Discerning the difference between tenant-related damages and normal wear and tear in rental properties can get very confusing. However, there are guidelines available to help make the final decision on whether the tenant should be held responsible or the landlord for damages to the property. So what home repairs are housing providers responsible for? To help answer this question I’m going to cover a list of “Normal Wear and Tear” items, “Tenant Damages” and some examples of what a landlord would be responsible for repairing.
NORMAL WEAR AND TEAR
• Fading, peeling or cracked paint
• Slightly torn or faded wallpaper
• Small chips in plaster
• Cracks in walls
• Door sticking from humidity
• Cracked window pane from faulty foundation or building settling
• Floors needing coat of varnish
• Carpet faded or worn thin from walking
• Loose grouting and bathroom tiles
• Worn or scratched enamel in old bathtubs, sinks, or toilets
• Rusty shower rod
• Partially clogged sinks caused by aging pipes
• Dirty or faded window shades
Even with this list it can still become overwhelming on what exactly should be charged to the tenant, so I want to go over a couple of examples:
Carpet is given a typical life expectancy of 5 years, this is the length of time that the carpet has reached its useful life. So if the carpet has been in the property for 5 years or longer, it could be the landlord’s responsibility to replace it. Gently worn carpets that show some normal wear patterns, worn patches, or fading from the sun would be considered normal wear and tear. On the flip side, carpet that has pet-caused damage such as heavily stained carpets or ripped and fraying would fall under tenant-related damages and the tenants should be held responsible.
Peeling paint, sun damage, small scuffs, or cracks in the walls caused by settling would be normal wear and tear. These types of things should be touched up by the landlord in between tenants. Ceiling paint usually lasts longer since no one is constantly touching the ceiling. Ceiling paint should be touched up when a leak occurs or on an as-needed basis. However, holes in the walls, scribbles or drawings, or damage from hanging pictures would be tenant-related damages. These items would be the responsibility of the tenant to return back to the condition they received it in.
Tenant damages usually require more extensive repair, and at a greater cost than “normal wear and tear”, and are often the results of a tenant’s abuse or negligence that is above and beyond normal wear and tear.
• Gaping holes in walls or plaster
• Drawings, crayon markings, or wallpaper that the owner did not approve
• Seriously damaged or ruined wallpaper
• Chipped or gouged wood floors
• Doors ripped off hinges
• Broken windows
• Missing fixtures
• Holes in ceiling from removed fixtures
• Holes, stains, or burns in carpet
• Missing or cracked bathroom tiles
• Chipped and broken enamel in bathtubs and sinks
• Clogged or damaged toilet from improper use
• Missing or bent shower rods
• Torn, stained, or missing lamp and window shades
Even with these lists, it can still be overwhelming to know how to proceed with damages at your investment property. The best advice comes from Real Estate Attorney, Timothy Czekaj who says, “The easiest way to discern between wear and tear and tenant caused damage is to think of wear and tear as any damage that’s caused by natural forces or damage that’s caused by daily use. Tenant-caused damage should be thought of as damage requiring more than routine maintenance to repair. Obviously, this doesn’t include things like a leaky pipe or things that would happen to the property regardless of who the tenant was.”
At Envy Property Management, we highly recommend doing periodic property evaluations. If not done often enough, you could miss some potentially serious problems that would have otherwise been noticed. This also helps keep you financially protected, by regularly tracking the condition of the property and documenting what is normal wear and tear and what damages are tenant-related. This is above and beyond the tenant move-in inspection and tenant move-out inspection. Although the periodic evaluation doesn’t need to be as in-depth as the move-in and move-out evaluation, it’s always a good idea to get a good look inside the home and document the condition. If at any time a tenant is not adhering to the tenancy agreement, we offer them a notice to resolve the issue and then follow up with them within a reasonable time frame.
If the tenant does damage the property, you can file for an eviction. The damage must be in excess of normal wear and tear on the property and must be intentionally caused by the tenant or by their gross negligence. However, make sure you are prepared. In most states, laws will give the benefit of the doubt to the tenants and it’s the landlord’s responsibility to prove the damage was done intentionally and isn’t just normal wear and tear. You must provide documentation that the damage was not there before the tenants moved in. Make sure you are doing very thorough move-in inspections BEFORE the tenants move in. Documenting the condition of the property will make this process much easier in the long run.
If all of this seems too overwhelming, and you want help choosing a Northern Utah property management company with years of experience, please contact us at Envy Property Management. We are a wealth of information when it comes to professional property management of your investment. You can always ask us for valuable tips and extra resources to make the choice simple and painless. Give us a call today, 801-337-4337 or visit our website at envypm.com where you can easily view our three-tiered pricing plan, so you can choose the package that best fits you and your needs.