Two broken windows of an apartment.
When you have a tenant living in your rental for a long time, you might find your property in worse shape than when you first rented it. However, one important thing to differentiate here is if it's just typical wear and tear or property damage. While wear and tear is a common deterioration that occurs due to the aging process and is very expected, actual damage to your rental can reduce its future worth. So, how do you tell the difference as property owner? In this article, we'll help you figure that out and everything else you need to keep in mind.
As we said initially, wear and tear refers to the gradual deterioration of a property's general condition through time and use. It cannot be avoided. It's not caused by the tenants's negligence or misuse. That's why there's nothing wrong with the property suffering from wear and tear and why a tenant shouldn't be held responsible for it. Even with the best behaving tenants, all rental homes will deteriorate at some point. Moreover, if a tenant stays in a rental property for an extended period, you should expect to notice more wear and tear around the property when they move out.
Damage, on the other hand, doesn't happen naturally. It's the result of carelessness, misuse, extreme force, or even an accident. Usually, anything that can be fixed easily with an inexpensive upgrade to your rental unit is considered normal wear and tear. On the other hand, real damage often requires a lot more work. In some cases, it requires totally replacing the damaged item or complete renovation.
After some time, it's natural for floors to lose their original shine and color.
Because we understand it's sometimes hard to differentiate if something is normal wear and tear or damage, here's a list of examples of common types of wear and tear:
Walls with minor damage such as nail holes, chips, scrapes, smudges, or dents. It can also include fading paint or wallpaper that is somewhat damaged.
Worn out, dirty tiles and carpets and scratched wooden floors (to some extent). To compare the extent of floor damage, you should always take pictures before the new tenants move in. Then, compare them to the state of the floors after they move out. However, keep in mind that sometimes wooden floors get scratched during the move when there's heavy furniture involved. If you want to avoid this, experts at mod-movers.com suggest covering the floors with cardboard or using furniture sliders during the move.
Doors that stick or don't close as well as they used to.
Faded, aged curtains or cables that have frayed.
Worn-out kitchen counter surfaces.
Sliding window and door tracks that have been worn, as well as appliance seals that have become damaged.
Broken, faulty appliances.
Small rips in the fly screen.
Taps, faucets, and toilet seats that are loose.
As long as carpets aren't burned or stained but simply worn out, it's not property damage.
Should you keep the security deposit to fix the consequences of normal wear and tear? In short: no. Because normal wear and tear is expected, the tenants should get their deposit back. You, as a landlord, should pay for the refurbishments from your own pocket.
However, if there's real damage to the rental, you should document it. Then calculate the costs and keep the amount required to fix those damages. This should all be included in the rental agreement so that the tenants are aware of this rule from the start.
It's a common belief among landlords that frequent inspections can stop tenants from damaging the rental or breaking any other rules. This is in part true. Not only will tenants be more careful knowing there's an inspection coming up, but they'll also be more upfront about the damages if they know they will be fixed. However, frequent inspections and check-ups can make tenants feel like they don't have any privacy. So, how often should landlords or property managers do inspections? Well, after the move-in inspection, a landlord or a property manager should do periodic property inspections to check in with tenants. This will give them a chance to bring up up any wear and tear or damage they have noticed. When tenants decide to move out, there should be a move-out inspection to double-check the state of the rental.
Depending on your relationship with them, you might be hesitant to withhold a portion of your tenant's security deposit to pay damages. Even though it is within your rights as the property owner and landlord, you may feel bad if you get along well with the tenants. So, in that case, how can you approach tenants regarding property damage in a kind yet professional manner? Well, the trick is to set the tone for the 'damage dialogue' right from the start of your relationship. Explain to them that it's no big deal and that they shouldn't hide anything. Then, as the tenancy continues, retain the same attitude and coverage of the situation. Incentivize them to report any damage as soon as it occurs. This makes it simple for both parties to understand the extent of the harm and who is responsible.
It's very important to build trust with your tenant so that they feel free to tell you when something is damaged.
Sometimes it might be hard to identify if something results from wear and tear or damage. However, most of the tinme, the trick is to figure out if this is something that would've happened eventually anyway. Wear and tear is just something that happens over time, no matter how good-inentioned the tenants are. If it's not a result of misuse of force, it's probably not intentional damage. Moreover, remember to consider how old the item was and how long it was intended to last. Also, take into account how many tenants lived in your rental and used that item reguarlarly. In the end, you should have a strategy and a budget in place to cope with replacing anything when the time comes.