What is Normal Wear and Tear?

Gradual wear and tear of the home you live in is inevitable. Moving an incredible new couch across the floor might leave a small scratch, putting up family photos leaves nail holes in the wall, or your new puppy loves digging into the carpet. Damages to the unit can cause you to lose the refund of your security deposit, potentially costing thousands of dollars, when you move out of your apartment. Most leases provide an allowance for “wear and tear,” and knowing what damages are generally permissible and expected by landlords will help save you money when vacating an apartment. 

What is Normal Wear and Tear

The walls

  • Cracking, fading, or peeling of paint is all considered normal wear and tear. Nail holes are also permissible, though it is a good idea to patch them up with some spackle. If you painted walls without permission, this could be subject to charges. Be sure to check your lease and with your landlord before buying a gallon of paint in your favorite color! If they give permission, make sure to get it in writing.
  • Wallpaper peeling, tearing, or fading is also expected in units where there was already wallpaper present. However, if wallpaper that was put up without the landlord’s permission damages the wall, this is not normal wear and tear, and you can be charged. It’s always best to receive permission, but if you don’t, make sure to buy wallpaper that can be easily removed without leaving damage.
  • Water damage is not normal wear and tear. If hanging plants cause water damage or any spills happen to reach the walls, this won’t count as normal wear and tear and can cost you when moving out.

The floors

  • Walking and foot traffic can leave gradual wear on carpet over time and is expected in carpeted units. Small scratches on wood floors are also generally permissible, but large scrapes or damages to the wood would be outside of the umbrella of wear and tear.
  • Regardless of if your apartment has carpet or wood floors, any pet accidents or water damage would also be subject to charges when vacating. 

Kitchens and bathrooms

  • Appliances age over time and are expected to show some wear, but they should still be functional. Fridge gaskets may be worn, or the oven may show signs of use, but if any appliances are broken, you might not get back your security deposit.
  • A bit of rust, a broken tile, or warped wood doors in a bathroom would all count as normal wear and tear, but watch out for mold. Mold goes beyond the definition of wear and tear and can be a red flag for a landlord. To mitigate the risk of developing mold in the bathroom, be sure to open a window or use the vent in the room. Additionally, make sure to clean your bathroom frequently to wipe down any moist surfaces for mold to grow on.

Prepare to move and patch those holes!

When moving out, you should try to erase any damage you may have caused. Clean any appliances that may have remnants from a cooking disaster, and get some spackle to patch any holes left by nails or screws. You can use stain remover on the carpet or try to buff out any small scratches to the wood floor. The nicer condition you can leave the unit in, the better, and the more likely you are to receive a full refund of your security deposit. 

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