It happens to every landlord at some point… a tenant moves out and they didn’t leave the property in the same spotless condition that you gave it to them in. So, you wonder what repairs and expenses can I deduct from their security deposit?

California law draws a line between excessive dirtiness or damage and normal wear and tear; and unfortunately, courts are becoming very tenant friendly. Deductions are not black and white, but rather several shades of grey in the mind of the tenant leaving many landlords trying to figure out, exactly, what “normal wear and tear” really is?

Here are three basic examples of what constitutes normal wear and tear:

  • Normal: A carpet that’s worn, faded, or moderately stained due to regular use. Not normal: Burns, tears, or large stains due to negligence or misuse.
  • Normal: Faded paint or wallpaper, scuffs or dents from door handles, or a reasonable amount of picture holes on walls. Not normal: Gouges or excessive numbers of holes that require patching and repainting, or colorful paint that you didn’t approve.
  • Normal: Appliances or fixtures that are in bad shape due to age, doors or windows that are worn or slightly damaged due to regular use. Not normal: If they’re broken due to negligence or misuse (or missing altogether).

Always provide the tenant with a copy of the repair bill with written explanation of each deduction from their security deposit.

It’s always good practice to inspect and photograph units ninety days after new tenants move-in to ensure all terms of the lease are being followed and then semi-annually to ensure discreet leaks, mold, marijuana grow rooms and other issues are addressed sooner rather than later.

Most importantly, and often forgotten, the best reason to inspect your property often to prevent a wrongful death suit by ensuring that all smoke and CO alarms are present, operating and not older than seven years.

Feel free to reply or call me at 949-209-9494 with any questions you may have regarding this topic or any other questions you have regarding property management in Huntington Beach, and all of Orange County, California.