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What is normal wear and tear?

On Behalf of | May 7, 2024 | Real Estate

Disputes between landlords and tenants sometimes revolve around normal wear and tear. After all, the security deposit that the tenant provides at the start of the lease is supposed to cover the cost of necessary repairs. But it shouldn’t be used for things that are just normal wear and tear.

What happens is that landlords will sometimes try to keep a security deposit to make repairs to damage in the apartment. Tenants will counter that they should get the deposit back because it’s just normal wear and tear. So how do you define the type of damage that qualifies and the type that doesn’t? 

Examples of wear and tear

Every case can be unique, but security deposits are usually just for substantial damage – a broken window, for example, or major holes in the ceiling or walls. But normal wear and tear may include things like:

  • Mild stains, rust or marks on finishes 
  • Scrapes on a wood floor from where furniture was moved 
  • Minor scuffs on the baseboards 
  • Fading of curtains or blinds 
  • Loose grout 
  • Faded paint 
  • Nail holes from putting up pictures and decorations 
  • Minor stains on the carpet 
  • Scuffs on the walls or dents from door handles

In other words, a landlord is only supposed to use the security deposit for something substantial that they didn’t expect. But if the type of damage to the apartment is what you would usually expect after someone has lived in it for a year, they should not have to surrender their security deposit.

Naturally, both sides often do not see this the same way and it can become contentious. That’s when they need to understand all their legal options.