What is general wear and tear?

The Waldorf Approach

The Waldorf Property Management team routinely inspects apartments and also at the end of each tenancy to identify fair wear and tear and/or damage. Our experienced property managers can identify damage caused by tenants from expected wear and tear.

So what is general wear and tear? Fair wear and tear, also called depreciation,  is the gradual deterioration of aspects of a property  which has resulted naturally or from age.Generally it means damage that happens through 1) the ordinary day-to-day use of a place by a tenant -e.g. carpet gets worn from people walking on it - and 2) the ordinary operation of natural forces (e.g. sunlight, rain).

During our property inspections, each specific issue is investigated on its individual merits and there is no ‘across the board’ policy. Most issues are easily identifiable which ‘categorises’ the damage. However, if we are not confident on the exact cause of the deterioration, we will obtain advice from our network of contractors and we will then contact you, the owner, to advise and discuss the matter and the amount the tenant should be held accountable for. Because of our rigorous tenant screening process incidents such as these are rare but do happen and we feel it important that you know our approach.

Examples of general wear and tear

Every tenant, even those that are very careful, will cause minor damage over the duration of a rental agreement. This normal wear and tear includes small scratches on the wall, carpets that are worn or slightly stained, broken hinges or other relatively minor. Carpet cleaning and the repair of a few scuffs after each tenant vacates  are to be expected due to normal wear and tear. Repainting the walls and updating the furniture every 3 to 5 years is to be expected as a result of general wear and tear and to keep your apartment at the best level of ‘desirability’ in the market. There is, in our opinion, a correlation between the state and appearance of the apartment and the ‘quality’ of a future tenant.

Owners need to be mindful of the fact that the more tenants who occupy an apartment the higher the occurrence of wear and tear.

Examples of tenant damage

Examples of actual damage which go beyond normal wear and tear are, but are not limited to, large food or beverage stains on the carpet, torn curtains, broken furniture and damage to the walls. This is considered tenant damage. Cracks in paintwork can sometimes be caused by tenants but are usually caused by movement in walls/ceilings which can occur naturally in all properties.

Cracked tiles require more investigation as this could be caused by tenants or an uneven surface or poor grouting and installation. When a carpet is beginning to ‘bubble’ slightly, show loose threads or discolour,  the age of the carpet is taken in to consideration and often if it exceeds a certain age then wear and tear can be diagnosed as a fault or contributor.

On the border

Some issues can be identified as being caused by both wear and tear and tenant damage. If for example, damage is started as a result of age but can be accelerated by the tenant. In this case the tenant may be responsible for a contribution towards the cost of remedying an issue.

Other issues like faint oil stains on garage floors require more investigation as some level of discoloration may be expected over time. The most important issue is what steps the tenant has taken over the life of the tenancy and at the expiry of the tenancy to limit or reduce the problem.

Communication & education

Tenants that do not communicate a maintenance problem to the Property Manager may be held responsible for the acceleration of the damage.

Mold and moisture issues can be difficult to apportion cause.  When mold occurs on walls, ceilings and curtains it damages the surfaces. Although this is not usually directly caused by the tenant, it may have been accelerated by the tenant by not cleaning the surfaces regularly or ensuring proper ventilation. The longer this is left unattended, the larger the problem and the more expensive the solution. During Waldorf Routine Inspections we check thoroughly for these issues and we educate and inform our tenants how to reduce and combat this problem.

We adopt the same approach relating to matters of cleanliness. When a tenant neglects the apartment we notice this on our Routine inspections and we inform them of the problem and how to rectify this. We will re-inspect – as part of the initial visitation – to ensure that the behavioural pattern has been corrected.

Furniture depreciation

When it relates to furniture, the ‘depreciation’ is determined via a percentage of age and value of the chattels. After a few years, you cannot demand from a tenant the full reimbursement of costs. As your  agent, we need to be both reasonable and fair with any claims made on your behalf as we would be at serious risk  of losing the ‘benefit of the doubt’ at a tenancy tribunal if we try to ‘over recover’.


To conclude, general wear and tear versus actual tenant damage is usually relatively straight forward to determine. We cannot recommend the conducting of regular inspections of your apartment highly enough in an effort to address issues before they require expensive solutions. We investigate each item specifically and furthermore we know our apartment buildings and the general issues which arise out of tenant use.

Article by: Titia van de Water Msc.  - NZ Waldorf Real Estate