What Exactly Is "Normal Wear and Tear"?

Being a landlord can be a lucrative career. However, just like any other business, it isn’t without risks. One such risk is rental damage. 

Now, rental damage can occur in two ways: normal wear and tear and excessive damage. In this blog, you’ll learn their differences, and know your rights when they occur! 

What Constitutes Normal Wear and Tear?

The definition isn’t really straightforward, but normal wear and tear is generally described as the damage that occurs in a unit by a tenant living their day-to-day life. 

So, what does this mean to you as a landlord? It means that you cannot hold your tenant liable for paying for this kind of damage. In other words, it means that the responsibility of fixing damage resulting from normal wear and tear lies solely with you. 

The following is a list of rental damages that are classified as normal wear and tear in Maryland:

  • Faded paint
  • Torn wallpaper
  • A few nail holes in the wall
  • Scuffs on the surface of the floors due to walking
  • Worn appliances due to long-term use
  • Worn enamel in sinks, toilets, or bathtubs
  • Loose grouting in bathroom tiles
  • Growth of mold as a result of poor ventilation
  • Sticky doors caused by high humidity levels

Since the tenant won’t be responsible for repairing such damage, this means that it’d be illegal for you to withhold any portion of their security deposit. 

What Constitutes Excessive Property Damage?

Excessive property damage is damage that occurs due to a tenant’s carelessness or negligence. Unlike in normal wear and tear, the responsibility for repairs is on your tenant.

excessive damage

The following are some examples of excessive property damage: 

  • Chipped or gouged wood floors
  • Broken bathroom mirror
  • A missing toilet seat
  • Broken windows
  • Damaged cabinets
  • Missing or torn blinds
  • A torn carpet
  • Damaged appliances
  • Unauthorized paint colors
  • Unauthorized property alterations
  • Dozens of nail holes in walls
  • Non-functioning door hinges
  • Broken or chipped enamel in sink and bathtub
  • Unapproved wallpaper

In such cases, you’ll have a right to make deductions to your tenant’s security deposit should they move out without fixing them. 

That said, not all of these damages are a result of a tenant’s negligence or carelessness. As a landlord, you may also be liable due to negligence on your part in some circumstances. The following are some examples of the kind of damage that can occur:

  • Structural repairs, like water damage
  • Repairs resulting from a faulty or inadequate design
  • Damage resulting from poor maintenance on the landlord’s part 

A key responsibility Maryland landlords have is ensuring their properties are habitable for their tenants. Basically, a habitable rental property is one that complies with all minimum health and safety codes. 

In Maryland, tenants can have several legal remedies if landlords fail in their maintenance responsibilities. The legal remedies include withholding rent and terminating the lease without further obligations. 

When Can Landlords Make Deductions From a Security Deposit for Damage?

As already mentioned, you can only hold your tenant liable for excessive property damage. As a landlord in Maryland, you’ll have exactly 45 days after your tenant moves out to return their remaining portion of the security deposit, plus any accrued interest. 

deposit deductions

You must send the remaining portion alongside a written itemized list of the deductions via first-class mail to the tenant’s last known address. 

Please note that wrongfully withholding your tenant’s deposit can have financial and legal ramifications. Among other things, the court may award your tenant up to 3x the amount wrongfully withheld, plus reasonable attorney fees. 

How Can You Track Tenant Damage?

The best way to track tenant damage is by performing a move-in and move-out inspection together with your tenant. During the inspection, make sure to detail every room as well as the exterior. 

Document areas like the living area, kitchen, bathrooms, bedrooms, dining area, interior systems, and the property exterior. Ideally, use a checklist and take photos. After you’re done with the documentation process, ask your tenant to sign it. 

A move-out inspection, on the other hand, occurs when a tenancy is coming to an end. In Maryland, it’s mandatory for landlords and must be done within 5 days prior to a tenant moving out. 

How Can You Prevent Tenant Damage to Your Rental Property?

One of the best ways to prevent tenant damage is by thoroughly screening prospective tenants. An effective tenant screening process is one that checks and verifies a tenant’s:

  • Monthly income. Rent to tenants that make a decent monthly income. Generally speaking, only consider tenants making at least 3x the rental income 
  • Credit rating. Only consider tenants with a good credit rating. Credit rating is a measure of the financial responsibility of a person

credit ratings

  • Rental history. Only rent to tenants that have a great financial history. You can do this by calling previous landlords. Consider tenants that paid rent on time, cared for the unit, and reported maintenance issues on time 
  • Eviction history. Avoid renting to tenants who have prior evictions. If the tenant has violated the lease once, chances are they can do it again

How Can a Property Management Company Help?

Are you just getting started and don’t know what to do? A good property management company can help! Property management companies have tried and tested systems to get the job done right. 

A good property management company will provide you with all the essential services you’ll need to run your Maryland rental investment. From finding and screening tenants to creating a lease and financial reporting, you’ll have nothing to worry about. Hiring a good property management company like McKenna & Vane Property Management is key, however. 

Bottom Line

McKenna & Vane Property Management is a comprehensive property management company. We’ve helped countless property owners like yourself get the most out of their real estate investments. We can’t wait to do the same for you! Contact us today to learn more about our services.