The Security Deposit vs. Normal Wear and Tear

When a tenant leaves, one of the most challenging things for a landlord is determining whether they should receive their security deposit back. About one-fourth of renters don’t get their deposit back. Some situations may be painfully obvious that the house is in a state of extreme disrepair, but others can walk the line between abuse and normal wear. Before you make a determination that a renter should receive their security deposit back, you should know which things come out of the deposit and which are considered to be normal.

You can become a fairer landlord when you know what to expect in the wake of a tenant leaving your property. Here’s a quick crash course on the difference between disrepair and wear and tear.


Flooring can be expected to show the signs of wear and tear quickly over the years. Carpets may become more threadbare and wood floors will fade or the finish will wear through in high-traffic areas. This is considered normal wear and tear that needs to be overlooked when doing a final inspection.

When you start seeing major issues with the flooring, it should come out of the tenant’s security deposit for excessive damage. This can include burn marks or stains on the carpet, tears in the flooring from pets, water stains on the floor near the windows, or excessive gouges in wooden floors. Even cracked tiles could be a sign of major disrepair that would fall under the tenant’s responsibility.


It is normal for tenants to attempt to make your house into their home, particularly if they were there for a long time. Landlords should consider a few nail holes from picture frames under the category of normal wear and tear. These are easily repaired and are simply a part of living in the home for a long period of time. Only major marks or holes in the wall should come out of the security deposit.

Similarly, it is normal for paint to fade with exposure to sunlight or to have a few scuff marks from daily life. Crayon, marker or excessively dirty walls should be considered the tenant’s responsibility to repair.


There are a lot of things in the kitchen that could be a sign of normal wear and tear. For example, your cabinet doors may warp over time or the countertops could develop some minor scratches and water damage. You may find worn gaskets on the refrigerator doors or garbage disposal that smells bad. On the other hand, your home could have countertops that are chipped and badly burned, broken shelves in the refrigerator or clogged drains from improper use. These would come out of the security deposit.

This is a very complicated area for most landlords because the line between normal wear and disrepair or excess filth is often very fine and subjective. Guidelines like these can give you a great starting point for determining the difference.

Do you have a hard time telling the difference or explaining to an angry tenant why they won’t be receiving their security deposit back? You should enlist the help of one of the reputable property management companies like Pyramis Company. We can help you to handle the details on your rental property, so contact us today to see what we can do for you!