Wear and tear is normal damage to a property that occurs over time. It's caused by natural forces like aging and regular use and is not done on purpose or by carelessness.
1. Wear and tear is minor and typical
When a rental property is in use for a long period of time, certain things will start to deteriorate. Paint may begin to chip, faucets might start to rust and cabinets could have minor scratches and dings on them. It's normal for these things to occur and they don't necessarily make the property less desirable.
2. Tenants are not responsible for covering wear and tear
Because wear and tear is normal and expected, tenants are not responsible for paying to fix it. If the old paint is chipping off of a wall, it's not the tenant's fault — it happened over a long period of time. Since things like that aren't caused by renters, it's not their responsibility to cover it.
3. Heavy damage is different
Larger issues that don't occur over time and on their own are not considered wear and tear. If a tenant causes something to break or is negligent in their care of a rental property, they may be held liable to pay for the damages.
Be cautious of any damages
When moving into a rental property, make note of the state in which it's been maintained and ensure that the landlord knows about it. Most landlords are reasonable about wear and tear, so it usually isn't a problem. There may be wear and tear that is normal but could turn into something hazardous later on — like rusty pipes or loose floorboards. If you notice anything like that, notify your landlord immediately so they can make the appropriate repairs and prevent issues down the road.