There is often a gray area when it comes to normal wear and tear versus excessive wear and tear. Today, we’re talking about tenant move outs, security deposit disposition deductions, and how to manage routine and normal wear and tear versus excessive wear and tear or damage.
Tenant Move Outs
There are three things you are looking for when a tenant moves out of your rental property. First, you’ll want it to be clean. The tenants are required to return the property to the same clean condition that the home was in when they took possession. Even a clean home will have normal wear and tear. During your move out inspection, you might also notice excessive wear and tear and then obvious damage.
The tenant has a lawful obligation, per the lease and the statutes of California, to return the property to its clean or a cleaner condition, minus normal wear and tear. Anything that is damaged can be a lawful deduction from the security deposit. You need to do everything by the book and have your paperwork and documentation air-tight.
Normal versus Excessive Wear and Tear
The gray area is deciding what is normal and what is excessive when it comes to wear and tear. You have to have reasonable standards in case you find yourself in front of a judge. When you’re walking through a home, especially in Marin County, you’ll see wear and tear from kids, pets, and other family members. There will be marks on the walls, scuff marks from furniture, and wear to the fixtures, sinks, countertops, and floors. Anything a reasonable person would cause on these surfaces and appliances while living in a home is considered normal wear and tear. You cannot take security deposit deductions for these items. Normal wear and tear is a business expense the homeowner is expected to incur when they turn over the home.
Example of Excessive Wear and Tear
Here’s an example of normal versus excessive wear and tear. A person living in a home would normally hang art on the walls with hooks or nails. To have a few nail holes here and there in the living room, kitchen, dining room, and hallway is normal. Anyone reasonable would cause that. However, a shrine to the family crest or three generations of picture frames on one wall with dozens of photos and a nail hole to hold each one up will cause excessive wear and tear once all those pictures come down. It’s not necessarily damage, but it is excessive. So, I will mention to the tenant during the pre-move out inspection that they need to fix that or we will charge the deposit.