As a landlord, when it comes to security deposit reconciliation and returning full or partial security deposits to tenants, a State's security deposit laws are rather specific. The cost of normal wear and tear must be charged to the property owner versus withheld from the tenant’s security deposit.
It is important to know what is considered normal wear and tear versus what is tenant-responsible property damage.
What is Normal Wear and Tear?
Normal wear and tear refers to the natural deterioration that occurs in your rental property over time. As the years go by, floor tile may not shine as it once did, window screens may become weathered, and carpet may develop noticeable traffic patterns. That is normal and all are considered ordinary wear and tear!
Here are common examples of normal wear and tear:
- Peeling paint on walls
- Faded paint
- Wearing of the finish on bathroom fixtures
- Scratched countertops
- Mild stains on carpets
- Tiles with loose grout
- Minor cracks appearing on walls
- Rusty shower knobs and faucets
- Loosened door handles
- Slightly broken tiles
None of these issues are caused by tenant negligence or abuse.
What is Excessive Property Damage?
Excessive damage is the outcome of tenant abuse. This type of damage is not a result of reasonable wear and tear from normal usage.
With property damage, the damage is very visible, and it depreciates the value of your rental unit. Damage may mean that a certain item in your unit can’t be used anymore, or it may mean that the appearance of your rental or furnishing is distorted.
Here are a few common examples of tenant caused damage:
- Missing door locks and doorknobs
- Broken toilet seat
- Broken windows
- Heavily stained carpets
- Doors torn from their hinges
- Heavily scratched floors
- Chipped countertops
- Broken fixtures
The examples above are a result of tenant damage, negligence or abuse. Thus, as a landlord, you would be able to make deductions from the deposit to shoulder the repair costs, as it is the responsibility of the tenant to cover repair costs, cleaning fees, or property maintenance.
What is the Importance of Understanding the Difference Between Normal Wear and Tear & Excessive Damage?
Understanding the difference between ordinary wear and tear and damage will help you minimize conflicts.
If you make deductions from a a renter's security deposit because of normal wear and tear, you may face financial consequences. The tenant has the legal right to challenge.
If a landlord and tenant are confused about the difference between the two, the security deposit return may be contested. So, it is best to outline what constitutes damage vs normal wear and tear in your leasing agreement.
What is the Significance of Walk-Through Inspections?
It is most beneficial to complete a walk-through inspection prior to the tenant occupying the property, periodically throughout the tenancy and after the tenant moves out. Photos taken during each are helpful for before, during and after comparison.
- Prior to tenancy occupancy, a photo inspection is completed to establish a baseline for future determination of both damages and wear and tear.
- During the tenancy, walk-through inspections are beneficial as the photo inspection allows for a good barometer as to how the tenant takes care of the property and how it is maintained. This is helpful for decisions like rent increase, renewal of leases and the term of any lease agreement.
- Photo inspections are completed after the tenant vacates. This inspection is compared to the inspection completed prior to occupancy and is used to compare before and after for any damages and wear and tear.
Within the thirty days following the tenant vacating, the property owner will provide a full reconciliation of the tenant’s deposit. Any charges that are tenant responsible charges for damages, cleaning, etc., are deducted from the original deposit amount and the balance is then returned to the tenant.
Why is Tenant Screening Important?
The best way to ensure a quality tenant is to perform a thorough screen of potential applicants. A professional property manager can make sure the Federal Fair Housing Laws and State laws related to landlord/tenant are followed.
Additionally, a full vetting of Criminal background, credit, employment and salary verification and previous rental history. These factors are consistently applied to all applicants in an effort to place the highest quality tenants as possible thus minimizing the potential for any unforeseen future problems related to property damages and other tenant issues.
If you’re seeking further assistance or have any questions about managing your rental properties, feel free to contact Evolve Nevada today! Our team of property management experts will happy to help you!