What is "reasonable" wear and tear?

Here are some examples of what should be considered “reasonable,” “ordinary” or “normal” wear and tear. 

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Reasonable wear and tear refers to damage caused by everyday use of a rental home. It’s the sort of thing that happens when a place has been lived in for a while. The important thing to know is this: it’s not your job to fix issues related to reasonable wear and tear. Your security deposit also shouldn't be used to pay for it.

Still, you might be wondering: when it comes to wear and tear, what’s considered “reasonable,” “ordinary” or “normal?”

Examples of reasonable wear and tear

  • Faded or peeling paint
  • Water stains in the shower
  • Small marks, nicks and nail holes in the wall
  • Light dirt or marks on the carpet
  • Worn down rugs and carpet
  • Re-keying the lock when you leave

These are examples of damages that occur naturally, like when paint is faded by the sun. Or when carpets are worn down by feet walking on them. In other words, the items in your rental unit are being used as intended. As the tenant, you have paid for the right to use them. 

The kind of damage you're expected to pay for

  • Cigarette burns on carpet
  • Rips in blinds or carpet
  • Large marks, holes or gouges in the wall
  • Pet stains
  • Water damage that you caused
  • Re-keying the lock because you lost the keys or didn’t return them

These are examples of damage you can — and should — prevent.

For example, if your pet rips up the carpet, it’s on you to fix or pay for it. Otherwise, your landlord can take that money out of your security deposit. If there’s not enough money in your security deposit to cover the damage, they could send you a bill, or even take you to court to get the rest.  

That being said, here are a few things to be aware of:

  • You should never be charged for damage that was already there when you moved in. 
  • The longer you have lived in a place, the more wear and tear there will be.
  • You shouldn’t be charged for replacing something when a repair would do.
  • If repairs and replacements are needed, your landlord should charge you a fair price.
  • To avoid other problems with getting your security deposit back, use our move out checklist.
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