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Landlord and Tenant Guide to Normal Wear and Tear

“Normal wear and tear” is a term that is thrown around often in the world of tenants and landlords.


This hard-to-define term is the basis for determining who should cover the cost of repairs in a rental between landlord and tenant.


The basics are simple – if the damage is deemed normal wear and tear – the landlord pays. If the damage is excessive, the tenant pays.


But what is not so simple is answering the million-dollar question – what is deemed normal wear and tear?


In this guide we will cover the elusive definition of normal wear and tear and help you get a sense for who should pay for what.



How is Normal Wear and Tear Defined?


The dictionary definition of wear and tear, according to dictionary.com, is: “damage or deterioration resulting from ordinary use; normal depreciation”.

We know what you’re thinking – this definition doesn’t do a whole lot to clear up an already vague term.


When it comes to determining normal wear and tear in property, it largely comes down to common sense. If it is reasonable that the damage in question could be caused by normal use, then it is most likely normal wear and tear.

If, however, the damage in question is clearly excessive and had to be caused by something other than normal use, then it is no longer normal wear and tear and can be defined as excessive.


For example, if the walls in your property are slightly or even moderately dirty after a year of someone living in it, you would classify that as normal wear and tear.


Since you would likely have to re-paint the walls regardless before allowing a new tenant in, you wouldn’t have to pay extra for it so therefore the definition makes sense.


But if the wall has a sizeable hole in it and needs to be repaired, that is clearly excessive and should be paid for by the tenant, typically out of the security deposit.


Normal Wear and Tear vs. Excessive Damage Examples


To help landlords and tenants limit the number of disputes, the U.S. Department of Housing (HUD) has released some guidelines for its definition of normal vs. excessive damage.


Here is a summary of examples for normal wear and tear:


  • Fading, peeling, or cracked paint

  • Slightly torn or faded wallpaper

  • Small chips in plaster

  • Nail holes, pinholes, or cracks in the wall

  • Door sticking from humidity

  • Cracked window pane from a faulty foundation or building settling