Author Topic: Normal Wear and Tear vs Damage (WA)  (Read 2745 times)

Bearded Man

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Normal Wear and Tear vs Damage (WA)
« on: August 23, 2015, 06:02:06 PM »

-I failed to do the walk through inspection with tenant before they moved in or get pictures when I moved out. I just have my gf and the original pictures from when I bought the place as evidence of condition. I obviously do this now with other rentals, including this one. In fact, I intended to with this one, but the tenant suggested they go through and take pictures, which I'm not sure if they did or not.

-Carpet and paint are about 5 years old. I lived there for 26 months myself before I turned it into a rental and it was nice other than some minor smudges here and there.

-Security Deposit: $600

-Non Refundable pet deposit $400 (for two cats, though they got an unauthorized dog after the fact).

-Lease agreement is in my favor as they are responsible for damages and prevailing parties attorneys fees (although that could go against me too), etc.

Tenant of 26 months is moving out. Paid rent on time, if not early, rarely a bother, etc. They trimmed the bushes off the roof of the house, bought a new mail box out of their own pocket.

But I'm finding a few things that I'm not sure whether they are damage or not, and others that are clearly damage, but so minor that I'm wondering if it worth the hassle dinging their security deposit.

Tenant is a married couple with two kids, though, they violated several terms of the lease:1) Got a dog [pit bull] that was not allowed. 2) Her sister and what appears to be one of her kids moved in with them at some point apparently after her divorce, I presume less than a year. 3) They got a pool that, along with the dog, caused me to have to get new insurance which was a huge hassle since I have 5 policies and an umbrella policy and have to move them all to get the best rates and the umbrella...

With that background here come the questions:

Obvious damage but not sure if I should ding them:

-Two torn/missing blinds in front of house. These blinds were brand new, about $60. Guide says that dusty or faded blinds are normal wear, but torn or missing blinds are damage...

-Torn carpet in door way of one of kids rooms. Tenant cut a piece of carpet out to put in it's place, about the width of the doorway and 8" tall. Better than before, but still, the carpet was 4.5 years old and I never once wore shoes in there or ate or drank in carpeted areas. Guide says this is damage...

-Window Screens are torn all round house. Guide says this is damage...

-Trim around bottom left of door frame of one of kids bedrooms is banged up and needs to be replaced. Probably have to do all of the trim in that room to make it match. Guide says this is damage...

-Door to back bedroom has a hole in the back of it. This was a brand new door BUT, I will replace out of my own pocket anyways since it doesn't fit the doorway right; it doesn't close all the way. Damage...but will not be dinging them on this one since the door needs to be replaced anyway.

-Noticeable but not terribly strong pet odor throughout house, which according the guide, is considered damage...

Things I'm not sure about:

-Walls and doors are dirty in many parts of the house. Not like, oh man, that really stands out like somebody threw a pot of soup on it, but obvious smudges and marks from the kids putting their dirty hands on the walls. Washington state has no legal definition of normal wear and tear, but there is some guidance documentation that states that nail holes, paint etc. are normal but large holes in the walls are damages. Looks like this could be normal wear and tear.

-Vinyl flooring by back door is torn up. Cheap and easy fix, but should I eat the cost? Guide says this is damage, but is it worth dinging their deposit?

-Cold water handle for bathroom is crooked now. Guide says this is normal wear...

Also, the tenant had mentioned they were going to paint the interior. When I brought it up again later, they kind of pushed back by being hesitant to say anything, so I think they are trying to weasel out of it. Too bad I didn't get it in writing, though I do have an email where they said they will need time to clean and fix the place up after they move out.

Keep in mind, most of these items I can fix out of the pet fee, but it should really come out of their security deposit. With Grad school, work and other rentals in play, is it worth the hassle in this case?
« Last Edit: August 23, 2015, 06:11:51 PM by Bearded Man »


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Re: Normal Wear and Tear vs Damage (WA)
« Reply #1 on: August 23, 2015, 07:27:24 PM »
...I failed to do the walk through inspection with tenant before they moved in...

So, what exactly did you do when the tenant moved in?

RCW 59.18.260 provides that no deposit can be collected unless the landlord provides to the tenant at the commencement of the tenancy "a written checklist or statement specifically describing the condition and cleanliness of or existing damages to the premises and furnishings, including, but not limited to, walls, floors, countertops, carpets, drapes, furniture, and appliances". Furthermore, "[t]he checklist or statement shall be signed and dated by the landlord and the tenant, and the tenant shall be provided with a copy of the signed checklist or statement". If you did not comply with those requirements at the commencement of the tenancy, you were not allowed to collect a deposit in the first place, and so you can't deduct anything from it now, unless an exception applies. You would have to return the entire deposit. You can still sue the tenant for damages, but you can't deduct the damages from the security deposit.

There are various exceptions, although none of them look like common situations.


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Re: Normal Wear and Tear vs Damage (WA)
« Reply #2 on: August 23, 2015, 08:29:19 PM »
When my uncle leased properties, his standard lease had not just the pet fee, there was a large "unapproved pet fee" of 3x the normal pet fee. ie - sneak in a dog without approval and paying your $400, and you are charged $1,200 instead. And you still aren't authorized to keep the pet.


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Re: Normal Wear and Tear vs Damage (WA)
« Reply #3 on: August 24, 2015, 03:44:03 PM »
My vote is live and learn. Fix it, get it back on the market as soon as possible, move on and never make the same mistake(s) again.


  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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Re: Normal Wear and Tear vs Damage (WA)
« Reply #4 on: August 25, 2015, 02:16:43 PM »
My vote is:

-document all the things you will not charge them for. This should include all the items in your "I'm not sure about" list.
-Regarding the "banged up" trim: Sounds a little bit like wear and tear to me. I mean, if the dog straight up chewed on it, that's damage. If it's dented from kids' toy cars hitting it, etc, that sounds like wear and tear...Unless it's really jacked up, I'd say document it, take pictures, and tell them you don't intend to charge them.
-Wash the floors, put some odor remover down and vacuum the carpets, and leave the windows open for a couple days. If the smell persists, charge them for a professional cleaning to remove the odor. Make sure the professional cleaner documents that there was a strong odor, persistent throughout the house, and that that is the purpose for the cleaning.
-Charge them for the blinds, carpet, and hole in the door. Include pictures of these damages and give them 10 days to protest any charges (i.e. argue that the damage was there when they moved in).
-Tell them that you want to close out your relationship in good faith, that you appreciate their timeliness in payments and responsibility in keeping the bushes trimmed. You're not mad about the damages, you just need to ensure your home is back into good condition. Tell them you're happy to write them a letter of recommendation and be used as a reference for future landlords.
-Buy some magic erasers and attempt to clean up the walls yourself. If you have to paint, you have to paint. I wouldn't charge them for this.

Bearded Man

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Re: Normal Wear and Tear vs Damage (WA)
« Reply #5 on: August 28, 2015, 10:48:52 AM »
Thanks for the advice guys and gals. I filled out the move in checklist, but they never signed it, suggesting they take pictures. I still have that list in their rental folder in my office. When I renewed their lease a year ago, I sent them a blank checklist to fill out and they filled out some of what was wrong before, but also put a few things in that were fine before they moved in. Without pictures, I have only my gf as a witness to the condition before they moved in.

I won't charge them for painting, I can get a guy to paint the interior for $400 labor plus materials. Carpet I'll let go, and vinyl flooring I will replace out of my own pocket. Same with the doors (already replaced). The blinds, meh, I may ding them if they don't replace them. We shall see. I already started being a better landlord with my second rental. By the book. Pictures before move in, written checklist of damages, etc. Annual inspection, all rules enforced. I will no longer be as easy going. Not going to become a tyrant, but just because they don't own the property means they can live carelessly at my expense.