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Lots of property owners have questions about how to handle security deposits and whether you can deduct from those deposits for wear and tear on the property. Wear and tear is not the same as damage. Owners need to realize that when tenants move out, there is a certain amount of maintenance the owner needs to take care of, and those costs should not be passed through to the tenant. For example, if you have a toilet seat that is 10 or 15 years old and needs to be replaced, that is part of the owner’s responsibility when it comes to maintaining the Santa Cruz property. It would not be a tenant charge. Pay attention to these other wear and tear issues:

If a chair leaves a mark on the wall, from rubbing up against it, that is normal wear and tear. However, if you find creative artwork on the walls from your tenant’s children, such as sharpie marks or crayon scribbles, those are considered damages.

If you have a few nail holes in the walls from pictures that were hung, that is wear and tear. If the tenants had a large flat screen television hanging from the wall and there are huge holes left when they leave, that would be considered a tenant charge.

Always complete a move in report with photos before you move your tenants in, so there is a standard when they move out. This is a good way to be able to see if any damage has been done.

You might need to pro-rate some of the damage. For example, perhaps you have carpet in your property that is about five years old, but in great condition. The move in photos show that the carpet is clean, with no stains or problems. When the tenant moves out, there might be loose stains all over the place. you can charge the tenant for a portion of new carpet. How you would do that is to estimate the life of the carpet, which would be perhaps 10 years. So, if the tenant had not stained the carpet, you would have had it for an additional five years in the property. You would charge the tenant for 50 percent of the new carpet cost.

Remember to take photos and document before and after condition. Make sure that if you withhold money from the security deposit, you provide the tenant with receipts and get everything in the mail within 21 days. Otherwise, you’ll be violating tenant law and you could find yourself in small claims court, wishing you had hired a professional property manager like me.

Move Out Damage and Security Deposits Santa Cruz Property Management Advice by Portola Property ManagementIf you have any questions on how to distinguish between tenant damage and regular wear and tear, please contact us at Portola Property Management.