By Neil Fjellestad and Chris De Marco
The main purpose of the refundable security deposit is to ensure that the home will be returned in the same condition that it was when rented, normal wear and tear accepted. Normal wear and tear can be confusing. Normal wear and tear is essentially the deterioration that occurs under normal conditions. Damage which is not normal wear and tear occurs from accidents or unreasonable use. Even intentional alterations to the premises can be considered damage. Rented premises should be returned to an Owner/Manager in the same condition it was given to the Resident minus normal wear and tear.
Any alterations made by the Resident without the written approval of the Owner/Manager will be the responsibility of the Resident to restore to its original condition. There is no room for vague communication when it comes to these matters. There needs to be a written “Inspection Report” form that is executed by both Resident and Owner/Manager at move-in. We like each party to sign off after having time to complete independently and to include comments. We also like to include photos. At move-out such a process proves invaluable and allows this original inspection to be used as arbiter of condition, costs, etc. Any repairs or upkeep needed to bring the property back to the above standard established by the process described will be charged to the deposit. Also, any items damaged or missing i.e. closet doors, blinds, burned-out light bulbs, missing smoke/CO detectors, etc. will be charged to the deposit. If the deposit is insufficient then the resident will be billed for any balance.
To this point we have not dealt with cleanliness. If a resident is given possession of the rental home with professionally cleaned kitchen, bathroom(s) and appliances along with professionals called in to clean carpets as an example then the expectation (separate from any damage and consideration of normal wear and tear) is to return the home professionally cleaned including carpets. Of course, this cannot be finalized until the resident has completed their move-out process and the keys returned to the Owner/Manager.