As a landlord in Jacksonville, Florida you need to be able to distinguish between “normal wear and tear” and tenant-caused damage. Being able to properly identify the difference between the two will allow you to assign the areas of responsibility.
Assigning the Areas of Responsibility
If an object in your rental property is damaged, you have to ascertain if it’s due to the normal wear and tear or carelessness by a tenant. Your fund for repairs won’t be touched if the latter caused the damage. However, you also need to be fair in case the object stopped functioning because of its shelf life.
For instance, your refrigerator suddenly stopped functioning. It has been used for the last 10 years and the expected lifespan of a refrigerator is generally 10 years. It would be unfair if the tenant shoulders the replacement for a new refrigerator. You must take into account the normal wear and tear of appliances.
As a landlord, your task is to manage repairs, maintenance, and upgrades. However, damages caused by tenants are exempted from a landlord’s duty to repair. It is vital for landlords to document their property’s condition before allowing a tenant to move in.
Let us outline what is considered to be normal wear and tear. Here are some examples of them:
- Small nail holes, chips, smudges
- Faded paint
- Faded or slightly torn wallpaper
- Faded carpet
- Faded or dirty window shades
- Scuffed varnish on wood floors
- Shower mold due to lack of proper ventilation
- Disfigured cabinet doors that resist closure
- Cracked window pane from faulty foundation
- Loose grouting and bathroom tiles
- Worn or scratched enamel in old bathtubs, sinks or toilets
- Moderately dirty blinds or curtains
- Partially clogged sinks or drains due to aging pipes
- Doors sticking from humidity
Tenants can sometimes be careless and negligent with your furnishings and property. When this happens, it’s naturally the responsibility of the tenant to have the damaged furnishing or appliance fixed or replaced. The landlord’s responsibility is only extended to the normal wear and tear. It would be unfair for the landlord to pay for the damages caused by the tenant; therefore, they’d use the repair and maintenance fund.
Here are examples of what constitutes as tenant-induced damages:
- Gaping walls caused by abuse and accidents
- Unapproved paint colors or unprofessional paint jobs
- Unapproved wall markings caused by crayons, drawings, and unapproved wallpaper
- Water damage from walls caused by hanging plants
- Torn, stained, or missing window shades
- Broken windows resulting from tenant’s or guest’s actions
- Shower mold due to lack of regular cleanings
- Clogged sinks or drains due to hair, diapers, food, etc. caused by improper use of a tenant
- Missing or broken blinds or curtains
- Broken doors or ripped off hinges
- Water stains on wood floors and windowsills caused by windows being left open during rainstorms
- Chipped wood floors
- Missing or cracked bathroom tiles
- Chipped and broken enamel in bathtubs and sink
Definition of Useful Life
All products have a useful life. You should obtain a list of the life expectancy per household item. This is to easily calculate the wear and tear of an object. If a tenant damages an item, you can’t charge the whole cost to the tenant unless the item is brand new. If the item’s expiry period is 4 years and it needed replacement at 2 years, you can split the cost with the tenant. This is subject to the condition that the object didn’t get damaged due to utter negligence by the tenant.
Here is a list of common items and their expected life expectancy:
- Plush carpeting = 5 years
- Tiles/linoleum = 5 years
- Air conditioning units = 10 years
- Hot water heaters = 10 years
- Refrigerators = 10 years
- Ranges = 20 years
- Window shades, screens, and blinds = 3 years
Importance of Documentation
One way to prevent conflicts between a tenant and a landlord is to strictly document the condition of the property. Before moving in and moving out, both parties should take photos and videos. This is a protection against the security deposit.
For landlords, it’s vital to have solid evidence of the pristine condition of the unit before a tenant moves in. If it’s documented well, the landlord is allowed to deduct from the security deposit of the tenant.
For tenants, you can safeguard your safety deposit as long as you have proof. You must show that the unit was in a similar condition when you moved in. Normal wear and tear is included, of course.
Duties of Landlords and Tenants
One of the ways to clarify each other’s responsibilities is to create an extensive lease detailing the landlord and tenant’s responsibilities. This prevents altercations since the contents of the lease will be discussed and agreed on beforehand.
Tenants are responsible for garbage disposal and the proper use of the facilities. They must maintain the property’s good condition with no damages and abuse. They must ask permission from the landlord first before incorporating any changes. They can’t just change the color of the walls without consulting the landlord. If they have guests, it’s expected that the guests take care of the property, too. If they have pets, they must ensure that the animals will not cause any property damage either.
Landlords are responsible for making the property habitable. If there are repairs that needed to be done, the landlords must act on it right away. It’s also their duty to prepare the property before the next tenant moves in. They must fix the damages and conduct inspection of the appliances and property. They must also replace items that are no longer functioning well.
Managing Property Damage
Before landlords can deduct from the security deposit, they must assess the damages fairly.
Is it caused by normal wear and tear?
They must refer to their documentation to ascertain the condition beforehand. It is poor practice to deduct without proper evaluation. Otherwise, your reputation as a landlord can also suffer.
List down the cost estimates and keep the receipts. Then you can present this to the tenant who will want to know how much of his security deposit will be refunded. Go over the repair expenses with the tenant to avoid any conflict. Return what is left apart from the necessary deductions made. Landlords should keep in mind that there’s always wear and tear and you must allot a reasonable repair budget.
If you have any more questions regarding this topic, do not hesitate to contact us at Cool Realty LLC. We are here to help!