What Exactly is Normal Wear and Tear on a Rental Property?

Monday, March 14, 2022

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What exactly constitutes normal wear and tear on a rental property can be open to much interpretation. As well, at what point does it become classified as actual damage?


Tenants will undoubtedly cause some minor wear and tear, regardless of how careful and mindful they are about maintenance and upkeep. It can be hard to determine when the line is crossed and move-out repairs are no longer considered normal wear and tear.

The primary issue with normal wear and tear is that there isn’t a consensus as to what actually constitutes as being normal. In practical, most states and provinces have varying definitions.


RENX provides an analysis on how reasonable wear and tear should be interpreted and enforced:


  • Reasonable wear and tear is defined as, “the reasonable use of the premises by the tenant and the ordinary operation of natural forces.”


  • The onus is on the landlord to prove the premises were damaged and not returned in good condition at the end of the term, if wanting to keep the security deposit. The landlord must be able to demonstrate, beyond a reasonable doubt, the condition of the rental unit to be inferior at the end of the lease cycle, compared to the time of possession.


  • If the landlord has proof of damage and the tenant disputes this, the tenant must be able to prove the damage resulted from reasonable wear and tear.


  • It’s imperative to consider the years of occupation for the premises. If a tenant inhabits a rental for an extended duration (multiple years), there may be more wear and tear than what would be normal for a one-year term.


In many instances, however, normal wear and tear is largely left undefined and it falls upon the landlord to determine what is considered damage.


It’s recommended that both the tenant and landlord thoroughly document the condition of the rental before and after the tenancy. It’s important to take a variety of photos and videos that are time-stamped (to prove when they were taken), in the event that there are any disagreements.


Here are some practical examples of what would and would not be considered reasonable wear and tear.

Normal Wear & Tear:


  • Slightly faded or peeling paint, or minor tears in wallpaper
  • Moderately dusty or dirty window blinds or curtains
  • Slight carpet thinning in high traffic areas
  • Minor scuffing or scratches on hardwood floors from normal use
  • Small (easy to fix) pin or nail holes from hanging fixtures or pictures


Damage Beyond Normal Wear & Tear:

  • Burns, major stains or excessive deterioration of carpeting
  • Excessive mold and mildew buildup in bathroom, due to neglect
  • Broken or damaged windows, doors and other fixtures
  • Water damage at the fault of the tenant (for example, from leaving windows open during severe rainstorms)
  • Damaged or broken kitchen/bathroom cabinetry and shelving
  • Severe sink and drain clogging from improper use.


These are just a few of the many potential examples that could be encountered.


It’s suggested that landlords clearly state their expectations to renters before the tenancy begins and also document them in the lease agreement. A cleaning and inspection checklist to use when preparing to move out would also be helpful for students to avoid any security deposit deductions.


SEE ALSO:  How Student Tenants Can Get a Competitive Advantage in This Rental Market

The Places4Students.com Team