Here in the state of New Mexico, what's referred to as the Owner Resident Relations Act, more commonly known as the Landlord Tenant Law here in New Mexico, they actually defined what normal wear and tear is, so I'm going to give a synopsis of that.
Normal wear and tear means deterioration that occurs based upon the use for which the rental unit is intended. It goes on to say that negligence, carelessness, accident, abuse, or intentional damage of the premises or equipment on the premises is not normal wear and tear. Then it also says, "However, uncleanliness does not constitute normal wear and tear."
Let's think about that. They leave the house dirty, and it's not in a rent ready condition, clearly, you can utilize the security deposit to get the house back rent ready. What about the items that are more common like nail holes, paint scuffs, or maybe a small paint chip or something to that factor? We have to take into consideration the time that the tenant has been in the property. If they've been in there for a month and there's tons of scrapes and what not, then obviously they're being rough on the property. But if they've lived in there four or five years, and there's nail holes, and some scuffs and scrapes and the paint is fading, that doesn't mean that you can then take the security deposit and repaint the house.
Judges who get to rule on this definition get the determination and understand that there's expected use in a property, so that in time, nail holes are going to be placed and people are going to put pictures on a wall. They may even move the pictures to a different location to make that house a home for them. Judges also know that paint and carpets fade in time, and they don't have a life expectancy of forever and that they do deteriorate in time.
Now, what is damage? Clearly a broken window, a broken screen on a window, a broken vanity mirror, a broken cabinet door that's been ripped off and maybe even a large chip that somebody dropped something heavy on wood floors can all be considered damages. It doesn’t matter if it was an accident or abuse, each are considered damage. Even a broken toilet seat and could go on and on, but the normal wear and tear of a property is really important to understand because we've seen it numerous times where a tenant determines, or they think it is normal wear and tear, then they go and sue the landlord for excessively charging their security deposit. What could have cost you only a hundred dollars ends up costing far more to appear in court.
These are just some things to think about when it comes to normal wear and tear. I really hope this is helpful for you. I also know this is a sticky subject, and it can be tough to determine because it is left for interpretation to an extent. At least the state of New Mexico does define it and does take into consideration the deterioration of a property when it’s used for it’s intended use. If you have further questions or just simply need to run something by us on this subject, feel free to reach out.