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Wear and Tear Vs. Damage
Wear and Tear vs. Damage

One of the challenges of managing a property is determining whether property damage is from a natural cause, or a tenant’s negligence. Knowing the difference aids in determining who is responsible for the repairs and cost of repairs, as well as settling disputes when this argument arises. To help guide you, below are the definitions and examples of wear and tear, and damage, as well as how to determine which is which.

Wear and Tear

Simply put, wear and tear occurs naturally as a result of daily living; it is considered a depreciation, rather than an expense. For this reason, landlords are expected to make these repairs and cover the costs for them. However, just because these repairs may be small and expected, does not mean that they should be ignored. Wear and tear should be treated with the same care and attention as damage. 

Examples of wear and tear include:
  • Hardware becoming loose 
  • Cracks forming in paint
  • Worn patches in carpet in common traffic areas
  • Slightly scratched countertops from pots and pans
Damage

On the other hand, damage is a direct result of the tenant, and is considered an expense on the tenant’s behalf. If the required repair is small and simple enough, then the tenant can repair the damage on his or her own, however, larger repairs should be inspected and handled by the property manager. In any case, the tenant is still responsible for the damage, and consequently, responsible for the costs.

Examples of damage include:
  • Stains in carpet
  • Holes in wall (both small and large)
  • Markings on wall
  • Chipped and/or broken tiles
  • Broken window and light fixtures
How do I tell which is which?

For starters, carefully examine and assess the situation with these definitions in mind. It can be quite easy to tell the difference between a worn patch in a carpet versus a cut-out square. However, some situations may require more thought than others, such as chipped paint on walls. Keep in mind that a good indicator of damage is if a repair or replacement is needed outside of regular maintenance. But, it is important for the property manager to use his or her best judgement and consider wear and tear versus damage on a case-by-case basis.