The definition of normal wear and tear will depend on the judge’s opinion, and the property’s location will often have something to do with it. For example, a house in the inner city will have far different standards for normal wear and tear than a $300,000 house in a suburban neighborhood. The house in the inner city historically will have more wear and tear considered as normal.. However, in the more expensive suburban house, the same type of wear and tear as the inner city may be charged to the tenant.
Carpet can be especially difficult when it comes to defining wear and tear. For example, there were tenants who lived in a house with brand new carpet. After a year, the tenants moved out and the carpet was full of grease. It’s hard to imagine what those tenants could have been doing, but the carpet could not be salvaged. The Grand Rapids property management company charged the full amount of carpet replacement from the security deposit. The tenants fought that charge, and the judge discounted the carpet and decided the tenants were responsible for paying only half of its replacement. Another judge might have ruled in favor of the property management company and required the tenants to pay the full amount. It can be very objective.
There are certain cases where you know that the problem is a direct result of tenant damage. For example, if there’s a clogged toilet and it’s discovered that a child put a toy down the toilet and flushed it, that’s tenant damage. The tenant will be responsible for the costs associated with taking the toilet off and fixing the problem.
You can legally charge the tenant for any damage that clearly goes beyond normal wear and tear. Most property managers will charge for all damages caused by the tenant in an effort to get as much money back for the owners as possible. However, the courts won’t allow you to charge for everything, and you need to be prepared for different judges having different opinions about wear and tear.
Feel free to contact us at United Properties if you want to talk further about normal wear and tear, or if you have any specific questions we can help you answer.