Normal Wear and Tear in Rental Properties vs Damages: How to Tell the Difference

Posted on August 10, 2023 by slt in Property Management Company
Common Damage to Rentals


There is a difference between actual damage and normal wear and tear in rental properties, and as an owner or a landlord, you must be prepared and well-informed for all scenarios.

You may often find that your property is returned to you in worn-out condition by the end of a tenancy period. This is where it becomes imperative to discern whether that’s normal wear and tear, or if the tenant has damaged your property and is responsible for compensation.

As the landlord of a property, normal wear and tear is your responsibility to fix, and it includes repairing renter-caused damages. However, determining what is normal wear and tear vs damage in a rental can be challenging, mainly because the existing renters will want to save money and move on quickly.

While it is the landlord’s responsibility to be ‘just and fair’ to tenants, you also need to hold them accountable for costly damages.

If you’re on either side of the exchange, you should know the differences between the two. It will help you decide when to cover fixing costs yourself and when to demand it from the security deposit.


The term wear and tear varies in definition from state to state, especially in the housing industry. It implies that each rented property will be expected to face some degree of damage owing to regular use.

Certain parts of every property are likely to worsen due to everyday use; for example, you can expect slight discoloration and dullness on floor tiles mainly because of walking every day.

The longer the tenant occupies a rental property, the more wear and tear can be anticipated,  and the occupant shouldn’t necessarily be expected to pay the bills to fix everything.

On the contrary, unexpected damage that hinders the usability and regular functioning of the house will bring down its overall value. And unlike the scrapes and bumps of normal wear and tear, these damages are often the outcome of neglect and abuse.

Even though they may have occurred by accident, neglect, or on purpose, the outgoing renters can be asked to pay up for these damages.

Here’s a brief list of things that will differentiate between wear and tear and common damage to rentals:

1. Carpeting
Matted or faded carpet is a regular wear and tear and happens because of resting furniture or walking over time. However, stained or burned carpet can be considered unexpected damage.

2. Walls
Normal wear and tear include tiny nail holes resulting from small knick-knacks or hanging photos, yellow or fading paint, loose or torn wallpaper, worn electrical receptacles or switches, and more.

On the other hand, unexpected damage includes large holes, large stains, ripped paper, crayon markings, missing, burned, melted receptacles or electrical switches, and more.

3. Hardwood, tile floors, and linoleum
When it comes to hardwood floors, lightly scuffing is considered normal wear and tear, while deep gouges, chips, and scratches are unexpected damages.

Mildly cracked or loose tiles and worn linoleum falls in regular wear and tear, while holes and shattered or missing floor tiles are considered to be damaged.

4. Windows
Normal wear and tear include faded curtains, dirty window screens, and a cracked window pane. In contrast, unexpected damages include torn or stained curtains, missing or cut window screens, or a shattered window.


The common assumption about security deposits belonging to landlords is false. Security deposits paid by the renters belong to them only and are held by owners until the rental period finishes.

According to the NC Tenant Security Deposit Act, there are seven instances where the owner can use a security deposit. As per the NC law on returning security deposits, an owner must return the renter’s security deposit within 30 days of the renter moving out, except for the following conditions:

  • Non-payment of rent
  • Damage to premises besides the normal wear and tear
  • Non-fulfillment of a lease term (rental period)
  • Unpaid utility bills by the renter
  • Cost of rerenting the premises once the tenant has breached a rental period agreement before moving out
  • Costs of storage and removal of renter’s personal property
  • Legal fees and court costs associated with ending a tenancy

SLT Properties 

If you’re in need of any help differentiating between normal wear and tear, rental property damages, or related matters, contact our team of experts at SLT Properties. We’ll take care of every detail, from rent determination to maintenance requests. Don’t stress yourself out trying to find a dependable tenant, let the property managers at SLT take full control and help you locate a dependable tenant to occupy your property.

Get in touch today with a residential property manager to learn more about our services and available properties.