Tenant Damages vs. Normal Wear and Tear: How to Spot the Difference as a Landlord

Once a tenant moves out of a property, the landlord or property manager has to go in and assess the condition of the home to determine if any damages were caused by the tenant while living there. So, the question of course, becomes this: what is normal wear and tear versus actual damage? Property managers answer this question every day. We have a lot of experience, so we’re sharing some of our knowledge in this area. Hopefully, it will help you as you’re looking at a rental property and trying to determine if you want to charge your tenants for a repair or not.

Nail Holes in Walls: Usual Wear & Tear

One of the most common things we see are holes in the walls from pictures. Often, as is normal, a tenant comes into a property and hang pictures on a wall. Three or four small nail holes might be left behind in a wall where these pictures were hung. That’s normally okay. Those small nail holes are generally wear and tear.

Occasionally, we will walk into a house and see where a tenant had a collage of pictures. There may be 30 or 40 nail holes in a single wall, and that’s not okay. It will make the wall look pretty bad. In those cases, we have to call a repair professional to repaint the wall corner to corner. We would charge the former tenant because those nail holes were excessive. The court has ruled in our favor on this, and agreed that 40 nail holes in a wall is beyond normal wear and tear.

Carpet Wear vs. Carpet Damage

People will walk on carpet, and it’s natural for carpet to have normal wear and tear. But, if you see something beyond normal wear such as large stains or maybe carpet that is worn in a specific spot all the way down to the thread or even the subfloor, you should look at making a deduction. It’s important to remember that carpet has an expected lifespan in your rental property. Just because that carpet was new three years ago doesn’t mean you can charge the tenant the cost of brand new carpet when a stain is left behind. You can only charge for the remaining value and depreciate the three years of use you’ve already had from the carpet.

Depreciation Tools: Check the IRS

Depreciation Tools: Check the IRS - ThumbnailThe IRS has great tools on their website to help determine the typical life expectancy of certain components in your rental property. This can help you depreciate and charge the appropriate amount. You don’t want to be guilty of withholding too much money from a tenant’s deposit, because if you lose in court, South Carolina law allows your tenant to sue for damages that are three times the amount you withheld. Don’t be on the losing end of a security deposit battle.

Make sure that when you’re looking at property after a tenant moves out, you look beyond normal cosmetic things. Look for true damage that the tenant should have seen and prevented. If you have any questions about managing rental properties, please contact us at New Heights Property Management.

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