What is normal wear and tear vs tenant damage

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    After every tenancy in a rental property, property owners are expected to hire a professional end of tenancy cleaning company to restore the property’s cleanliness and welcome the next tenants in a fresh and clean environment.

    However, not everything can be cleaned to perfection. Wear and tear in rental properties is an absolutely normal cause of ageing and it is inevitable. Every tenant will leave behind a mark on your investment property and most landlords are prepared for the normal wear and tear. However, this is also often a cause of conflict and disputes between landlords as tenants. Property depreciation may be natural but where is the limit?

    One of the most common questions that worries both landlords and tenants is what is normal wear and tear in a rental property. What type of damage or neglect are tenants expected to pay for and which parts is the landlord responsible for fixing? As a tenant, can you find yourself in the situation of partially losing your security deposit money as a result of wear and tear?

    In this article, we’ll help you understand everything around wear and tear and will answer some of the most popular questions landlords and tenants have on the topic.

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    What rights does the landlord have in terms of wear and tear?

    Legally, the landlord has the right to subtract parts of tenants’ security deposit to cover any expenses related to property damage that is a result of the tenant’s stay in the property. Although they can sometimes take advantage of this legal right, landlords are not permitted to withhold security deposit money for standard wear and tear or the natural ageing of the investment property.

    This is why it’s essential that there is a clear understanding of what normal wear and tear really means. This can help prevent any disputes and lawsuits that can easily be avoided.

    What is normal wear and tear?

    No matter how careful the tenants in a rental property are, there will always be a level of deterioration. This means that the property will no longer look in the perfect condition that it once was in after usage. Sure, investing in high-quality, durable, and more expensive appliances, materials, and furniture can slow down the deterioration process but it will still happen at some point. The longer the property is being used, the more signs of wear and tear you can expect to see. Considering that the tenant has done their part in maintaining the property in good condition, the normal wear and tear consequences should not be something the tenant should be blamed for. Here are a few examples of natural wear and tear in rental properties:

    • Wall cracks and ceiling cracks
    • Door and window warping
    • Damaged curtain strings
    • Signs of wear on the carpet like patterns
    • Signs of damage as a result of direct sun exposure on blinds, windows, or doors
    • Unstable toilet
    • Cracks on light switch plates
    • Carpet seams
    There are so many different parts of a rental property and a lot of different types of objects to observe when considering what is normal wear and tear. Let’s divide them into separate categories and answer some of the most popular questions:

    What is considered normal wear and tear to walls?

    When we think of the condition of the walls in a property most people instantly relate it to paint. A standard paint job has a lifetime of three years and after that, it is inevitable for it to wear out. It can start to peel, fade, form scuffs and can be affected by previous leaks and other water damage. All of the mentioned above are risks of deterioration that the tenant has no control over and should therefore not be fined for.

    However, things like stubborn, excessive marks and stains, an inappropriate paint job with a different colour, or unpatched holes all fall under the category of tenant damage. They are all examples of things that won’t normally occur unless the tenant has had an influence.

    Is a stained carpet normal wear and tear?

    Flooring and carpets are a tricky property area when it comes to wear and tear. It’s best to approach this question by thinking about the natural lifetime of different kinds of flooring solutions. For example, the average carpet can expect to last for five years and maintain its good condition. Normally, landlords would invest in new carpets after this time period. Things like natural fading from exposure to the sun, standard wear as a result of foot traffic, and worn carpet zones resulting from heavy furniture are all considered natural wear and tear.

    However, stains from pet urine, oil-based products, or other disasters are perceived as damage and therefore the tenant can be fined by deducting part of their tenancy deposit.

    On the other hand, there are other flooring solutions with dramatically higher life expectancies. For instance, hardwood floors made of high-quality materials can be expected to last for around 20 years. Although it’s natural for this type of flooring to suffer from fading, a hole is not acceptable as normal wear and tear.

    When it comes to tiles, if there is damage conducted as a result of force or lack of attention, it is considered damage instead of normal wear and tear.

    Is dirty grout normal wear and tear?

    Grout discolouration is a common problem for most properties. It’s an inevitable consequence of time and regular use. Tiling is a suitable solution for different parts of the property and is definitely not limited to the bathroom. There are a number of stunning kitchen designs that use tiled floors or tiled surfaces. Dirty grout can dramatically influence the overall appearance of the property and can be an area of concern for tenants.

    However, dirty grout is considered normal wear and tear and is not something that you should worry about as a tenant. Professional EOT cleaning is fully capable of cleaning the grout between the tiles and restoring its original appearance.

    Is a dirty oven normal wear and tear?

    Next up, let’s look at oven wear and tear and appliances in general.

    A dirty oven or any other type of appliance is not considered damage as long as a standard move out cleaning service is capable of restoring its normal condition. When it comes to normal wear and tear to appliances, it’s advisable to stick to life expectancy. If an appliance that can last between 15 and 20 years has been damaged or broken after 2-3 years of use by tenants, it’s safe to say that the damage is a result of misuse or improper maintenance. Of course, this will depend on the type of damage.

    Sometimes, appliances can have faults and stop working without the tenant being responsible. In such cases, there are insurance policies that protect the landlord and allow them to return the appliance or have it restored.

    Is a clogged drain normal wear and tear?

    In short, yes, a clogged drain is normal wear and tear that can easily be fixed by a professional or via DIY methods. In general, plumbing and fixtures can also be naturally worn out as a result of use. For instance, fittings and washers often result in small leaks that can be fixed by a standard service by a professional. In addition, things like mineral buildup can have a negative influence on faucets or showerheads, causing them to deteriorate faster and require restoration or replacement.

    Any signs of water damage that has not been a result of natural disaster but leaks or overflowed tubs can be considered damage as opposed to normal wear and tear. Things like broken fixtures such as toilet bowls, lids, or bowls don’t fall under the category of naturally occurring problems as a result of deterioration. They are therefore considered tenant damage and the tenants can be held responsible.

    Are oil stains normal wear and tear?

    Oily stains are very specific when it comes to elimination and they’re avoidable damage. There are certain types of materials that oil cannot be successfully removed from without leaving a permanent mark. This may lead to the necessity to fully replace the affected area or object. Common reasons for oily stains on carpets, walls, and upholstery could be:

    • Spilling of cooking oils
    • Spilling of oil-based makeup removers
    • Excessive body oil

    If you are a tenant that has noticed oil stains in your rented property, it’s best to contact local moving house cleaners and have the area inspected. There may be ways to remove the stain and avoid having your deposit deducted.

    Should tenants’ security deposits be affected by normal wear and tear?

    We’ve come to the end of the list of examples of what is considered normal wear and tear. As mentioned above earlier, a tenant’s security deposit should not be affected by normal wear and tear that is not a consequence of neglect, intentional damage, misuse, or force. Tenants can only be held responsible for property damage.

    In order for your landlord to deduct security deposit money from you, there are several things that need to take place. First, the damages must be officially documented. This usually happens at a move-in and move-out inspection. It’s advisable to keep the inspection documents with you in order to prove any discrepancies. Next, the costs of the damage need to be estimated in order for your landlord to deduct a reasonable amount from the security deposit. It’s possible that a third party may get involved in the estimation process. Lastly, the amount required for repairs is subtracted from the full deposit and you receive the remaining money.

    The time that a landlord can hold your security deposit after the tenancy agreement is over is different in every part of the world. Make sure you are fully aware of what your rights are.

    How to avoid security deposit disputes

    Conflicts in relation to rental property wear and tear are extremely common yet avoidable. There are numerous cases where a tenant considers something normal wear and tear while the landlord sees it as damage. To prevent misunderstandings and conflict, it’s best to rely on things like a move-in or move-out inspection checklist. This document will clearly note the condition of the property on your move-in date and move out date and can include information on what is considered damage.

    Also, check your lease agreement to uncover any potential specifications regardless of normal wear and tear. As a tenant, if you feel that the property has not been properly looked after, it’s best to hire post tenancy cleaning to return the property to its initial condition. This will also allow you to see any damage that has been caused by you that you may have missed.

    Wear and tear on investment properties may be among the most common reasons for disputes between tenants and landlords but hopefully, this article will help you gain the full picture and avoid unexpected situations. As a tenant, take responsibility for any property damage that you have caused but also be fully informed and don’t let a landlord take advantage of your unawareness.

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