Understanding the difference between tenant damage and normal wear and tear is an important part of property management in Los Angeles. According to California law, landlords cannot deduct money from a tenant’s security deposit for normal wear and tear. When a tenant moves out and you’re trying to determine whether or not to return that deposit, it’s critical that you document any damage and demonstrate that it goes beyond what the courts would consider wear and tear.
Move In and Move Out Inspections
Completing a detailed move in inspection will help you distinguish between damage and wear and tear at the end of a lease. Walk through your property with your tenant, and document anything that is worn, damaged, or in need of repairs. This will protect the tenant from having to pay for things that the tenant did not cause, and it will protect you from complaints when you do keep part of the security deposit. Your move in inspection must accurately document the condition of the property when you turn it over to a tenant. You’ll compare this inspection report to the inspection report that you complete when a tenant moves out. Be sure to take many pictures and make lots of notes.
Tenant Damage vs. Normal Wear and Tear
There is very little in the Landlord Tenant Act that helps California landlords distinguish between damage and wear and tear. As a Los Angeles property management company, we follow what the courts have been ruling and how the law has been changing in order to protect our property owners. Wear and tear is usually minor, and includes things like small nail holes in your walls from where pictures were hung, or marks on the wall from where sofas were resting against it. Damage might be large scratches in your floor, doors that are torn from their hinges, or holes in walls. Remember that the length of a tenancy will also have an impact on wear and tear. The longer a tenant lives in your property, the more wear and tear there will be. For example, you will not be able to charge a security deposit for new paint if a tenant has lived there for 10 years or longer.
Security Deposit Precautions
Make sure you collect a security deposit that’s large enough to cover any potential tenant damage. You are required to offer your tenants a walk through before they move out, so you can talk about what needs to be done to the property in order to get the full security deposit back. This is a good time to identify any damage and any wear and tear so all parties are on the same page.
This is one area that causes a lot of conflict between landlords and tenants, but can be improved greatly with proper documentation both at the beginning and the end of each lease.