What's "Normal Wear and Tear"
for Security Deposit Returns

Tenants should understand normal wear and tear as soon as they sign a lease. It's important to understand expectations of the landlord, AND Florida landlord/tenant law. While living in the unit, tenants should adhere to ensuring proper upkeep, cleaning and overall maintenance is being done regularly. No alterations should be made without prior (written is most advisable) permission by the landlord. These actions will help  to protect security deposit money and potentially being sued after move out.

It's NOT okay for tenants to leave ANYTHING. They often leave landlords with their unwanted, broken JUNK. Sometimes they leave their cleaning supplies. A lot of time they leave their unwanted hangers and boxes.

This is NOT considered normal wear and tear.

<-- This amount of junk to be hauled away and dumped meant a $100 claim from the tenant's security deposit.

What does Normal Wear and Tear mean?

Clean and undamaged. But with the acceptance of such things as fading, worn paint and carpet, a few nail holes, sticky windows, running toilet. The generally accepted condition of clean, undamaged with normal wear and tear means tenants should make sure the unit is clean, free from all personal items and debris.

Anything excessive: nail holes, dirt, scuff marks, carpet stains, etc are considered to be "above" normal wear and tear and the expense to remedy and repair those issues can be taken from the tenant's security deposit

What's Considered "Normal Wear and Tear"?

at move-out

This condition is considered normal wear and tear. There's dirt and some scuff marks, and the paint is faded. The unit needs to be repainted including walls, doors, trim and baseboards. The tenant was there for four years with no intermittent painting done by the landlord during that time. So in this case, the paint/walls/doors condition is considered normal wear and tear. There is some expectation for landlords to put money into the touch-up painting minimally, of units after one tenancy ends, and before another starts.

This condition is ABOVE normal wear and tear as these elements were left excessively dirty. The AC vent dirt was a result of the tenant never changing the AC filter (located behind door).

Extra charge claimed from security for professional cleaning fee AND AC coil cleaning and servicing. The tenant left the unit in excessively dirty condition. This unit is NOT ready to turn over to a new tenant.

ready for new tenants

Cost for the walls and doors to be repainted was not charged to the tenant. It's considered normal wear and tear, and a cost landlords incur as part of normal business.

Landlords should always budget and plan for repainting walls, doors and trim every 2-3 years, with touch-ups between each tenancy.

HOWEVER, tenants are expected to maintain filters including the AC. It's recommended that landlords show tenants, at move-in, how to replace the AC filter and write the filter size on the lease for easy reference.

Unit now ready for new tenants. Photos taken. Tenants under reasonable expectation to return this unit in same condition (minus normal wear and tear).

These photos will be used to measure that reasonable expectation and calculate security deposit return/claims.


  • faded paint
  • worn carpet
  • small scuff marks
  • worn out keys
  • sticky windows
  • dirty window screens
  • runny or wobbly toilet
  • closet doors off track or wobbly
  • worn door handles
  • 2-3 nail holes
  • faded curtains or verticals


  • changed color paint!
  • soiled or bleach stained carpet
  • excessive scuff/black marks or dents
  • missing or broken keys, clickers etc
  • broken, taped/stickered windows
  • torn, missing screens from negligence
  • clogged toilet from misuse
  • broken doors from misuse
  • broken, changed, altered handles
  • 4+ holes in walls needing patch/paint
  • missing, damaged curtains/verticals from misuse or negligence

So what's considered "above" normal wear and tear?

Anything above normal wear and tear is at jeopardy of costing tenants money. Tenants are responsible for keeping the rental unit clean and undamaged. This means periodic cleanings so there's no dirt build up and accumulation of dust, grease, hair, scum. It means patching up holes in walls when you remove a flat screen TV or more than a couple of photos or art on a wall. It means cleaning the dust off the ceiling fan blades, cleaning windows so you can see out of them, keeping the flooring clean. It means removing all lint and dirt from the clothes dryer. Tenants are responsible for their own hair that falls into shower and tub drains, and removing these potential clogs is the responsibility of the tenant.

Tenants should treat where they live, even if they are renting it from a landlord, as their home. They should take care of it as if they owned it, minus the expense of major repairs. There is a reasonable expectation that tenants should be able to use a screw driver and tighten kitchen drawer handles if needed, and use WD-40 on creaky windows. And when they move out, tenants should return the property in clean, undamaged condition.


If a tenant wants to paint walls a different color, they should always get permission to do so in writing from the landlord. Why? It's considered an alteration. If the walls were white, and a tenant painted them red... it can be very costly to the landlord to paint them white again. If a tenant makes alterations without permission, or they got permission but with the agreement that they return the alteration back to its original condition... they need to do this prior to move out. Why?  Any expense a tenant costs the landlord to return an unapproved alteration back to it's original condition can be claimed from security, and/or subject of a lawsuit.

Tenants should NEVER add anything structural. Ever. They should not change carpet or flooring, ever.

These bright colors might have looked great to the tenants that painted them... and you might think they look great too. But they are "alterations" and are costly to return to their previously neutral wall colors. Lots of primer and more than one coat of paint is needed to remove these colors.

Maybe even a landlord will like these paint alterations a tenant has given to them. However, if a landlord decides to leave it as is... and returns security to the tenant, they won't have the money they may realize they need to paint those walls back to white or beige! New tenants will come and look at the property, but this will inevitably NOT be the same taste of most other people.

A landlord should have the goal of keeping the unit as neutral and attractive to the largest range of people possible. This generally means either white or light beige walls, white trim and doors. "Neutral" appeals to the most people, period.

If a tenant moves out, hands keys over, and leaves walls altered to a different color scheme (like these photos) without prior permission given by the landlord with paint colors approved.... the landlord has the right to claim the cost of return the wall colors back to their original color. This cost may be substantially more than what the tenant might think... because there is no legal requirement for a landlord to look for the cheapest painter in town! Tenants should ALWAYS seek written approval by the landlord prior to making ANY alterations to the rental unit.