Landlord's Guide to Normal Wear and Tear - Article Banner

What does normal wear and tear look like? It’s a term that is thrown around a lot, whether we’re talking about worn clothing, cars that look their age, or rental properties. Normal wear and tear is the gradual deterioration of a property due to its intended usage. 

This might look like scuffing on floors, worn carpets, peeling paint, and faded or awkward window blinds. As a landlord, it’s important to understand what constitutes normal wear and tear and qualifies as damage caused by tenants.

There can be a bit of uncertainty, at the end of a lease term, when you’re wondering during your inspection whether you’re looking at normal wear and tear or tenant damage. We’ve put together a brief guide that may help you distinguish between the two.

Move-In and Move-Out Condition Reports 

One way for landlords to identify normal wear and tear is to take photos of the rental property before a tenant moves in and after that tenant moves out. This way, landlords can compare any changes that may have occurred during the rental period. You’ll also want to inspect your property at least once throughout the lease term so you can get an idea of any damages or wear and tear that will need to be addressed sooner rather than later. 

A move-in and move-out condition report is an invaluable tool for rental property owners. By having your tenant agree with you on the condition of the property at the time of taking possession, you can avoid potential disputes over what the property did or did not look like before. 

The report helps to identify any issues with the rental property and shows how there might have been wear and tear throughout the course of the tenancy. Addressing that wear and tear is up to you; landlords are responsible for the costs associated with repairs and replacements that are from normal deterioration. 

Damage is different. That’s the tenant’s responsibility. At the end of a rental period, the move-in and move-out condition reports serve as evidence to support your claims of damages when seeking compensation from a security deposit. A move-in and move-out condition report is essential for rental property owners, and can help you differentiate between wear and tear and damage.

Mitigate Wear and Tear with Preventative Maintenance 

As a Philadelphia rental property owner, it is important to stay on top of wear and tear in your investment properties. There are two good ways to do this. 

First, regularly inspect your property. This will help you identify and address any issues that arise. You might notice that there are necessary repairs tenants have not reported. Make any repairs or replacements that are needed right away. Talk to your residents about the importance of reporting maintenance needs right away. 

Next, you can invest in preventative maintenance measures. This is perhaps the best way to keep normal wear and tear to a minimum. Every rental home is going to deteriorate, especially as tenants come and go. If you stay on top of preventative maintenance, you’ll minimize what happens to the home and how much you have to pay for repairs and upkeep. 

These preventative maintenance measures can include:

  • Replacing broken fixtures such as door handles, drawer knobs, and switch plates.
  • Checking for plumbing or electrical problems. 
  • Inspecting the HVAC system at least once a year.
  • Changing air filters regularly.
  • Caulking windows and doors.
  • Installing energy efficient lighting and appliances.
  • Checking the roof annually and cleaning gutters.
  • Keeping up with pest control.
  • Maintaining a regular schedule of landscaping.

If items need to be replaced, look for high-quality replacements that will last longer and help maintain your rental property. It’s a good idea to be economical, but using the cheapest possible materials and supplies will only have you making replacements and repairs more frequently. 

Taking these steps helps rental property landlords reduce wear and tear over time and maintain the rental property’s value.

How is Tenant Damage Different?

Tenant damage is any damage to rental property caused by a resident or a resident’s guest that is beyond the scope of normal wear and tear. Tenant damage often include things such as:

  • Broken windows
  • Large holes in walls
  • Torn carpets
  • Missing or broken appliances. 

Damage like this is not covered by your insurance policy, and it’s also not your responsibility. You can charge your tenant’s security deposit when you inspect your property and document damage that was left behind. 

The documentation is especially important. 

When you’re facing tenant damage, you need to protect yourself from potential disputes. If a tenant disagrees with what you have withheld from their deposit, they can file a lawsuit against you. This will be expensive and time consuming; so, when you deduct for damages, make sure you can support your claim. 

Documenting tenant damage can be done by taking pictures or videos of the rental property before and after a tenant moves in and out. Any noticeable damage to the rental property should be documented in writing, which can then be used as evidence if needed. 

Communication should also be documented. Keep a record of all communication with tenants regarding any damage and repairs that may need to be done. This will ensure that rental property owners are able to prove their case if a dispute arises

In Pennsylvania, you have 30 days to return your tenant’s security deposit. If you’re keeping all or part of the deposit to pay for damage, put together an itemized list of what you’re charging and why. Include any invoices or bills so you can demonstrate that you are not keeping more than you paid. 

Normal wear and tear can be frustrating for landlords. But, it’s essential to keep your investment in excellent condition so it continues to be attractive to tenants. 

Contact Property ManagementIf you’d like some help understanding wear and tear at the end of a lease term, please contact us at Innovate Realty. We work with investors of all experience levels in the greater Philadelphia metro area as well as surrounding suburban areas in Montgomery, Chester, Burlington, and Delaware County, to the Delaware River.