Source: Essential Facts of Real Estate Management

Joseph DeCarlo: Warren, Gorman & Lamont 

Deductions from Security Deposits are a gray area that Courts interpret inconsistently. For example, if a Tenant moves out of a unit after one (1) year, and repainting is necessary, should the Tenant pay all (or part) of the cost if there are no tenant-caused holes or damages? 

The general rule is that "normal wear & tear" is not deductible-but the definition of normal wear & tear can vary from case to case, depending upon the Judge hearing the case, length of the Tenant's occupancy, the condition of the premises when the Tenant moved in, and other factors. 

In this Author's opinion, the best policy is to treat the Tenant as you yourself would wish to be treated. Strict interpretation of "normal wear & tear" could lead to frequent Small Claims Court appearances, and could affect the Landlord's reputation among prospective Tenants, giving Tenants the impression that the Landlord will always charge for a full clean-up even if only a small amount of damage is found. If the Tenants feel that they have no hope of getting the deposit back, they will not properly clean the unit, which will result in longer turnaround time between tenant's and increased vacancy. 

*Some Landlords prepare a standard list of cleanup charges ($30.00 for cleaning stove/$35.00 for shampooing carpet, etc.) which they give to Tenants before they take occupancy. This can be an excellent tool to encourage Tenants to clean the unit themselves before they vacate.


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This web page was updated on 01/02/2003.