What Exactly is “Normal Wear and Tear”?

Rental damage is something that every landlord is bound to experience sooner or later. It occurs in two ways, excessive damage and/ or normal wear and tear.

In this blog, we’ll take you through each type of damage so you can understand the differences and what you can do when they occur.

Normal Wear and Tear

Although the term doesn’t have a set definition, it generally refers to the expected deterioration of a dwelling and its fixtures.
In other words, normal wear and tear occur from the normal use of rented premises. For instance, it’s normal for tile floors to discolor after a few years of use.

This inevitability occurs when a tenant occupies the property. The longer they occupy it, the more wear and tear to expect at the end of their tenancy. Normal wear and tear are also directly proportional to the number of occupants. That is, the more the occupants the more wear and tear caused to the unit.

Examples of Normal Wear and Tear

When you rent out a property, there are countless aspects that are bound to deteriorate over time. Normal deterioration will occur on a daily basis, as your tenant walks on the floors, uses fixtures, opens and closes doors, and more.

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The following are some examples of normal wear and tear:

  • Faded paint and torn wallpaper
  • Faded carpet and discolored flooring
  • Sticky doors due to humidity or house shifting
  • Loose or dirty bathroom grout
  • Worn enamel in sinks or bathtubs
  • Clogged sinks due to aging pipes
  • Faded silver finish on bathroom fixtures
  • Loose door handles
  • Dings or scrapes in a wood floor
  • Small stains on a carpet

Since normal wear and tear isn’t your tenant’s fault, the responsibility for fixing the damage falls on the landlord's shoulders.

Excessive Property Damage

In simple terms, this is the sort of damage that exceeds normal wear and tear. It occurs as a result of a tenant’s negligence, carelessness, or misuse. This kind of damage can also be accidental.

Examples of Excessive Damage

  • Missing curtains or blinds
  • Broken or missing floor tiles
  • Missing fixtures
  • Broken windows or doors
  • Smashed bathroom mirror
  • Graffiti on walls
  • Unauthorized property changes like paint colors or wallpaper
  • Damaged appliances
  • Nail holes in walls
  • Chipped or broken enamel in bathtub and sink
  • Damaged kitchen cabinets
  • Missing toilet seat
  • A hole in the middle of a door

It’s also important to note that not all these types of damages are caused by a tenant. Negligence on your part as a landlord can also cause excessive damage. Failure to make structural repairs, for example, can lead to cracked roofs or ceilings.

As a landlord, you have a legal responsibility to ensure your property is habitable at all times.

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Tenant Damage and Security Deposit Deductions

As previously mentioned, you cannot hold your tenant liable for damage resulting from normal wear and tear. For you to use part or all of your tenant’s deposit, the damage must be in excess of normal wear and tear.

Security deposit deductions are usually a source of landlord-tenant conflicts. You or your tenant may, for instance, not agree on what damage constitutes normal wear and tear and excessive damage.

In the state of Oklahoma, landlords are required to return any unused portion of the deposit to the tenant within 45 days. You must also include a written itemized list of damages you have deducted alongside the unused deposit.

How to Prevent Tenant Damage to Your Norman, OK Rental Property

The following are tips to help you prevent tenant damage to your rental property:

Have an Effective Tenant Screening Process

This is your first defense against renting to potential problem tenants. Your screening process should examine prospects on a variety of fronts, including their:

  • Creditworthiness - Tenants with a high credit score tend to be financially responsible.
  • Rental history - Call previous landlords to learn more about the tenant. If they caused excessive damage before, chances are they will repeat the same on your property.
  • Monthly income - Rent to tenants that can comfortably afford rent payments without issues.
  • Employment background - Only consider tenants that have a stable employment history.

Inspect Your Property on a Regular Basis

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No matter how great a tenant is, no one is going to care for your property like you would. As such, make sure to inspect the property every now and then in accordance with the lease agreement.

Typically, in a lease term, you should be able to carry out four types of inspections. That is, a move-in/out inspection, drive-by inspection, and seasonal inspection. Each of these inspections should serve an important role in protecting your property from reckless tenants.

Remember to notify your tenant before any entry. Oklahoma requires that you give your tenant notice at least 24 hours prior to entry.

Respond to Maintenance Issues Promptly

As a landlord in Oklahoma, you have a responsibility to ensure your property abides by the state’s basic health and safety codes. So, if a tenant notifies you of damages, respond as quickly as you can.

Matter of fact, the state’s landlord-tenant law requires landlords to respond to maintenance issues within 14 days or sooner for emergency situations.

If you don’t, the maintenance problem may not only get worse. Your tenant will then have a few options to consider. Such options may include breaking the lease or exercising the right to “Repair and Deduct”.

Summary

Tenant damage is inevitable in any landlord’s career. Luckily, though, there are a few things you can do to minimize the damage caused. Such things include renting to a great tenant, promptly responding to issues, and conducting regular inspections.

If you need help with any of this, the team at Draper Realty is here for you! We’re a professional full-service property management company that can help you manage your property and maximize your ROI. Get in touch with us to learn more about our services.

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