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What is Normal Wear and Tear

System - Monday, July 10, 2017

What IS Normal Wear and Tear

If you enter the words “normal wear and tear in rental housing” into a search function in the computer, you will be amazed to find hundreds of articles or references on this subject. Many of them are tenants who dispute that the property owner charged them with damage when it was ordinary use of the property.

What makes this issue so difficult is that there is no clear-cut definition in any law regarding normal wear and tear. There is a basis for normal wear and tear set up in the URLTA – the Uniform Residential Landlord Tenant Act. However, it is subjective and each judge can deliver a different ruling. Different states have different legislation and rulings when it comes to normal wear and tear vs. damage. However, there are general concepts that are accepted.  

As a property owner, you should expect your rental units to sustain a certain amount of wear and tear during the term of a lease. However, there is a fine line between normal wear and tear and actual damage to a dwelling. The following are general definitions between normal wear and tear and damage.

 “Normal wear and tear” is a subjective assessment based on the total time a tenant occupied the premises; the condition of the unit on move-in; the use of the premises; and whether the property owner allowed pets. The longer a tenant lives in a rental unit, the more likely it is that normal wear and tear will occur. Items considered normal wear and tear are worn paint; stubborn door lock; worn and threadbare carpeting; thin worn out linoleum; loose worn wallpaper.

“Actual damage” to a property goes beyond normal wear and tear. Items considered damage are are large holes in the wall; broken or missing locks; torn, stained, or burned carpeting; linoleum with tears or holes; ripped or marked-up wallpaper. You can normally consider the cost for removing excessive amounts of garbage, furniture, or personal items that a tenant has left behind as damage.

The concept of normal wear and tear is, as they say, in the eye of the beholder. Property owners can have one concept; tenants can have another. As property managers, we have to seek resolution of the two viewpoints, particularly when it is time to settle the security deposit when a tenant vacates.

The best recourse for handling normal wear and tear is the preventative actions you take before tenants move into the property.

  • Providing a clean well-maintained property is a key to evaluating the situation when the tenant moves out. However, if the property is not in the best condition, this makes it much more difficult to determine what “damage” has occurred when the tenant vacates.
  • It is extremely important to have accurate documentation on the property condition before a tenant moves in. Photos enhance this procedure.
  • Our rental agreement outlines the security deposit and damages as well.
  • Additionally, we counsel tenants on the condition that we expect in the property when they move out.

By taking these steps with tenants in advance, it helps to avoid future confusion and confrontation. It is also important to remember that tenants have “used” the property and there is going to be some normal wear and tear that property owners cannot avoid. A common sense approach along with preventative measures is necessary in this process.

Happy New Year!

System - Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Looking Toward the New Year

As another year ends, many people take time to reflect on the past year. Generally, this leads to setting goals and making New Year's Resolutions. Our company is busy reviewing 2016 and planning on how we can improve our property management services to you, our clients. Here are some of our key property management goals and resolutions for the upcoming year.

Continue Our Education
We start with continued education because it shapes and influences all our goals and resolutions. When we continue to learn more about the many complex facets of managing rental property, we immediately improve our services. It is important to take the time to attend workshops or seminars on Fair Housing, current lead-based paint legislation, mold issues, advertising opportunities, new marketing techniques, notice requirements, technology, and more. Increasing our knowledge, implementing new tools, and improving our landlord/tenant skills help reduce risk and liability for your property.

Continued NARPM Membership
One key source for education is our membership and participation in NARPM®, the National Association of Residential Property Managers. Monthly we receive a multi-page newsletter with important articles to update us on current housing issues and trends. The educational opportunities at state conferences, and national conventions, are always informative and first rate. Therefore, a definite New Year resolution is "to continue membership in this valuable organization."

Review the Code of Ethics
Ethics is simply good business and doing what is right. When we joined NARPM®, we agreed to abide by their code of ethics. Although we have always worked to conduct our property management business in a fair and ethical manner, it is always good to review the code of ethics periodically, and this is a "required company resolution" for any year.

Increase Marketing
Whatever the market, there is competition and a need to keep up with marketing trends. Therefore, we are always evaluating the online sources we use for marketing and our website. The Internet has become the advertising media of today and we will work to continue to keep up with this fast-paced and valuable resource in the New Year.

Reduce Vacancies and Strive for Quality Tenants
We will always work on this goal - "to reduce or eliminate the vacancy period, but never sacrifice the ultimate goal to rent to qualified tenants." While renting a property quickly is important, only good tenancy will ultimately improve the bottom line for our investors.

Continue Preventative Maintenance Measures
As always, we plan to use measures that will prolong the economic life of your rental property. This renews another resolution - "to continue preventative maintenance measures to prevent or reduce repair costs in the future."

Update Technology and Communication
Technology has great impact on our business with bookkeeping programs, web sites, Internet advertising, email communication, computerized filing, online statements, forms, and more. We have worked at implementing and improving technology in many areas of our office. Our goal is to continue to learn and use more technology with next year's resolution "to improve services and communication to our clients."

Now that we have reviewed many of our New Year goals and resolutions, we hope this covers one of yours - continued use of our property management services to maintain your investment and give you peace of mind. We are looking forward to a successful New Year with continued growth and service for your investment. We want to wish you a Happy and Prosperous New Year. 

Is Your Property Green

System - Wednesday, October 26, 2016


Is Your Property Green?

"Going Green" is now the popular thing to do to help save the planet and make it more productive for everyone. It might surprise you that it could also help improve the bottom line of your investment property as well. By improving or adding a variety of maintenance items, you can 1) save dollars during vacancies 2) use some as marketing incentives 3) attract better tenancy 4) promote tenant retention 5) avoid serious risks.

Take the time to review your investment property and see if any of the following items would be beneficial to both helping the planet and increasing your return on investment (ROI).

Add energy-saving incentives and savings
With the increase in gasoline, food, and utilities, millions of Americans are looking for ways to save. These are incentives that may attract tenants if they feel they may help them with their utility bills.

  • Install ceiling fans with a switch that changes the airflow direction - residents can benefit from this when seasons change.
  • Change light bulbs, such as porch lights, vanity lights, and fluorescent bulbs in kitchens, with new energy saving replacements.
  • Weatherize doors and windows with weather stripping. Ensure they adequately close to avoid loss of air-conditioning.
  • Provide attic ventilation to remove hot air to help keep air-conditioning bills down.
  • Replace old water heaters with the new energy efficient models when appropriate.
  • Replace old appliances, if applicable, such as washers, dryers, and refrigerators with new energy efficient ones.
  • Add low-flow showerheads and faucets to reduce water waste.
  • Install low maintenance landscape and timed irrigation systems to maintain plants and reduce unnecessary water usage.

Not only will the above items reduce utilities, they are also tax deductible. You want good tenancy and the good tenants look for the best properties. If a property shows care and concern for their welfare, it will help attract the quality of tenants that you want. Many of these items will also help to reduce costs when the property is vacant and it is the property owner's turn to pay the bills until rented.

Avoid areas of risk
Many of the items above may already reduce some risk. However, there are certain high areas of risk in property management to avoid for obvious reasons and at the same time, reduce a lot of unnecessary waste.

  • Running water: avoiding water waste both inside and outside a property is a key area to reduce waste of a necessary resource and to avoid serious risks. No tenant is happy with a running toilet or leaking faucets. If maintenance deteriorates and their water bill increases, it could inspire them to move. In addition, standing water can lead to mold, one of the highest risk factors today in owning and renting property. Settlements of lawsuits are often in the millions when awarded for negligence regarding mold.
  • Air-conditioning: have semi annual or yearly inspections on air-conditioning units to promote preventative maintenance and avoid costly bills. If necessary, replace units or parts as needed. 
  • Lead-based paint removal: if built before January 1, 1978, it is a government requirement to remove lead-based paint properly and inform tenants in writing. Proper disposal of the paint is important environmentally and to protect your investment.
  • Replace old electrical and remove outdated electrical strips. Install adequate covers on outlets. Repair or replace smoke detectors.


Perhaps many of these items are already in place, you may need a few changes, or none at all. It is important to reflect on the welfare of your property and your tenants. Then, if it can also help reduce global warming and work toward saving our planet, the picture is even better.


Landscape Maintenance and Rental Properties

System - Monday, May 13, 2013
While residents want to rent a nice looking home, they often have no interest, time, or knowledge on how to maintain the property. They may agree to landscape maintenance in the rental contract but it can be difficult for a property manager or owner to enforce. The owner can charge the tenant for maintenance or include landscape maintenance but it is not always practical to increase the rent with the full cost, particularly if the landscaping on the property is extensive.

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