questionable, bring it up kindly to your tenants. If they refuse to fix the damage or change how they treat the property, you may eventually have to evict them. However, this should be the last resort.

Include a security deposit when you bring in new tenants. That way, if you run into issues, this money will be used to help repair any damage done. Also, invest in good insurance so that you have an additional backup in case anything happens.

Owning property and having tenants makes in inevitable for there to be damage and normal wear and tear of your properties. However, knowing the difference between damage and wear and tear can help you take action in a way that is the best fit.

By Ashley Paskill

Uloop Writer

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