Once your tenants move out, you will probably wonder what you can assess against their security deposit. The key is to avoid security deposit disputes, and today we’re telling you what you can charge for and what you shouldn’t charge for from a tenant’s deposit.

Normal Wear and Tear vs. Property Damages

You can charge a security deposit for unpaid rent, any cleaning and hauling, and you can charge for property damages. But, you need to be careful and make sure damages are not normal wear and tear. It’s a bit of a grey area. If a tenant has lived there and you find nail holes in the walls from hanging pictures, that’s wear and tear. But if a fist went through the wall, that’s damage and can be charged to the tenant.

Painting is also a grey area. Landlords often want to charge tenants when they need to repaint the apartment. It depends on how long the tenants have lived there. If they’ve been in place for one year and the walls were freshly painted when the tenants moved in, but you have to completely paint them again when your tenants move out, you are justified in charging a portion of the cost to re-paint. But, if the tenant has lived there for five years, you cannot really charge them to paint when they move out.

Use Common Sense and Avoid Disputes

Some landlords get aggressive in what they charge tenants when they move out. A lot of disputes end up in small claims courts. Judges do not look kindly on landlords who appear to take advantage of tenants by charging them for repairs that are not considered normal wear and tear.  

Put yourself in the tenant’s shoes. Think about how you would feel if you were charged for something that you’re about to charge your tenant for. When landlords have a turnover, there will be expenses involved. That’s part of the business. Not everything you need to do to get the unit ready to re-rent can be charged to the security deposit.

Stephanie Gordon

Stephanie Gordon

Use your best judgment, and if you have any questions about security deposit refunds or property management in San Francisco, please contact us at Gordon Property Management.