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What is fair wear and tear in a Rental Property?

Stop us if you’ve heard this one before. You show up for a rental viewing and meet the landlord at the door. They take you through the unit and, for the most part, you like what you see. That said, there are some deep scratches on the hardwood floor that are raising some red flags. They call it “fair wear and tear” while you see it as apartment damage.

Sound familiar? Don’t worry. This is a common occurrence for renters and landlords. Everyone has their own definition of what constitutes fair wear and tear in a rental property. To some, it can mean minimal water damage in the bathroom mirror. For others, the term is reserved for yellowing carpets that are way past their prime.


We’ve decided to help take the guesswork out of the equation. To get to the bottom of things, we’re going to investigate what fair wear and tear really means. That way, you’ll know what to look for at your next rental viewing.


What Does Rental Property Damage Look Like?


It’s not uncommon to have a tenant-landlord dispute over a rental property’s condition once the lease agreement is up. Whether it’s house damage or apartment damage, the landlord may have a case — but only if it checks off specific boxes.

There are certain aspects of a rental property that a tenant is responsible for. Let’s start with flooring. If carpets are heavily stained or hardwood floors have deep scratches all over them, that’s on the tenant. If there’s burnt kitchen countertops from that time you tried to impress your partner by making dinner, that’s on the tenant. If there are giant holes in the wall from the TV mount that you almost installed, that’s — well, you get the point.

A lot of it really comes down to common sense. If you’ve caused some serious, visible damage to a rental unit as the tenant, that generally qualifies as rental property damage. There’s also an x-factor to consider pets. While they’re usually cute, cuddly, and often our best friends, they also know how to leave their mark on a rental property. Make sure you keep a close on your pet and the damage they may cause because you’re going to be responsible for it.


What Does “Fair Wear and Tear” Look Like?


We should preface this by saying everyone’s individual definition of “fair wear and tear” may differ, but there are some universal truths. In the most general terms, fair wear and tear is described as minor damage or wear that occurs over time by nature of regular use by the tenant.

So what does that actually look like? Well, fair wear and tear can be something like gently worn carpets or minor scratches and scuffs on the hardwood. It can mean things like slightly loose door handles or a small dent on the fridge. Little imperfections that generally aren’t overly visible upon first glance.


At the end of your lease agreement, your landlord will usually conduct a walkthrough of the rental property to ensure there isn’t any damage. In that case, you, as the tenant, cannot be penalized for any fair wear and tear. No landlord or property manager can charge you for door hinges being slightly looser than they were before you started your tenancy.


Again, the common sense rule applies.


Pemberton Holmes was rated the #1 Property Management company in the Greater Victoria Area. If you have any questions regarding the process of renting out your property, give us a call. One of our licensed managers would be happy to assist. 250-478-9141.


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