As your investment property sees more tenants, it’s only natural that your once-pristine facilities will begin to fade. Appliances will break down. Floors in high-traffic areas will become worn. Paint will chip. If you have multiple properties, you already know that keeping up with normal wear and tear is a demanding task. Drawing the line between normal wear and damages can be even more of a headache, and some tenants may try to push the envelope on what they’re responsible for.
Making sure that you promptly and consistently handle normal wear and tear reassures tenants of your capabilities as a landlord. Regularly maintaining amenities also removes doubt surrounding whether the wear is normal or excessive. The process of handling property attrition begins with understanding what qualifies as normal wear and tear. Then, you must identify when it’s time to make improvements while approaching the situation with understanding and fairness.
What is Normal Wear and Tear?
Your investment property will inevitably see amenity deterioration, so it’s important to understand how Atlanta law classifies normal wear and tear. The Georgia Department of Community Affairs defines it in the Landlord-Tenant Handbook:
Normal Wear and Tear: The expected slight damages that happen over time from you and your family or guests’ ordinary use of the unit.
These slight damages can range from a reasonable amount of small nail holes in the walls and chipped paint to worn-out carpets and loose handles. Anything that results from continued, everyday use of the premises is considered normal wear and tear. As time passes, the chance of property deterioration from normal wear and tear increases. However, the passage of time doesn’t always mean that normal wear and tear is to blame.
For example, you should expect a refrigerator from 2006 to have some blemishes, and a sudden breakdown is most likely not the tenant’s fault. But regardless of its age, a refrigerator door that no longer closes because of bent hinges requires further investigation.
Damages vs Normal Wear and Tear
When the tenant signs a lease, they agree to return the property in the same condition in which it was received. While you should expect normal wear and tear, anything that clearly violates the lease terms should be considered damages. Painting the walls without approval, making unauthorized renovations, or deliberate destruction of property all fall into the damages category, but distinguishing normal wear from damages isn’t always clear-cut.
If a new appliance suddenly fails, the tenant is most likely to blame, but a manufacturing defect must also be considered. In the spirit of fairness, responsible landlords should thoroughly investigate the failure. Searching the US Consumer Product Safety recall list can help you identify known issues. For further assurance, contacting the manufacturer directly will determine if the failure resulted from normal wear and tear or tenant damages.
Normal Wear and Tear
- Cracked, faded, or peeling paint
- Wear to counters from daily use
- Rusty shower rod
- Thin or worn-out carpet
- Doors and cabinets sticking
- Loose grout in bathroom tiles
- Excessive holes
- Broken/cracked glass or mirrors
- Cracked plumbing fixtures
- Torn, burned, or stained carpets
- Damages from pets
- Cracked, bent, or broken blinds
Prompt and Consistent Attention to Wear and Tear
The best approach to avoiding the tricky situation of determining whether deterioration results from normal wear or excessive damage is prompt and consistent attention to the property. Regular maintenance and detailed documentation of the property’s condition remove any question marks. Neglecting to maintain a property and address wear and tear may lead to liability disputes. Additionally, routine maintenance and upkeep builds trust and improves tenant satisfaction. It’s the perfect way to cover your bases while building a positive reputation.
A Property Management Company Removes the Headache
The bandwidth required to keep track of normal wear and tear can become overwhelming, especially if you have multiple investment properties or operate a multi-family building. A popular approach for investment property owners in Atlanta is to partner with a local property management company. This removes the headache from maintenance and grants you peace of mind in knowing that your property is in good hands.
At EpiCity, we have a long history of success with commercial real estate and multi-family units. Our comprehensive array of services includes property management, construction services, profit maximization, and asset rehabilitation. If you are ready to learn how our experience will help your investment property, we’d love to talk with you.