When tenants move out, it’s inevitable that the property won’t be in the same condition as it was when they moved in. Fortunately, the law is on your side – you’re allowed to deduct the cost of repairs from the tenant’s security deposit. However, keep in mind that you can’t deduct everything. It’s important to know how to charge tenants for damages and how much if you are a new landlord.
In this article, we’ll cover the basics of wear and tear, as well as provide an overview of the rental property repairs you should brace yourself for.
What is wear and tear?
As a rental owner, are you aware that “damage” is not the same as normal “wear and tear”?
Wear and tear refers to the deterioration of the rental. It is inevitable, so even if you’ve rented out the unit out to the best tenants, its condition is bound to decline. In other words, wear and tear is expected. For example, windows will eventually warp, and toilet seats will eventually become wobbly. A detail that is important to note is that the tenant is not answerable to wear and tear.
Compared to wear and tear, damage is due to the tenant’s neglect or negligence. When tenants rent the unit, they should treat the property properly. With that said, when tenants sign the lease agreement, they also say yes to their obligations, which include the bare minimum of property maintenance.
When tenants do not abide by these obligations, they can be held liable for the rental property’s poor conditions. For instance, faint scratches belong to wear and tear, but stains do not.
How can you tell if it’s “wear and tear”?
One way to know if the repair can be classified as wear and tear is to ask, “Could this have been avoided?” If the answer is no, it’s wear and tear. If you’re unsure, you can always consult a property management company. Remember to be careful because you can get in legal trouble if you charge your tenant for wear and tear.
What are the common rental property repairs?
When tenants move out, you can’t expect them to leave the unit in the same condition as the day they moved in. Fortunately, the law allows you to deduct the tenant’s security deposit to pay for the costs to repair the rental unit. However, this covers repairs that the tenant could have avoided. The tenant shouldn’t pay for repairs that were out of their control.
So, what are the common repairs in a rental property?
#1 Holes in the wall
If you’re wondering why there would be holes in the wall, that’s because they shouldn’t be there at all. It’s rare for rental owners to allow their tenants to poke thumbtacks or nails into the wall, so if you find holes during the move-out inspection, you can use their security deposit to cover the cost of repairs. If this clause isn’t found in the rental contract, holes are typically classified as wear and tear.
However, if the holes are so large, there’s a good chance that they were caused by roughhousing, arguing, etc. When the tenant damages the walls due to acts that wouldn’t have been done under normal circumstances, they are answerable.
#2 Stained or ripped carpets
Carpets are prone to wear and tear. What they aren’t prone to are stains and rips. If your tenant really did take proper care of the property, they’d make sure to keep the carpet clean. However, if the carpet shows signs of stains, rips, etc., then it’s apparent that property maintenance wasn’t their priority.
If your tenant pays for carpet cleaning prior to their move-out date, you no longer need to deduct the cost from their security deposit. If not, you can deduct their security deposit, but do note that you can’t charge your tenant if you regularly hire a carpet cleaner. For instance, if you hire a professional service every time a tenant moves out, you can’t deduct the cost from the tenant’s deposit since it’s a routine service. The same goes for regular services that your property management company provides.
#3 Ruined furniture
Are there scratches on the countertops? You can charge your tenant since that’s considered as damage. Your tenant could easily have used a cutting board, but since they didn’t, they should cover the cost to replace the countertops.
With that said, if you’re offering a furnished unit, you should take into account the kinds of destruction that you’ll likely find. This is particularly true for pet-owning tenants that tend to leave ripped carpets when they move out. Again, if your tenants fail to repair or replace the damaged items, you can deduct the cost from their security deposit.
#4 Smoke damage
In non-smoking units, tenants think they can smoke in secret, and that they can mask the smell of smoke during the inspection. The reality is that smoke sticks to carpets, curtains, and so on. And while smoke damage doesn’t always “show”, it’s extremely difficult to get rid of. Sometimes, the ceiling can also get discolored due to the tar in the cigarettes.
If you’re struggling to get rid of smoke damage, ask your South Florida property management company to hire a cleaning company. It’s crucial to clean the unit thoroughly, or else your future tenants might suffer from health issues that you’ll be liable for.
#5 Unapproved improvements
Property “improvements” that don’t get your go signal aren’t considered damage, but the cost to restore the property should be covered by your tenant. It’s common for tenants to want to make the rental unit feel like their own, however, they should also know that they can’t do whatever they want with it.
If you or your property management company discovers that the tenant did unapproved improvements, you can deduct the cost to restore the property to its former state from their security deposit. An example of this would be if the tenant repaints the exterior without informing you.
Need help handling rental property damage?
As a South Florida landlord, it’s important to be aware of the types of repairs your tenants are responsible for. To stay informed, strive to be familiar with state laws that cover repairs, deposits, and more. It would be even better to enlist the services of a property management company. That way, you’ll be less likely to make the mistake of charging your tenants for wear and tear, or for forgetting to charge your tenants for repairs.