Damage Vs. Wear & Tear

Damage and wear-and-tear can be difficult to define.  However, when it comes to rental properties, it is important to know the difference.  Wear-and-tear is inevitable when it comes to things like carpets, paint, and many other aspects of a home—after all, nothing lasts forever.  Damages, however, can be prevented, should be documented, and the responsible party should be held responsible for them.  That is why upon the initial signing of any rental agreement it is imperative for the landlord and future tenant to walkthrough the property together so that they can discuss and agree upon the condition of the property before the move in date and take note of any current damage or wear-and-tear, if any.  This will protect the new tenant from being accused of causing any damages that he or she did not cause, and it will bring to the landlord’s attention any maintenance that may be required.  A walkthrough should also take place when the tenants are vacating the rental property so that once again, both parties can agree on the condition of the property.  This offers accountability and protection for both parties involved.

Depending on the nature of the lease agreement and the transaction between the parties, “damage” to a property can be defined as a significant altering by the tenant in contravention of the lease agreement that is not approved by the landlord, the intentional or accidental destruction of an appliance, exterior or interior structure, or the negligence or mistreatment of anything on the property leading to loss of value.  “Wear-and-tear” can be defined as the natural depreciation in value of something due to normal usage over time.

The tenant can be held liable for damage done to property outside of the normal bounds of what would be expected whereas normal wear-and-tear cannot be deducted from the tenant’s security deposit.  For example, paint fading or peeling on the wall would be considered “wear-and-tear” because it occurred over time, whereas large holes in the wall due to carelessness with a hammer would be considered damage because it was caused by the tenant (or someone affiliated with the tenant) directly and could have been avoided with a common degree of precaution .  Another example would be that a loose door handle caused by everyday use would be considered normal “wear and tear”, whereas a broken lock caused by someone who lost their key would be considered “damage” because it was broken purposely, intentionally, and without permission.  Due to the vague description in Florida law between damages and normal wear-and-tear, each case will be determined on a case-by-case basis, as each situation is unique to itself.

If you are a landlord, it is important that you encourage your tenants to help you take care of the rental property by reporting any wear-and-tear or damages to you immediately so that they can be taken care of.   Also be sure to quickly and efficiently document and remedy problems that arise.

If you are a tenant it is important that you immediately let your landlord know if anything breaks or needs replacement so that you will not be held responsible for the damage and so that you are not at risk of having your security deposit withheld or deducted.

Determining whether issues in a rental property are the fault of the tenant or resulted from reasonable wear-and-tear can be incredibly complex and nuanced.  If you are on either end of such a dispute, whether as a landlord or tenant, it is essential that you utilize an adroit and sagacious attorney in the field to represent and protect your best interests.  In accordance with the aforementioned,  do not hesitate to call the Laurent Law Office today at (786) 453-7198 or simply send an email to attorney Hegel Laurent at HLaurent@LLOLegal.com.

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Written by LaurentLawOffice

LaurentLawOffice

Laurent Law Offices, P.L. is committed to helping renters and landlords alike to achieve a fair and reasonable resolution to any dispute. Attorney Hegel Laurent has been a tenant for the vast majority of his life and he understands the intricacies of Landlord-Tenant law codified in Chapter 83 of the Florida Statutes. He received his J.D. from the prestigious University of Pennsylvania Law School and he is passionate about representing both those who rent property or those who own rental property.

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