Hi, I’m Faye with Residential Property Management in Portland. Deciphering between what is considered damage and what is considered normal wear and tear is a process that many landlords struggle with. We are always asked about the difference and how to identify whether something has been damaged or is just worn.
A landlord is allowed to charge a tenant for damage, but not for normal wear and tear. As professional property managers, we attend training programs annually, and have managed to refine our opinions on the difference between damage and wear and tear. We have very strong feelings based on training of where the line is, and we advise our landlords accordingly. We may not get complete agreement all the time, but our professional opinions are based on many years in this industry.
There are specific damages that can be caused by tenants, and those tenants should be held responsible for the cost. However, remember that floor coverings and interior paint both have a life span, and you may only charge your tenant for what you lost. With floorcoverings and interior paint, anything you charge the tenant will need to be pro-rated. For flooring, we use 10 years as a normal lifespan. So, if your home has new carpet when a tenant moves in, and the tenant lives in that property for two years and at some point in those two years, the tenant spills bleach on the carpet in one bedroom, you cannot charge the tenant the entire cost for new carpet in that bedroom. It’s expected that a landlord will provide some kind of floor covering while the tenant is in the home. However, bleach stains are not normal wear and tear. They count as damage, and as a landlord, you can charge for that damage. Using the 10 year lifespan for carpets and floor coverings, the landlord lost eight years of carpet life in the one bedroom. So, a fair charge to the tenant would be 80 percent of the cost to replace carpet in that bedroom. A calculation like this is usually accepted by the courts and the attorneys we work with as being fair to both the landlord and the tenant.
You need a similar calculation for interior paint. We use a five year lifespan for interior paint and pro-rate it accordingly. It is typically expected a landlord will need to paint the interior of the home at least every five years. Wear and tear can be subjective, so if you have any questions or you need help distinguishing between damage and wear and tear, please contact us at Residential Property Management, Inc. We’d be happy to help you.