Using an object over time contributes to its aging and damage. This is generally referred to as normal wear and tear.

Property is also subject to this type of depreciation. It occurs to all rental properties when a tenant occupies it and uses your furniture and home appliances for example.

As a landlord in Snohomish County, it’s your prime responsibility to manage the necessary repairs, maintenance, and upgrades to keep normal wear and tear under control.

However, damages caused by tenants are exempted from a landlord’s duty to repair.

To prevent this from occurring, landlords need to document their property’s condition before turning over their unit for rent. This system can help them to distinguish between normal wear and tear and tenant-caused damage.

Let’s outline what constitutes normal wear and tear.

Here are some examples:

  • Dirty or worn-down tiles and carpets
  • Scruffy wood floors
  • Faded wall paint
  • Worn down or slightly stuck hinges of cabinet doors
  • Loosened wallpaper


Comparison of Normal Wear & Tear versus Tenant-Caused Damage

When tenants are careless and negligent with your furnishings and property, it’s their responsibility to fix or replace it. The landlord is only liable to pay for the normal wear and tear. It wouldn’t be fair for the landlord to bear the costs of damages caused by the tenant.

To illustrate, it’s natural for wall paint to fade over the years. This constitutes normal wear and tear. On the other hand, if a wall has heavy scratches and paint scrapes due to carelessness, that’s categorized as tenant-caused damage.


Here are other examples of what isn’t categorized as normal wear and tear:

  • Large holes in the walls
  • Carpet stains and burns
  • Scratches on walls and doors made by a pet
  • Broken appliances
  • Broken or missing blinds


Defining Useful Life

It’s advised to check the cost of normal wear and tear objects in your property. To do this, you should have a list about the life expectancy of household items. This prevents you from overcharging a tenant for damage caused by using, for example, your washing machine.

You can’t expect a full price refund of the appliance. Washing machines have a life expectancy of approximately 10 years. If it was used for five years when the tenant moved in, you need to deduct 50% as a replacement cost.


Importance of Obtaining Proof

The differences between normal wear and tear and tenant damage is what sometimes causes conflicts between landlords and tenants. To minimize this from occurring, it’s best to document it through photos and videos.


It’s vital for the landlord to collect supporting evidence of the condition of the unit before the tenant moves in and after they move out. This is a safeguard against being burdened with all the replacement costs. For the tenant, it’s important to have proof of the condition of the property when you vacated it. This protects your security deposit that’s in the hands of the landlord.


Responsibilities of Landlords and Tenants

One of the ways to help prevent problems between landlords and tenants is to outline each party’s responsibilities. Putting this down in writing would be helpful to serve as a reminder for each party in the case of a disagreement.

Tenants are responsible for:

  • Garbage disposal gathered from their space.
  • Using facilities such as electrical, plumbing, and air conditioning properly.
  • Taking care of the premises with no destruction, damage or removal of anything without asking for the landlord’s permission.
  • Their guests not to cause any damage in the rented space.
  • Their pets to be properly kept to avoid any property damage.


Landlords are responsible for:

  • Maintaining the condition of the property to your standards.
  • Repairing the property to ascertain its livability.
  • Getting the property ready for the next occupants by checking, repairing, and replacing parts that are affected by the normal wear and tear left by the previous tenants.


Handling Property Damage

Landlords have the right to deduct from the tenants’ security deposit. However, this comes with a caveat. The deductions are only limited to tenant-caused damages made to the property. A landlord is not permitted to spend the deposit to repair natural wear and tear.


When you inspect the property for damages made by the tenant, gather pictures and/or videos to serve as proof. Next, you can list the cost of each repair and make a final calculation. Keep receipts and detailed statements to present as justification for withholding a certain amount from the security deposit.

It’s easier to track down the costs and expenses when you keep a record of your financial expenditures. This will also make it easier for you to show them to the tenants if they require proof.


Reminders for Landlords

Remember that the length of time a tenant stays in your unit has a correlation to the wear and tear on your property. If they rent long-term, chances are you have to expect more normal wear and tear. It’s wise to budget and factor the depreciation.

One way to avoid the surprise of damage is to regularly make time for thorough inspections. Proper maintenance will help curb the wear and tear. By paying attention and being consistent in monitoring your property it will help keep it in better condition.

This will help you in attracting long-term tenants, retaining your old ones, and keeping your Snohomish County property competitive in the market.

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