What’s Normal Wear and Tear?

Is this ‘normal wear and tear’?

One of the most frustrating aspects of landlord/ tenant relationship is upon moving out. It comes down to a little phrase that says the tenant should leave the property as it was found, except for ‘normal wear and tear’. But what does that mean? From a tenants perspective, landlords charge for every scrape and ding, and from a landlord’s perspective it feels that the tenants weren’t careful enough and need to pay for damage. So who’s right, what’s considered normal and what’s too much?

The problem is there is no clear definition of ‘normal wear and tear’. Therefore, it comes down to personal interpretation –  to one landlord that would mean one thing and to another something else. So what do you do? The easiest way is to hire a Property Manager who has experience with all aspects of working with tenants, and they will be able to give you clear guidelines on what to expect. But if you do not have a property manager, there are some things you can do to protect yourself as a landlord and these also protects tenants.

Lay out Expectations.
The most straightforward way to avoid issues is to write it down. In the rental agreement include what is considered normal. For example, worn carpets, paint chips and nail holes from hanging pictures are considered normal. But provide some examples of what you would expect tenants to pay for, such as; stains on the carpets, gouges out of the wall (where hanging pictures went wrong), chunks out of the wooden floors, broken windows – or broken anything. If you have a range of options then the tenants can see what is expected of them. If there will be pets, make sure there is clarification on what is expected upon move out. Are scratches on the floor or walls acceptable?

Visual Record
When new tenants are moving into the property take lots of photos or video of the property to minimise any disputes on moving out. Walk through the property together and point out any areas that you are aware of. Encourage the tenant to find anything that they are not comfortable with. As a tenant, if the landlord does not want to take photos, take them yourself, and send them a copy.

Call In Repairs
Remember as a tenant you need to call in anything that needs to be repaired. The little things can snowball if they are not taken care of quickly could mean that you need to pay for it when you move out. If your landlord is not responsive, make sure you keep track of when and how you tried to contact them. By doing this, if there are issues when you move out, you will have a record. Some landlords put clauses in their rental agreements that outline that that any repairs be called in in a timely manner.

Are you liable?
It’s expected that landlords will repaint every couple of years, but if tenants have repainted without asking, or damaged the paint within the first few months, it’s probably best for the tenant to either repaint (to a high level of quality), or accept the deduction from the bond.

Something that most landlords don’t take into consideration when writing their agreements, is who will be living in the property. This can drastically affect what condition the property will be in when they move out. What is ‘normal wear and tear’ for a single professional will be radically different to what is ‘normal wear and tear’ for a family of 5 with a cat and a dog. Of course you would not expect the property to have had the walls decorated by little hands, but you will get a few more dings on the wall and probably a stain or two on the carpet. It is worth the extra effort to write an agreement that covers different situations.

Normal wear and tear.
So in the end, normal wear and tear it comes down to someone’s word against another. Repainting, cleaning the carpet and a few nail holes and scuffs are normal, but if it’s more than that, it could be a problem. So take precautions, write it clearly in the contract, or ask for it to be written out, take photos, even ask questions about what is expected, and write it down and sign it.

What’s your definition of normal wear and tear?


2 thoughts on “What’s Normal Wear and Tear?

  1. I basically repainted the owners whole house when I moved out. The original paint was crap, but they insisted that it needed to be in same condition as it was when I moved in 3 years earlier. This is ludicrous in my opinion.

    The owner has the luxury of claiming this as a maintenance expense from tax – I have nothing to claim as a tenant. This same owner did not even assist with repairing the uncalibrated garage door controller or supplying watering hoses – all was done at my expense with no way of claiming this from the ATO. In my opinion the tenants are always screwed (in WA anyway).


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