Where a landlord should draw the line on normal wear and tear in a rental can be somewhat subjective at times. Each week veteran landlord and property manager Hank Rossi answers questions from other landlords and property managers around the country about their rentals.

Dear Landlord Hank:

Where do you draw the line on what is normal wear and tear, what is not, and what tenant should pay for?

We had a long-time tenant who lived alone and recently moved into an assisted living facility. While cleaning his rental, we found multiple red wine stains in the 5-year-old carpet in different rooms that are not going to come out so carpet has to be replaced. He is asking for his full deposit back. Seems to us five years is pretty good for useful life of carpet and probably due for replacement anyway. Place is fine otherwise. But where is the line on what is normal wear and tear and what is not?

-Landlord Sam

Dear Landlord Sam,

Normal wear and tear is not really defined anywhere regarding all the components of a property.

All landlords should expect for a unit not to look brand new when a tenant moves out.

In most cases, they have been living in a property, not taking their shoes off outside, hanging pictures, etc.

You probably will notice “heavy traffic patterns” in your carpeting as tenants have moved through doorways and around furniture. That would be normal and you can’t bill the tenant for that.

But any damage to your property due to tenant /tenant guests, accidents, carelessness, or negligence would be recoverable from damage deposit, following proper procedure.

Carpet wear and tear

Dear Landlord Hank: Where Do You Draw The Line On Normal Wear And Tear?

Photo copyright Landlord Hank

Regarding the carpet: burns, stains, bleach marks, rips, loosened from tack strips, snags would normally be considered damage.

The quality of the carpeting is also an issue-very cheaply made carpeting will snag very easily sometimes with vacuum cleaners!

In another example, to me, if a tenant hangs a few pictures in every room, that I would consider normal wear and tear.

Hanging a tv from the wall is not normal wear and tear

Hanging a TV from the wall is a much more extensive repair and that is not normal wear and tear.

Sometimes tenants try to “fix” things by patching and painting.

I ask them not to do so, as their repairs usually cost more to fix correctly than if maintenance doesn’t have to re-do.

If I have a great long term tenant like your older gentleman, I would be very generous with “normal wear and tear.”

I think after 5 years, your carpet could be expected to be replaced, in most cases.


Hank Rossi

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About the author Landlord Hank:

“I started in real estate as a child watching my father take care of our family rentals- maintenance, tenant relations, etc , in small town Ohio. As I grew, I was occasionally Dad’s assistant. In the mid-90s I decided to get into the rental business on my own, as a sideline. In 2001, I retired from my profession and only managed my own investments, for the next 10 years. Six years ago, my sister, working as a rental agent/property manager in Sarasota, Florida convinced me to try the Florida lifestyle. I gave it a try and never looked back. A few years ago we started our own real estate brokerage. We focus on property management and leasing. I continue to manage my real estate portfolio here in Florida and Atlanta. “ Visit Hank’s website here.

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Landlord Hank working on one of his rental properties.

Dear Landlord Hank: Where Do You Draw The Line On Normal Wear And Tear?

Photo by joshuarainey via istockphoto.com