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What exactly is “Normal Wear and Tear”

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wear and tear

It is inevitable that a tenant causes damage to your property at some point during your career as a landlord and usually occurs in one of two ways: ordinary wear and tear or excessive property damage.

As a landlord, telling the difference between the two types of damage can help you avoid conflicts with your tenant and safeguard you against financial harm.

So, we at McCaw Property Management have put together this article to help you understand the difference between ordinary wear and tear, and excessive damage.

What is Normal Wear and Tear?

property damage

Normal wear and tear can be defined as damage or normal deterioration of the property or an appliance as a result of its regular use. As such, tenants can’t be held accountable for this type of damage as it would have occurred through use, and it is the landlord’s responsibility to replace, renovate or repair any normal wear and tear-based damage.

The following are examples of damage resulting from ordinary wear and tear:

  • A few nail holes or cracks in the walls
  • Faded paint
  • A torn wallpaper
  • A faded carpet
  • Scuffs on wood floors
  • Worn appliances due to long-term use
  • Worn or scratched enamel in sinks or toilets
  • A faded curtain due to sunlight exposure from the window
  • Warped cabinet doors
  • Clogged sinks from old plumbing
  • Faded lamps
  • Rusty shower rod
  • Sticky cabinet doors
  • Wobbly toilet
  • Cracked light switch plates
  • Broken strings on curtains or blinds
  • Wall dents from the door handle
  • Warping of a window or door
  • Carpet seams unravel or unglued
  • Worn patches or scuff marks on linoleum

What is Excessive Property Damage?

Any damage that would go above normal wear and tear is commonly referred to as excessive property damage. Here are some examples of damage that would not occur from normal use:

  • Bent or missing shower rods
  • Stained, torn, or missing lamps and window shades
  • Damaged bathtub or sink, including broken or chipped enamel
  • Damaged or clogged toilet from improper use
  • Cracked or missing bathroom tiles
  • Holes in the ceiling
  • Burns, stains, holes, or other damage to the carpets
  • Missing fixtures
  • Broken windows or smashed bathroom mirror
  • Chipped or gouged hardwood flooring
  • Holes in the plasterboard or walls
  • Unapproved paint colors, drawings, crayon markings, or wallpaper
  • Burns or cuts on countertops
  • Watermarks from overflowed bathtub or sink
  • Pet urine stains on carpet and walls

Can You Hold Your Tenant Liable for Excessive Damage?

Yes! You have a right to hold your tenant accountable for damage resulting from their negligence, carelessness, abuse, or misuse. So, if your tenant moves out without fixing the damage they have caused, such as damage from the above examples, you can make appropriate deductions from their security deposit.

Please note that wrongfully withholding your tenant’s security deposit can have financial consequences. You can be responsible for paying your tenant up to 3X the wrongfully withheld amount, plus court and attorney fees.

What Kind of Damage falls under Routine Maintenance?

After a tenant vacates their unit and you begin to find new tenants, you’ll obviously need to do some touchups in order for it to become rent ready and to combat the normal deterioration that occurred during the last tenancy. The goal of making your property rent-ready will be, of course, to make it desirable to potential tenants.

Below are examples of maintenance tasks that fall under routine maintenance for wear and tear and would not be considered as any type of “damage”.

house painting


After a tenant leaves, you may realize that the walls look faded due to regular wear and tear, and may require some painting.

When it comes to painting, you may need to do so once every 3 years. And the only time you can hold your tenant responsible for a paint job is when they paint the property without authorization.


Appliances don’t last forever. Generally speaking, most appliances have a useful life of 10 to 15 years. After this time, you may find it more economical to replace old appliances than to have them repaired.

If, however, an appliance suddenly breaks down, that might be a sign of tenant damage. That said, appliances are complex items that can sometimes break without an obvious cause or sign.

Your tenant may not be necessarily to blame for an appliance breaking down. Instead, you may be able to reduce such occurrences by ensuring the appliances are properly maintained.


Flooring is also susceptible to ordinary wear and tear. After a tenant moves out from your property, you may notice:

  • Dirty grout around tiles
  • Faded carpet from regular use
  • Peeling or deterioration in less durable flooring types, like linoleum, for example

Since these result from normal wear and tear, the responsibility of fixing them will lie with you. However, you may be able to hold your tenant accountable for issues like missing floorboards or cracked tiles.

How often you replace your property’s flooring will depend on the type of flooring you have. A high-quality hardwood floor lasts the longest, with a lifetime of about two decades. Carpet, on the other hand, will typically only last five years with consistent normal wear and tear.

Plumbing & Fixtures

Plumbing fixtures won’t last forever and will need to be replaced at some point. Some of the fixtures that may need replacement on a regular basis include valves, showerheads, and taps. These commonly wear out over time due to rust and mineral buildup, which is a natural problem.

A broken or missing toilet lid would not occur due to normal wear and tear and would be an example of property damage. Equally, a large stain on the floor that occurs from an unreported leak is another example.

routine maintenance

Bottom Line

Being a great landlord means knowing the difference between normal wear and tear versus excessive damage is important to a landlord. As it gives you an understanding as to who’s responsible for what when it comes to repairing rental damage.

If you still need further help or clarification, McCaw Property Management can help. We’re a trusted property management company in the Dallas Fort Worth area!