Property Damage VS "Wear & Tear"

Today we want to talk a little bit about wear and tear versus damages. How much of the depreciation, deterioration in our property is the tenant's responsibility and how much of it is just the cost of being a landlord?

All components in our house, from the carpet to the paint on the walls and even big ticket items like appliances have a certain useful life. For example, we think of carpet as having a seven year lifespan. If we get more than that, that's good. But if a tenant lives in our home for eight or nine years, it's likely the carpet's wore out and that's what we generally describe as wear and tear. And when we do think about what damages can we charge back to the tenant, the question in our mind is what will a judge agree with us is a damage on the part of the tenant?

They're going to live in your house. They're paying rent to live in your house. They're going to use your house. Their little kids are going to run up and down the hallways and they might touch the walls with their hands. And repainting those walls, the judge is going to say, "Mr. Landlord, you're in the landlord business. You have to figure some painting into your business budget." Anything that can be painted over, anything that come out of the rug with carpet cleaning is normal wear and tear.

On the other hand, damages. There's no excuse for a hole in the wall. There's no excuse for the carpet to be burned or torn. There's no excuse for ink or magic marker. People who let those same little children go back in the wall and doodle with a magic marker or an ink pen, we're going to charge them to undoodle those walls because it's going to require more than just a simple wipe it down and paint over it.

Another thing that's important to remember, it doesn't matter the volume of items that might accumulate, especially if we've had a long-term tenant. Let's be honest. In our home where we live, we're constantly fixing and tending to minor items or walk out on a Saturday morning and see something and deal with it. Or a Tuesday night we come home, something needs fixing, we fix it. Tenants don't have that same obligation, and oftentimes are not going to perform these little tiny repairs, and at the same time, we don't mind that they don't call us every month and ask us to come fix this or come fix that. And when they move out after many years, there could be a pretty good list built up. Regardless, it's wear and tear. Unless they've done something to damage our property, the deferred maintenance, all the things we've left alone, are all on us. We're in the landlord business.