Fine line between wear/tear and abuse?

9 Replies

How do you draw the line between wear and tear vs just excessive force & abuse?

Example, if within a two month period you had the microwave oven door handle broken off, refrigerator door handle broken off, the exterior front door hinge pulled off (which happens when you swing open the door to 240 degrees when it hits the wall but if you put your body into it bang bang bang it may pull loose the hinge screws.  The sink cabinet hinges are also loose to the point where they won't shut tight.

Some people open and close the car doors, some people kick open their car door, get out, and close the door with a forceful butt bump.

Where is that line?  as a landlord is there a way to reasonably define that line?

Wear and tear is something you should expect to happen when something is used. Carpet wears out when you walk on it, that's a fact of life. Handles don't just break when you pull them occasionally, nor do hinges just pop off every now and then. What you are describing is damage, not wear and tear. If those are actual examples of what happened in your property, you should fix everything, and then bill tenants for the damage. Next lease enewal, get them out.

@Sam Leon I agree with @Andrew B. . This is not normal wear and tear. One isolated handle ok maybe, but all the damage you describe is no coincidence.

Do you think kids are doing it or a heavy handed adult? Either way they are responsible for this damage.

You may want to increase your inspection interval for this property to monitor for any additional damage.

Maybe they will start being more careful once you send them the bill and apply it to what they owe.

@Sam Leon I draw the line between wear & tear and dirt & damage.  If I can fix it or clean it, it's not wear & tear.  

Wear & Tear are things like: faded or brittle blinds from sun, minor knicks on wall, loose doorknobs, carpet wear, faded paint.  

Dirt & Damage: holes in the wall, doors off hinges, rips in carpet or urine stains-odors, broken-missing mini blinds, grimy bathtub, etc

Your tenant will continue to be rough on your unit until he starts paying for his damages or moves out.  Take a firm stance against their misbehavior by getting actual bills and charging it to him -including late fees if he doesn't pay.  (appliancepartspros.com for appliance parts).  

Originally posted by @Curtis Bidwell :

@Sam Leon I draw the line between wear & tear and dirt & damage.  If I can fix it or clean it, it's not wear & tear.  

 I love your rule of thumb. Great way to look at it.

I have to agree with everyone above. That does not sound like normal wear & tear. As a landlord, you can determine what is normal wear and tear vs excessive damage. I would charge the tenant after move-out for the damages as they are not something you would expect to occur with a 'normal' tenant. 

Sound like damage but consider how old and how cheap is the broken stuff? For the door we have had for example issues with older houses and screen doors where hinges pull out because of wood deterioration but this does not happen on entry doors. one prevention solution is to put a door stop ( a wall or post ) so it cant go that far. For microwaves or fridges that pretty much has to be damage. For cabinet hinges just tighten them maybe they werent tightened well on install.

This question can be answered with common sense. "Ordinary" means it occurs to most people through normal use over a normal period of time. Carpet wears down. Door knobs eventually break.

The things you list could be ordinary, given enough time, but they certainly wouldn't happen all at once in such a short period of time. Charge them. I hope you are inspecting the home because there's probably something else going on.

@Sam Leon

For what it’s worth, I’ve never broken a fridge handle nor a microwave handle.

I’d document it, wouldn’t fix it, and hold back the security deposit. (If they fight you, you might lose) and I would not renew.