Tenant Damage vs. Normal Wear & Tear | San Diego Landlord Advice

Tenant Damage vs. Normal Wear and Tear

Understanding the difference between tenant damage and normal wear and tear is important when you’re renting out a property in San Diego. According to California law, tenants are responsible for paying for any damage that they cause to a property, but the landlord is required to handle any issues ta are considered normal wear and tear.

Today, we’re discussing the difference, and why it’s important in the management of your rental property.

Defining Tenant Damage in Your San Diego Rental Property

Damage is anything that breaks or needs repairs due to your tenant’s abuse, misuse, or neglect. Your lease agreement should be clear about your expectation that the tenants will return the property to you in the same condition that it was in when they moved in.

Examples of tenant damage might be large holes in the walls from where televisions were hung. If door is off its hinges or a bathroom mirror is broken, these things are also examples of damage. Flooring that is scratched or baseboards that are chewed from animals would also be considered damage. If a tenant’s child took to the walls with crayons, that would be considered damage as well. A small leak that the tenant never reported that turned into a flood may also be considered tenant damage, as long as you can prove that the tenant knew about the leak but never reported it to you.

Defining Wear and Tear in Your San Diego Rental Property

Wear and tear is the general deterioration of property that happens over time due to regular use. It’s what would happen in the home even if you were living in it yourself. You cannot charge the tenant for repairs to address wear and tear. Examples might include small nail holes in the walls from where pictures were hung. Scuff marks on the walls or worn carpet from where furniture was placed would also be considered wear and tear. These things are expected when a property is lived in.

Documenting Property Condition

rental keys
It’s critical that you conduct a thorough move-in inspection before you hand the tenants their keys. This will allow you to document the condition of the home. After your tenants move out, you’ll do another inspection and take the same careful notes and the same thorough photographs as you did during the move-in inspection. Compare the two reports, and you’ll be able to see where there is damage and where there is simply evidence of wear and tear.

This will be especially important when you’re returning your tenant’s security deposit. If there’s a dispute, you’ll need to be able to show evidence. A picture can show the tenants why you charged their deposit. Make sure the evidence will show up in court, otherwise you can face huge penalties and fines.

Sometimes it can be difficult to differentiate between normal wear and tear and tenant damage. If you’d like help or you have questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us at Mercer Properties. We’d be happy to serve as your San Diego property management resource.