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Move-Out Resource Center

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Who is responsible for cleaning up the property?

Unless specifically stated in the lease, the tenant is responsible to return the property in the state in which they found it, excluding normal wear and tear.

What is normal wear and tear?

Normal wear and tear includes deterioration of the premises that occurs during normal conditions, usually over time. For example, paint may fade, electrical switches may stop working or the plastic may crack, pull strings on blinds may fray or break, carpet may wear down, especially in high traffic areas, grout may dry up and come loose. These types of things happen even if the tenant cleans regularly and takes reasonable care of the property and uses the property appropriately for its intended purpose.

Damage occurs from unreasonable use or accidents, negligence or carelessness. Damage can include extreme build up of dirt, mold, etc., stains on carpets, and broken windows. Even intentional alterations to the premises without the landlord's written permission are considered damage. For example, the tenant cannot leave holes in the walls from shelving or hanging pictures and cannot repaint the walls to significantly change the color. If a tenant wants to make changes to the premises that will remain after the tenant moves out, the tenant should do so only after discussing these changes with the landlord and receiving permission in writing. If desired, the landlord should specify their expectations of the type of work to be done, e.g.. "painted to a professional standard without drips or smears," or, "curtain rods to be mounted using heavy-duty wall anchors."

To avoid later disputes, the parties should take steps at the beginning of the lease term to document the current condition of the property. The tenant should inspect the premises thoroughly and note all problems in writing on a check in/check out form. Cleanliness should be assessed as well. Both the tenant and the landlord should sign and date the list. At the end of the lease, the tenant should again inspect the premises, ideally with the landlord present, to discuss any damage, assess the cleanliness and compare conditions to the move in checklist. Tenants may wish to further document conditions both before and after their tenancy with photographs or videos.The landlord is not required to be present to do walkthroughs with the tenant but it is generally a good practice to do so. Landlords may wish to provide tenants with a list of expectations for cleanliness on move out, such as, "range hood free of dust and grease," or, "bathroom grout free of mold and mildew." The general expectation for cleanliness is that the property should be left in a condition at least as good as it was found, less normal wear and tear.  

The following list is by no means comprehensive, but is intended as a guide to reasonable interpretation of the differences between expected wear and tear from normal residential use and accidental or intentional actions that cause damage to a landlord's property. It is important to note that tenants should report condition issues promptly because failure to do so may result in more damage, such as an unreported leak in the roof that in turn ruins drywall and carpeting, and may become the tenant's responsibility.

Wear & Tear

Damages/Negligence

Worn out keys

Lost keys

Loose or stubborn door lock

Broken or missing locks

Loose hinges or handles on doors

Damage to a door from forced entry

Worn and dirty carpeting

Stained or burned carpeting

Carpet seam unglued

Torn carpeting from sliding heavy furniture

Scuffed up wood floors

Badly scratched or gouged wood floors

Linoleum worn thin

Linoleum with tears or holes

Worn or faded countertop

Burns and cuts in countertop

Stain on ceiling from rain or bad plumbing

Stain on ceiling from overflowed tub

Plaster cracks from settling

Holes in walls from hanging pictures

Faded, chipped or cracked paint

Unapproved or sloppy tenant paint job, hand prints on walls

Loose wallpaper

Ripped or marked-up wallpaper

Curtain rod coming loose from wall

Curtain rod bent

Faded curtains and drapes

Torn or missing curtains and drapes

Heat blistered blinds

Blinds with bent slats

Dirty window or door screens

Holes or tears in screens

Sticky window

Broken window

Tile grout or caulk coming loose 

Mold on grout or caulk

Toilet runs or wobbles

Broken toilet seat or tank top

Urine odor around toilet

Urine or pet odor throughout unit

Closet bi-fold door off track

Hole in bi-fold door

 

This wear and tear information was adapted from Rental Housing On Line