What Exactly is “Normal Wear and Tear”?

The term normal wear and tear is something that you're is bound to encounter when renting out a property.

However, there is usually a lot of confusion as to what the term actually means and how it applies to North Carolina landlords.

In this article, we'll walk you through everything you need to know about normal wear and tear and rental damage.

What is Normal Wear and Tear?

Generally speaking, normal wear and tear refers to the natural deterioration that a property undergoes when occupied by a tenant.

This means that normal wear and tear is not caused by tenant negligence or carelessness.

The following are some examples of normal wear and tear:

  • Carpets thinning in some areas or getting light discoloration.
  • Scuffs or chips on paint.
  • Appliances starting to malfunction over time after frequent usage.
  • Floors beginning to fade as a result of exposure to sunlight.
  • Minor scratches on wood floors.
  • Blinds getting discolored due to sun damage.
  • Doors sticking due to high humidity levels.
  • Grouting beginning to loosen.
  • Sinks getting partially clogged as a result of aged pipes.


Is a Tenant Responsible for Normal Wear and Tear on a Property?

No! Normal wear and tear occurs naturally. So, as a landlord, you're solely responsible for fixing such repairs.

You must not, in any way, use your tenant's security deposit to repair damage resulting from normal wear and tear.

What is Unexpected Damage?

Normal wear and tear isn't the only type of damage that can occur on a rental property.

The other type of damage is unexpected damage. This occurs as a result of a tenant's negligence, abuse or carelessness.

The following are common examples of unexpected damage:

  • Shattered bathroom mirror.
  • Broken windows.
  • A broken toilet seat.
  • Clogged pipes due to improper use.
  • A hole in a door or wall.
  • Broken door handles.
  • Pet urine on carpets and floors.

These are damages that are caused by tenant negligence.


Is a Tenant Responsible for Unexpected Damage?

Yes! You can hold your tenant liable for any damage that surpasses normal wear and tear. And if they move out without fixing them, you can make the appropriate deductions from their security deposit to meet the costs of repairs.

In North Carolina, if making deductions, the law requires that you provide your tenant with an itemized list of damages or deductions. You must do so within 30 days after they move out of their rented premises.

But be careful! Sometimes, negligence on your part may also play a part in the problem. As a landlord, you should be conducting property maintenance regularly.

Improper maintenance can cause structural damages, such as cracked roofs or ceilings, or damages to pipes.

As a landlord, it is your responsibility to ensure the property is habitable. A habitable rental property is one that is fit to live in, is free of defects or hazards, and is compliant with all safety, health and structural codes.


What can Landlords do to Minimize Damage to their Rental Premises?

There are a couple of things you can do to minimize or prevent tenant damages to your rental property.

The following are some tips to get you started:

Tip #1: Screen Tenants Thoroughly

Some tenants are every landlord's dream, while others are just the opposite.

Screening tenants will help you find the best quality tenants.

Your screening process should be able to answer the following questions:

  • Is the tenant making enough income to rent the property?
  • Does the tenant have a history of paying rent on time and caring for their rented premises?
  • Has the tenant ever been evicted?
  • Does the tenant have a criminal background?
  • Does the tenant have a legitimate reason for moving out?


Tip #2: Conduct Routine Inspections

Regular rental inspections are key to ensuring a rental remains in tiptop condition. You can conduct them at various stages of a tenancy, including when the tenant is moving in, when seasons change, when driving by, and when they move out.

Before entering your tenant's unit, though, notify your tenant first. This is standard practice in North Carolina.

Tip #3: Have a Solid Lease Agreement

Have a solid lease agreement to protect you and your investment. Make sure to have clauses in your lease that address tenant damage in particular.

For example, state your tenants' responsibilities when it comes to maintenance issues.

Maintenance responsibilities can include:

  • Keeping the rental unit to a certain level of cleanliness.
  • Disposing of rubbish, garbage, and other waste in a clean and safe way.
  • Using heating, sanitary, plumbing, ventilating, and other facilities and systems properly.
  • Promptly notifying you when something breaks or there's an issue.


Tip #4: Invest in the Right Upgrades

Investing in upgrades will save you time and money long-term.

Replace appliances that are old and that constantly need repairing. If appliances start leaking water, making strange noises, or even becoming unresponsive, you should replace them.

It also goes without saying that you should replace them with energy-efficient versions. Your tenants will appreciate the low power bills.

Bottom Line

Tenant damage is inevitable in the life of a landlord. However, knowing the differences between the normal wear and tear and unexpected damage is crucial as it will determine who is responsible for covering the costs of repair.

It's also important to know how to prevent damages as this can help you minimize conflicts and keep your bottom line protected.

We hope this article was helpful.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact TE Johnson & Sons today.

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