Normal Wear and Tear versus Tenant Damage – How to Tell the Difference for Your Grand Rapids Rental

Jan 27, 2023 | Owner Education, Property Management Education

After a tenant has moved out of your Grand Rapids rental property, you’ll find yourself inspecting the home to gain an understanding of what work needs to be done before it’s ready to rent again. You’re also inspecting for property damage which might impact the security deposit return.

When you find those scratches in the floor and those missing tiles in the bathroom, what do you do about it? Will you know whether you’re looking at normal wear and tear or whether it’s damage? 

Before you can even inspect, you need to know the difference between wear and tear, which is an owner’s responsibility, and damage, which is a tenant’s responsibility

Sometimes, it’s not a difficult distinction. The stamps and stickers on the walls and floors are definitely damage. The faded paint from direct sunlight is wear and tear. 

In some cases, you may find yourself looking at something and not being sure of whether it falls in the damage category or the wear and tear category. This creates complications for your security deposits

In fact, if there’s going to be a dispute over the security deposit, it’s likely going to be around the issue of wear and tear versus damage. 

How do you know the difference? 

Move-In Inspections Document Grand Rapids Rental Property Condition

Don’t try to charge a security deposit for damage when it’s actually wear and tear. The best way to protect yourself against this mistake is with a thorough, detailed, and well-documented move-in inspection. 

Before your tenants move into your property, walk through it and take pictures of everything. Make specific notes on a checklist. 

Your inspection allows you to document property condition, which will help you distinguish between damage and wear and tear at the end of the lease term. Notes, pictures, and videos should cover everything, including:

  • Floors
  • Walls
  • Ceilings
  • Doors
  • Windows

It’s essential to be detail-oriented and thorough. This is a practice that protects you and your property. It gives you a clear and objective idea of what the property looks like before a tenant takes possession. 

The move-in inspection will protect you against a tenant claiming that things were broken or damaged when they moved in. The inspection and the documentation will say otherwise. 

Identifying Wear and Tear in Grand Rapids Rental Homes 

What is wear and tear and how do you know it when you see it?

Wear and tear is the general deterioration that happens to a property regardless of who is living there. The scuff marks on the wall where furniture was resting and the worn carpet in high traffic areas are going to happen. They’re expected. 

Additional examples of normal wear and tear might include:

  • Small nail holes in the walls from where pictures were hung.
  • Loose grout between tiles, especially in the bathrooms.
  • Faded paint.
  • Blinds that may have faded from sunlight.
  • Scuffs or dents in walls behind doors (from door handles).
  • Minor carpet staining or discoloration.
  • Slight scrapes or marks on a hard floor.
  • Finishes wearing away, staining, or rusting.

These are not things you would lawfully be able to charge for when a tenant moves out and you’re preparing the property for a new resident. This inevitable physical decline occurs during the course of a tenant’s occupancy. These repairs and updates will be part of your turnover process. 

Tenants are not held accountable for these things because they’re often unavoidable. There’s little that can be done to prevent it. Paint won’t last forever. You’re likely to apply new caulk to those tiles and showers before the next tenant moves in.

Identifying Property Damage in Grand Rapids Rental Homes 

The wear and tear might be inconvenient, but it won’t be terribly expensive. 

Property damage, on the other hand, is something that harms the value, usefulness, or normal functioning of your rental property and its systems. 

It’s more expensive, and it’s something you likely have not budgeted for. 

Usually, damage at a rental property is unintentional. But even if the damage occurs from an accident or a mishap, it’s still the tenant’s responsibility. Only a really bad tenant would set out to damage your home intentionally. Usually, we see damage that’s the result of abuse and neglect, not ordinary use. 

Examples of property damage may include:

  • Large holes in the walls or floors.
  • Changes to the property, such as different paint colors that were not pre-approved.
  • Tears, stains, or holes in carpet. 
  • Water stains on wood floors. 
  • Broken appliances, doors, or windows due to abuse.
  • Missing or cracked bathroom tiles and mirrors.
  • Writing on walls, floors, and surfaces.
  • Yards or gardens that have been destroyed due to animals, cars parked on them, or excessive trash.

When you’re withholding money from the security deposit to pay for these things, document the amount you’re spending and why. You’ll need to provide an itemized list to your tenant that explains why they aren’t getting the full deposit back – or any deposit at all.

If there’s a dispute, show your tenants the documentation you’ve collected before and after their tenancy. They cannot claim that the refrigerator wasn’t broken when you have a new picture from the move-out inspection that shows the glass shelving inside the fridge cracked or shattered.

Grand Rapids Property Management 

Property ManagementThere are a number of very good reasons to work with a team of professional Grand Rapids property managers, and one of the best reasons is to protect yourself from legal issues, tenant conflicts, and expensive mistakes. 

Especially when it comes to security deposits and proving damage. 

Property managers have systems in place to quickly evaluate the property, address the security deposit, and re-rent the home. 

You won’t have to worry about trying to establish whether the holes in your walls and the damage to your kitchen floors are wear and tear or damage. 

If you’d like some help avoiding security deposit disputes, please don’t hesitate to contact us at Short South Management & Development. We have been through all of this before with the Grand Rapids rental properties we manage, and we’re ready to provide all of our expertise and resources to assist you.