Normal Wear and Tear

By PropertyClub Team
May 6th 2022
Most apartment leases contain language that allows for "normal wear and tear." But any apartment damage may result in fines and potentially the refusal to return your security deposit. But what exactly is normal wear and tear, and how does it differ from apartment damage?

Normal wear and tear is the regular deterioration that an apartment experiences as it ages that is not necessarily the tenant's fault. But, anything outside of this regular deterioration is known as apartment damage and would be considered the tenant's responsibility. Let's look at normal wear and tear and what it constitutes.

hash-markWhat is Normal Wear and Tear for a Rental Apartment?

Normal wear and tear is defined as the minor damage that occurs during a tenant occupying an apartment. Any minor damage that is not the result of carelessness, negligence, accidents, mistreatment, or intentional abuse would be considered normal wear and tear. 

No matter how careful you are, the apartment will suffer a bit of damage from the normal aging process. Things will break or wear down due to someone living in the unit. However, not all damage is considered normal wear and tear, so it's essential to understand the distinction.

hash-markNormal Wear and Tear vs. Apartment Damage

Normal wear and tear is typically minor deterioration that would occur no matter who was occupying the unit. Apartment damage is more serious destruction or decay caused by the tenant's negligence or careless actions. Normal wear and tear typically don't impact the unit's viability, whereas apartment damage might. As a result, landlords usually don't hold tenants responsible for normal wear and tear, but apartment damage may result in penalties.  

hash-markExamples of Normal Wear and Tear

  • Small cracks or chips in the paint
  • Paint that is beginning to fade
  • Door hinges are beginning to loosen
  • Closets doors are starting to stick
  • Dirty windows 
  • Leaks in the refrigerator
  • Tile grouting is beginning to loosen
  • Minor stains on the carpet
  • Small holes in the walls from thumbtacks or nails
  • Minor scrapes or scratches on the floors

If you live in an apartment for more than one year, even more deterioration will be expected, and many states have regulations regarding landlord obligations for things like paint and carpets. For example, landlords might be required to repaint an apartment every two years or to replace carpets every three years. In instances like this, even if you cause significant damage to paint or carpets, it would still be considered normal wear and tear. 

hash-markExamples of Apartment Damage 

  • Broken windows or doors
  • Noticeable holes in the paint or plaster
  • Broken fixtures and faucet handles
  • Excessive dirt or mold in the bathroom from misuse
  • Large stains on the carpet from coffee, red wine, or other noticeable substances
  • Countertop burns
  • Damage caused by pets
  • Fixtures that came with the apartment are missing (e.g., microwave or shower rod)
  • Cracked or missing tiles
  • Significant alterations not approved by the landlord (such as painting a room an entirely new color).

To avoid being accused of apartment damage you didn't cause, you should be sure to take pictures of the apartment's condition when moving in. That way, you have proof that there was prior damage before you occupied the unit.