Wear and tear is different than tenant caused damage, and due to the subjectivity of wear and tear, conflict will often occur when determining the difference between the two. Let’s start by breaking them down:
“Normal” or “Reasonable wear and tear” can be defined as damage that occurs naturally and inevitably over time, even when the tenant provides reasonable care and maintenance. Repairs to wear and tear are the responsibility of the landlord, and as such, are required to be paid for by the landlord.
Damage caused by tenants isn’t a result of aging, rather, it is the product of negligence, carelessness or abuse. In this scenario, the tenant is the one on the hook for the cost of repairs, and the landlord has the right to deduct these expenses from the tenant’s security deposit, or to request from the tenant that payment be made up front.
Detailed move-in and move-out inspections, with photo documentation, are a crucial part to tracking the wear and damage on a property. These inspections also protect equally, the landlord and the tenant, from incurring any unfair costs or charges. If one inspection was done, but not the other, or neither at all, then the landlord has no right to make any deductions from the tenant’s security deposit.
The responsibilities of each party should be outlined in the lease agreement. Typically, the tenant is responsible for looking after the residential premises. At a minimum, how the property was handed over at the start of the tenancy, is how it is expected to be handed back at the end – less wear and tear.
That said, there are certain aspects that the tenant is not responsible for, such as the plumbing, heating/air conditioning, and electric services. Basically, if it is crucial to how the property runs in order to keep tenants healthy and safe, then it is within the landlord’s realm of care to maintain as per the Minimum Housing and Health Standards. However, this does not take away the tenant’s obligation not to damage those systems. It also does not relieve the tenant of liability for repair if they or a family member or guest, or even a pet, cause damage to the residential premises.
“All this talk about who is responsible for what, but what does wear and tear actually look like??” you may ask. Here are some examples:
Wear and tear
- Gently worn carpets that show some worn patches, but no holes or stains
- Faded flooring due to sunlight exposure
- Loose flooring tiles, or dirty grout surrounding them
- Lightly scratched windows and worn loose hardware
- Cracks in walls due to settling
- Faded paint, and scuffs and smudges from daily use
Now let’s look at damages:
- Carpets that are stained, torn, or embedded with pet hair
- Deeply scratched, gouged or missing pieces of hardwood
- Broken or chipped flooring tiles
- Broken window glass, screens, or hardware
- Holes or chips in the wall from picture hooks or furniture hitting it
- Paint that has been scribbled/graffitied, or unauthorized paint jobs
The easiest way to discern between the two is to think of wear and tear not only as expected, but as being caused by natural forces and everyday use. While tenant caused damage is often unexpected and would require more than routine maintenance to repair.
Lastly, it is the tenant’s responsibility to inform the landlord if anything at the property needs repair or replacement. This will help mitigate and even prevent damages from occurring. It is recommended that this be done in writing to ensure accuracy and proper documentation.