Counsel’s Corner ~ Ordinary Wear and Tear
Counsel’s Corner ~ Ordinary Wear and Tear ~ Southern Residential Leasing
What is “normal or ordinary wear and tear?” Most leases require tenants to return the property to the landlord in the condition it was delivered, excepting only normal or ordinary wear and tear. The question arises – what is (and what is not) “normal wear and tear?” There is no definitive answer, but instead, it will be a case-by-case factual determination.
Ordinary wear and tear generally means and refers to damage that is the result of natural deterioration and/or the passage of time without regard to any intervening negligent or intentional conduct or abuse on the part of tenants or guests.
Examples of ordinary wear and tear might include, but are not limited to:
- Faded paint or small pinholes for photographs on walls (but not unapproved non-matching touch-up paint jobs, or patches, or large holes for anchors/brackets installed by tenants)
- Worn carpet/vinyl/wood flooring (but not gouges, rips, tears, or large stains caused by tenants)
- Leaking or rocking toilets (but not broken toilet seats or tanks)
- Stains on ceilings from roof-leaks (but not damage from unreported leaks or stains from unauthorized smoking)
- Worn-out or loose hinges, keys, or locks (but not missing or broken locks, unreturned keys, or damage to doors from forced entry)
- Hard to open or non-functioning windows (but not broken window glass)
- Non-functioning light fixtures due to wiring issue (but not missing/incorrect/burnt out bulbs)
Importantly for owners, ordinary wear and tear can be defined and limited by the parties in the written lease agreement. The fact that Southern includes detailed language and requirements as to what Tenants are required to do when they move out of a property can greatly assist in the determining what damages (for cleaning, repairs, maintenance, etc.) are compensable from the security deposit versus damages that may be considered ordinary wear and tear.
Disclaimer: This article is not intended as legal advice. If any property owner has a question involving a specific situation involving damage to property, the owner should seek the advice of a licensed attorney.