What is Normal Wear & Tear in a Rental Property and when Should Security Deposits be Withheld?
Renting a property generally makes life a little easier. You don’t have to pay property taxes or homeowners’ assessments. If there is a broken pipe or no heat, you simply call the landlord.
But when it comes to moving in and moving out, there are things you need to know.
You are generally required to put down a security deposit, generally one month’s rent. That is intended to cover anything that occurs to the property beyond normal wear and tear. If there are no problems with the condition of the property after you move out, you can receive your deposit back.
While most landlords ask for a security deposit of one month, under Virginia law, a landlord may ask for a security deposit that represents two months’ rent.
Generally speaking, normal wear and tear may require after you move out the landlord has to paint, clean, patch picture hanging holes in the wall.
In other words, generally smaller tasks that come with owning a property constitute wear and tear. However, it is not uncommon to get into a dispute with you landlord over the definition of normal wear and tear.
Wear and Tear
As stated above, wear and tear are normal events that are to be expected. Some are not.
Is your rented property excessively filthy? Did you keep farm animals in the living room? How about motorcycle parts?
Some other things that may qualify as outside normal wear and tear are:
*Cigarette burns in floors and walls
*Broken tiles in the bathroom, kitchen or floor
*Broken walls with large holes
*Urine stained carpets
*Door off the hinges
*Water damage from plants, sinks or tubs
*Toilet that will not flush because of clogs
*Ripped or torn carpets
In other words, a condition that in no way resembles the property you rented.
While the landlord may not use your security deposit to fix normal wear and tear, these items go beyond normal wear and tear and under Virginia law it is acceptable to withhold your security deposit to address them.
The security deposit is meant to cushion the blow so the landlord is not left in a negative position cleaning up after his tenant. When the tenant moves out leaving this degree of damage, he also forfeits his security deposit.
He also leaves behind a damaged relationship and the chance of a good reference when he wants to rent again.
Withholding a Security Deposit
Within 45 days after the date of termination of the lease, the landlord must return the security deposit minus the damage charges that are specified in the rental agreement.
Additionally, the landlord may be able to subtract actual damages for any breach of the rental agreement and will be able to subtract monies needed to cover water, sewer, or any other utility that is due.
After those obligations, the landlord has 10 days to provide written confirmation of the expenses covered by the deposit to the tenant along with payment of any balance that remains.
If the tenant had already paid the water bill, for example, he needs to provide confirmation to the landlord so it is not paid twice. If it is paid by the tenant after he moves out, the landlord will have to reimburse the tenant.
The landlord will inspect the property after the tenant moves out. The tenant may wish to be there as well. After that, the landlord will provide the tenant with a written security deposit disposition statement including an itemized list of damages.
The tenant may want to submit a supplemental move out report to support his position that additional damages did not exist at the time of the move out.
Obviously, photos will play a very important part here. Even just photos from your smart phone will usually suffice both before you move in and after you move out.
The attorneys of St. John, Bowling, Lawrence & Quagliana are well-versed in real estate transactions and contracts.
We understand how to protect your rights if there is a tenant – landlord dispute. We have represented both tenants and landlords as well as buyers, sellers, developers, and lenders to resolve any real estate disputes.
Do not hesitate to call our Charlottesville office at 434-296-7138 to find out how we can help you.