As a property manager, you can deal with several headaches that can be incredibly frustrating. While you have high expectations that people will care for the property you are renting in a nice way, a lot of them neglect the property in certain ways. When this occurs and they move out, how can you tell the difference between normal wear and tear vs. damage?

What did the property look like when the tenants moved in? Always take pictures prior to someone moving in so you can compare the property. If a person cares about the property and wants their security deposit back, you can normally see slight wear and tear such as worn down carpeting or walls that have some small scuff marks.

Landlords need to be upfront with tenants about the property and what is expected of them when they do move out. Normal wear and tear vs. damage can be difficult to spot if you do not have prior images of the property to compare. It starts to become complicated when you look at wear and tear and damage. Several states do have regulations pertaining to this topic, making it easier for landlords to deal with the deposit and if they should refund it or not. Here are some of the common definitions of wear and tear vs. damage:

Normal Wear and Tear

  • Worn down carpet and flooring
  • Cracks in the walls
  • Scuff marks on the walls
  • Faded paint
  • Blistering paint
  • Missing Grout
  • Loose door handles


  • Stained carpet and flooring
  • Holes in the walls
  • Drawing on the walls or unapproved paint
  • Broken bathroom tiles or flooring
  • Burns and chips in the linoleum
  • Trash left inside the home, not in garbage bags or cans
  • Trash left outside the home, not in garbage bags or cans

What Can You Do?

As a landlord, what is the best thing you can do to prevent a property from becoming damaged? It is a good idea to adopt a walk-through policy before and after a tenant move in and out of the property. When they sign the initial lease or rental agreement, take them around the property and discuss the various things and how they look. When the move-out, bring up some of the issues you see since they have occupied the property. The most important thing you can do to help your tenants is to communicate with them. Let them know you want them to contact you with any issues related to the property. Even if that issue is one of their children accidentally putting a hole in the wall. Learning about damage when it happens makes it easier for both parties to come to a mutual agreement as to repairing of the property.

One of the benefits of a walk-through is that it does allow you to write down things with the tenant together. You can both make notes of things that look a little worn down like the tile in the bathroom missing some grout. You need to encourage tenants to examine the rental to the best of their abilities and make as many notes as possible. Look for signs of pest infestations, test the appliances, and check all the doors and locks to ensure they are all in working order. Appliances may need to be replaced in a few years based on their age. Normal wear and tear have most appliances needing replacement in approximately 10 years.

The walk-through is designed to protect the tenant and the landlord. The tenant cannot be blamed for broken things or damage when it was already there when they assumed the rental agreement.

Reporting Damage

In your lease or rental agreement, you must disclose information as to how tenants need to respond to broken water pipes and other things. If a tenant fails to report a leaking pipe, that pipe could cause mold growth to occur, and it could even destroy several walls and floors of the home. When you agree to a lease with a tenant, discuss scenarios like this and let them know who to contact if this arises.

Be upfront and honest with your tenants. Clear communication allows you to minimize disputes and disagreements, and allows both parties to enjoy the property benefits. If you need help learning more about wear and tear vs. damage, give Keyrenter in Austin a call today!