What is Normal Wear and Tear?

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Generally, you are entitled to your security deposit back in full if you adhere to the terms of the lease and return the apartment in the conditioned you received less normal wear and tear. In other words, ‘normal wear and tear’ is both expected and accepted. What is not expected are conditions in which you damage the apartment above and beyond ‘normal wear and tear’.

What Classifies as Normal Wear and Tear?

‘Normal wear and tear’ is usually the benchmark for what is ‘acceptable’ in order to get your security deposit back. Every apartment will undergo some type of ordinary wear from regular, everyday use. Your day-to-day lifestyle and exposure to some elements can cause an apartment to wear out over time. So, what typically falls under acceptable normal wear and tear?

  • Partially clogged sinks
  • Faded paint
  • Small nicks in floors and walls
  • Faded carpets from sunlight
  • Small nail size holes (not excessive)
  • Frayed curtain cords and faded curtains or window treatments
  • Carpet traffic marks
  • Loose handles or hinges on doors and windows
  • Faded paint around light switches

These issues come up as part of any lifestyle, which is why they are normal and not considered to be a deal-breaker when it comes to getting your security deposit returned to you in full. Of course, make sure you read your lease contract to see if there is anything in there about normal wear and tear to make sure you are in compliance.

What is Not Normal Wear and Tear?

While the above items are classified as normal wear and tear, there are some issues (whether accidental or deliberate) that may result in you losing some or all of your security deposit. Here are some problems that are not classified as normal wear and tear.

  • Carpet damage or stains that cannot be removed
  • Cigarette burns and stains
  • Inordinate amount of filth in the apartment
  • Urine or some other strong odors
  • Large holes, tips and tears in walls or flooring
  • Stains or burns on carpet
  • Pet damage
  • Huge amount of nail holes or large holes in walls
  • Broken windows and doors
  • Countertop burns or stains
  • Badly scratched floors and walls
  • Writing or scribbling on wall paint
  • Major paint damage
  • Broken taps in kitchens and bathrooms

Knowing the difference between what is normal and what is not can help you eliminate any issues with your landlord at the end of the lease term. In some instances, you may be able to fix a couple of things on your own, so there is no dispute later, while in other instances, you may lose all or some your security deposit. Also, be on the look out for other requirements to get your lease back such as getting your carpets professionally cleaned.

If you are concerned, make sure you take lots of pictures of the apartment once you have all your furniture out as proof that it is in fair condition after you move out. But keep in mind that if you have done any damage to the apartment that does not fall under the normal wear and tear category, you may have to pay for the repairs (material and labor). If damage is caused in excess of your security deposit, you are still liable.


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