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What is normal wear and tear?

On Behalf of | Mar 12, 2024 | Landlord/Tenant

Landlords and tenants sometimes find themselves engaged in disputes over who has to pay for general maintenance and upkeep. 

For instance, a landlord may try to keep a security deposit when a tenant moves out, saying that they need to fix all of the things that were broken during the tenant’s stay. But the tenant may claim that the damage is just normal wear and tear and that they shouldn’t be responsible for it. So what is normal wear and tear and how does it apply?

Minor and expected damage

Normal wear and tear is loosely defined as the type of minor damage that you would expect when someone is living in a space. Examples could include:

  • Scuffs on the baseboards 
  • Chips in the paint 
  • Wear on carpeting in high-traffic areas 
  • Scratches on wood floors
  • Burned out lightbulbs
  • Loose doorknobs 
  • Minor holes in the wall from hanging pictures

Everything breaks down over time. As the tenant lives in the Home or apartment, little things are going to need to be replaced. This is not necessarily the tenant’s fault and they haven’t done anything wrong. 

So landlords are not supposed to keep a security deposit to pay for these minor issues. It is only intended for more major problems, such as a tenant who leaves an apartment with a broken window or fire and water damage. These are things that go beyond what you would normally expect, and so the landlord may have the right to keep the deposit.

These types of financial issues often lead to disputes. Both sides need to be well aware of their legal options.