Normal Wear and Tear vs. Damage in a Rental Property

As a landlord, you have made an investment in your rental property, so when a tenant moves out and you discover the tenant left the home in bad condition, it can be frustrating. Some of the conditions, however, may be attributed to normal wear and tear, so do not automatically assume that the tenant purposely left behind damage when they moved. Normal wear and tear conditions are typically covered by your insurance, and tenants are not responsible for these costs — they are only responsible when there is evident damage.

You may want to explore landlord insurance policies so you can be covered in the event your property does sustain damage. Compare landlord insurance with iSelect to find the best deals.

Learn about typical wear and tear in a rental and what differentiates it from actual renter damage that may have occurred.

Signs of wear and tear include faded curtains, chipped paint, and more.

There are many other types of typical wear and tear you may see once you walk into your rental property. Some of these signs include chipped paint or faded curtains. It is reasonable to expect that paint will chip and curtains will fade in the sunlight. Other types of wear and tear that your tenants are not responsible for include (but are not limited to):

  • Indentations on the carpet from their furniture
  • Worn areas of countertops
  • Door hinges that are loose or sliding tracks that need to be replaced

Your liability insurance or other insurance policy should cover these normal wear and tear issues. Make sure to familiarize yourself with the details of your homeowners policy.

Actual property damage may include pet scratching, urine stains, holes in walls, and other issues.

While one-off damage may be covered under your landlord insurance policy, there are types of damage that a renter may cause that you can hold them liable for, including:

  • Pet scratches on doors, floors, or other areas of the house
  • Pet urine stains and smells in the carpet
  • Other types of stains in the carpet from drink spills or other sources
  • Broken windows or doors
  • A shoddy paint job or improperly installed wallpaper that damaged the walls
  • Malfunctioning appliances that were not used properly (ie: tenant poured excessive grease down the sink, leading to clogs)

These types of damages should not be confused with landlord liability. You are responsible for maintaining structural integrity, fixing damage from older pipes, and ensuring the house itself is routinely maintained. Make sure you have liability coverage or are protected under an umbrella policy to mitigate any legal fees. To keep your renters covered, it is recommended to require that they hold a current renters insurance policy.

Vinyl flooring may need to be replaced after a renter moves out of your property.

If you come in to find that the vinyl flooring is not in pristine condition, it could just be subject to normal wear and tear if the floor was older. However, the flooring is usually pretty durable, so any extensive signs of damage could be attributed to the renter not taking care of your property. Generally, vinyl floors should last about 15-20 years before they need to be replaced, according to realtor.com. So if you come in and see that your vinyl planks are torn up, there is a visible peel, or the sheet vinyl has holes in it, that is usually not normal wear and tear. You may need to enlist professional vinyl floor installation services in this case or put in another type of flooring.

When in doubt, do your research. While it’s never fair to make a former tenant pay for normal wear-and-tear, it’s also important to understand who’s responsible for the damage.

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