A question frequently asked by both tenants and landlords is what constitutes normal wear and tear on a rental property.
Both parties of a rental agreement often have their own definitions of what “normal wear and tear” means, leaving much room for conflict at the end of a lease agreement.
The term “normal wear and tear” is a vague one and can cause a lot of issues between you and your tenant if not spelled out clearly in the beginning of a lease agreement.
In order to minimize disagreements over the condition of your Montgomery County rental property at the end of a lease, let’s take a look at who is responsible for what in a rental property.
What Exactly is a Security Deposit?
It is important first to have a solid grasp on what exactly a security deposit is. According to the Maryland State Code a security deposit is
“… any payment of money, including payment of the last month’s rent in advance of the time it is due, given to a landlord by a tenant in order to protect the landlord against nonpayment of rent, damage due to breach of lease, or damage to the leased premises, common areas, major appliances, and furnishings,” in excess of ordinary wear and tear.
This is where the main conflict occurs. All states allow landlords to collect a security deposit (which is usually in the amount of one month’s rent), but this money is to be returned to the tenant at the end of the lease so long as the property is left in its original condition minus normal wear and tear.
Many landlords are under the impression that a security deposit is a payment of money that can be used at the end of a lease agreement to restore their rental property back to its original condition before their tenants moved in, improve the condition of the property for future tenants, or even prepare it for sale.
This is simply not the case.
This money is to remain in an escrow account at all times and is always considered your tenant’s money until a situation arises where you can legally access and use such funds. In fact, if you were to use your tenant’s security deposit for legitimate reasons, the work must be shown to have been done by licensed contractors and receipts must accompany whatever charges were incurred.
Normal Wear and Tear vs Damage
Although seemingly ambiguous, the term normal wear and tear is actually quite simple. When agreeing to lease a rental property from you, the tenant is knowingly obligated to return said premises to you, their landlord, in substantially the same condition, as when the tenant originally moved in.
Deterioration without negligence, carelessness, or abuse of the premises is not considered your tenant’s responsibility and you cannot require the tenant to be financially responsible for normal use of your rental home. However, if the tenant has been negligent, abusive, or made accidental damages to your property (either personally, by guests, or even pets), then you would have a case for damages to your home.
Let’s get a better idea:
|Normal Wear and Tear – Landlord is Responsible||Damages – Tenant is Responsible|
|Loose or worn hinges||Detached hinges|
|Scratched window surfaces||Broken or missing window panes|
|Faded or dusty curtains||Torn, stained, burned curtains|
|Small holes or marks in walls||Large holes or dents in walls|
|Faded or worn carpeting||Torn, stained, burned carpeting|
Landlords and tenants are encouraged to work together when it comes to routine maintenance and upkeep of the rental property in use. When each party is aware of such responsibilities from the beginning, it is easier to determine who is responsible for what at the end of the lease agreement.
Know the Value of Routine Maintenance
Routine maintenance of your Montgomery County rental can prevent problems during your tenant’s stay. By staying on top of small fixes ahead of time, there is less likely a chance for something to go wrong during your tenant’s lease, and less likely to be a conflict over who is responsible for fixing it in the end.
Another important point is to have an understanding with your tenant as to what their routine maintenance responsibilities will be while renting your home. This could include things such as changing batteries and lightbulbs, replacing filters, or having the pool cleaned on a regular basis. These are things that should be included in your rental agreement with your tenant so that there is no confusion as to responsibility should something break due to a lapse in routine maintenance.
This can become very overwhelming especially if you own more than one rental property. Remember, your Montgomery County property management group is there to stay on top of all your routine maintenance needs for your rental properties so you can have the peace of mind that your home is taken care of. This also includes drafting up a thorough lease agreement so each party knows exactly what is to be taken care of and when.
Invest in Quality Appliances
Keeping older appliances in your rental home increases the risk that something may break and potentially damage your rental property.
Using newer and more dependable appliances not only decreases those risks, bur makes for a happier tenant all around.
Maintain Basic Amenities
It is your responsibility to maintain things such as electricity, hot/cold water, and plumbing to all of your rental homes. If these amenities are not kept in good working order, and damages were to occur, it could very well be your responsibility.
By avoiding such things in the first place there is less chance of a conflict occurring over who will pay for what damages.
Before moving into your new home, make sure you have a walk through with the landlord to get an idea of the existing state of the property. Make note of all problems that need fixing and even consider taking photos, even if it is a minor issue.
At the end of the tenancy schedule another walk-through to note any changes that may have occurred during your stay. This gives you the opportunity to fix any issues that are your responsibility before the landlord charges you.
Get Things Fixed
As soon as a maintenance issue arises that is your landlord’s responsibility,fix it sooner than later to prevent damage. Waiting to have things fixed may be regarded as negligence and a case for damages might be considered.
Don’t let problems that can be fixed go from normal wear and tear to damage due to procrastination.
Upon Move Out
When you prepare to leave a rental home it is expected that you leave the property in good, clean condition, minus normal wear and tear.
Do things such as clean the entire home, remove all personal items, sweep and vacuum floors (even consider having them professionally cleaned), replace all batteries and light bulbs.
Just make sure that everything you fix (i.e. patching any nail holes or spackling the walls) was agreed to in the lease agreement. This should be discussed at the start of tenancy so the understanding is clear.
The term “normal wear and tear” is a hotly debated topic.
When a landlord leases their property out to strangers, it is worrisome that damages may occur to a property they have invested in. Unfortunately, that is the risk you take when becoming a landlord.
As long as the tenant has not been proven to have been neglectful, abusive, or careless, damages to your rental property are not their responsibility.
This is why it is important to have a solid lease agreement from the start where each party is undeniably certain of what their responsibilities are.
When you want to rent out your home, give Bay Management Group a call. As your reliable Montgomery County property management company, you can be assured problems arising from the term “normal wear and tear” will be a thing of the past.