Common Damage Vs Wear-and-Tear in Rental Units 

If you are a landlord or property manager you know that there is some level of regular wear-and-tear damage that you are willing to accept when a tenant moves out. However, when does that normal wear-and-tear become a devaluation of the property that can be taken out of the security deposit? 

When one thinks of damage in rental units, we think about holes in walls, burn marks, and unusable appliances. While these are pretty common, let’s take a closer look at these and other scenarios that you will need to examine to determine if they are caused just by living there or if the damage is extensive enough that it needs to be repaired and deducted from a tenant’s security deposit. 

Normal Wear-and-Tear

Depending upon how long your tenants have lived in the unit, there may be quite a bit of wear-and-tear. For instance, it is fairly common for wood floors to be scuffed or carpets to need cleaning. It’s also normal for walls to have small nail holes from picture hangings. 

These examples are all normal for the use of an apartment and can not be charged to a security deposit. Usually security deposits are used to compensate for out of the ordinary damage. The cost of basic cleaning, repairing, and prepping the unit for the next tenant is a cost of the business. Your state’s landlord laws will explain exactly what you can and can not deduct from the security deposit and should be part of the rental agreement in advance of renting to an individual. 

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Unit Damage 

Let’s take a moment to talk about damage that can be deducted from the security deposit. 


While it’s normal to have nail holes where pictures or wall hangings once existed, it is not normal to have larger holes in the walls where roughhousing was an issue or furniture repeatedly hit the walls, or even physical altercations occurred. These holes are the responsibility of the tenant to repair or risk losing a security deposit. 

Flooring Damage 

Carpets in need of cleaning or wood floors that need buffing are normal wear-and tear. What’s out of the normal are burn marks on the carpet, pet urine stains, excessive food stains, or torn carpeting. The same goes for gauges or water stains on a hardwood floor. 

Nicotine Stains 

Smoking can cause an excessive amount of damage to the walls ceiling, floor coverings and drapery of a unit. The discolored yellow stains are difficult to remove and the smell even harder to remedy. These stains may be able to be charged to a security deposit depending upon the level of damage and the terms of a lease agreement. 

Unauthorized Painting 

While it is not unheard of for landlords to allow painting in an apartment by a tenant, it is something that may need to be refreshed after the unit is unoccupied. If painting occurred without authorization, a landlord may be able to assess compensation for the cost of repainting the unit so that it can be rented again. 


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