Every landlord wants to get a property back from a tenant in the same condition that it was when the tenant moved in. However, normal wear and tear has to be expected and the law in Virginia requires property owners to take care of any normal wear and tear at their own expense.
Defining Wear and Tear
Wear and tear is the deterioration in the property condition that is the result of normal use. It defines what would have happened to your property even if you were living there yourself. Everything in your house has a limited lifespan, and those things break down and wear out even when they are being maintained and taken care of. Examples of normal wear and tear include scratches and marks on walls and floors, shoe marks and worn carpet in high traffic areas over the course of several years. It’s similar to the depreciation that occurs on anything that’s being used consistently.
When abuse or misuse of the property causes damage, it’s the tenant’s responsibility to pay for repairs. Large holes in the walls, fixtures that are removed or broken and marks such as crayon or markers on the walls would be considered damage, and the landlord is not required to absorb those repair and replacement costs.
When a tenant damages an older item, it’s not permissible to charge the tenant for an expensive new item. Instead, you will charge the tenant for the difference in the value immediately before and immediately after the damage occurred. You can adjust the charge according to whether there were things outside of the tenant’s control that contributed to something breaking or failing.
Tenants with pets might leave behind stains on the floor or scratch marks on the walls and chewed baseboards. This is not wear and tear. Most landlords charge a higher security deposit when tenants move in with pets so these types of expenses are covered.
Cleanliness is a reasonable expectation and you can require the tenants to have the place cleaned before they move out. Stipulate in your lease what you expect and remind the tenants what is required before they move out. Give them time to take care of these things before they move out. If the property is returned to you dirty, you can charge a cleaning fee from the deposit in order to restore it to the move in condition.
The Realty Solutions Group is a property management company serving Alexandria and Northern VA. Please contact us if you have any questions about wear and tear.