56 SEPTEMBER 2018 • WWW.AAGLA.ORG APARTMENT AGE • SEPTEMBER 2018 57 Matted carpeting would be wear and tear, while burned or stained carpeting is clearly damage. Similarly, a few small nail holes would be wear and tear, while large holes in the wall can be classified as damage. Fingerprints and faded paint would constitute wear and tear, while large stains on the wall, ripped wallpaper or broken molding would be considered damage. Why doesn’t the garbage disposal work? Is it 20 years old or does it have silverware lodged in it? Other examples of normal wear and tear vs. damage include: • The linoleum shows wear over many years and must be replaced vs. the linoleum has stains and holes. • Cracks in the walls must be repaired. Is this due to the structure settling or the tenant’s carelessness? • Did you have to pick up a few left-over toys and gardening tools in the backyard vs. do you need to haul loads of trash and debris? Remember that state law requires a reasonableness standard to be maintained when dealing with these issues. A tenant who is unhappy with the disposition of his or her security deposit may attempt to resolve the matter by filing a claim against the property owner in court. Any property owner must be careful to ensure that delayed or neglected maintenance does not contribute to the damage. For example, the wall behind the door is missing a doorstop and now there is a hole in the wall due to damage caused by the doorknob swinging into the wall. Other examples where deductions may not be appropriate are leaking or dripping pipes that cause damage by destroying cabinets and/or floors, or windows that are not securely Your tenant has vacated your property and you now have 21 days to account to your tenant for the security deposit. The law allows property owners to deduct portions of the security deposit to cover the cost of damages caused by a tenant. Property owners cannot deduct normal wear and tear, or the expected depreciation of a property. For example, if carpeting has been destroyed and it is 8 years old, likely no deduction would be appropriate because the floor coverings were probably due for replacement. Similarly, destruction of a brand-new carpeting may permit you to deduct the full replacement cost from the tenant’s security deposit. Normal “Wear & Tear” Normal “wear and tear” refers to the physical deterioration that occurs with normal use. Wear and tear generally excludes occupants’ or their guests’ negligence, carelessness, accident with, or abuse of the premises, fixtures, or chattel property. Normal wear and tear is deterioration or depreciation in value by ordinary and reasonable use. Examples of everyday wear and tear are worn electrical switches, frayed pull strings on blinds, lightly scuffed hardwood floors, loose caulking, peeling wallpaper, faded curtains, and dirty window screens. Time and regular daily use can cause any of these items to become worn, which does not constitute damage and; therefore, not a cause for deduction from a tenant’s security deposit. Damage When a tenant causes damage beyond normal use, a property owner has the ability to charge the tenant for the damages. This may include damages inflicted by the tenants, their guests, or pets. Damage is usually caused by either intentional breakage and abuse or negligence. By Patti Widget DAMAGES VS. “NORMAL WEAR AND TEAR” About the Author: Patti “Widget” is the Regional Director for Marketing & Training for the Fast Eviction.com Law Group. She has over 22 years as a regional property manager. She is an instructor and has authored numerous articles on issues pertaining to multifamily housing ownership and management. Patti can be reached at FastEvict21@fastevict.com or (909) 889-2000. shut and allow water from outside to damage woodwork and flooring. Any damages seen as the province of the property owner will certainly find disfavor with a judge. Reasonableness of Wear and Tear State law determines the reasonableness of wear and tear, which often depends on the tenants’ length of residency. For instance, if the tenant has lived at the property for 3 years, it may be reasonable to expect to paint the walls and clean the carpets. If the tenant has lived at the property for 6 years, it may be reasonable to expect to replace the carpeting. The property owner typically bears the costs for normal wear and tear. Many courts will allow you to pro- rate the useful life of a damaged item. If a court believes that the useful life of carpeting in a rental dwelling is 5 years, then the cost of replacing the carpeting would have to be pro-rated over a 5-year period. You cannot charge the former tenant the full replacement cos for items that are well into their life expectancy. Keep in mind that a security deposit belongs to your tenant, and you are acting as an escrow agent by holding and caring for your tenant’s deposit. However, the deposited funds may revert to you at the end of the tenancy if you make a successful claim against the deposit (in compliance with local and state laws) or the tenant has otherwise forfeited the deposit through a violation. Common sense should guide you through the decision process of what portion, if any, of the security deposit is to be refunded. Just remember to keep good records and receipts. The ultimate determination of the deposit may be decided by a judge in court. Management WATCH YOUR BUSINESS GROW! 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