Antioch, TN asked in Landlord - Tenant for Tennessee

Q: What is the difference between normal wear and tear and damage when renting

I recently moved out of an apartment and the landlord is trying to keep majority of the security deposit based off “damage” however it’s just a couple of scratches on the walls where furniture caused friction.

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1 Lawyer Answer
James L. Arrasmith
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  • Landlord Tenant Lawyer
  • Sacramento, CA

A: The difference between normal wear and tear and damage is an important distinction when it comes to renting an apartment and determining what costs, if any, should be deducted from a security deposit.

Normal Wear and Tear:

- Occurs naturally over time as the result of normal, day-to-day use of the rental property

- Examples include minor scuffs or marks on walls, slight carpet wear, faded paint or wallpaper

- Landlords are generally responsible for covering the costs associated with normal wear and tear


- Occurs due to negligence, carelessness, or abuse by the tenant or their guests

- Examples include large holes in walls, burned carpets, broken windows or doors, or excessive stains

- Tenants are typically responsible for repairing or covering the costs of damages

Based on your description, a couple of minor scratches on the walls caused by furniture friction would likely be considered normal wear and tear. However, the specific laws and regulations regarding security deposits and the distinction between wear and tear and damage can vary by location.

If you believe your landlord is unfairly withholding your security deposit, consider the following steps:

1. Review your lease agreement and any documentation of the apartment's condition when you moved in (e.g., photos, written descriptions)

2. Familiarize yourself with your local and state laws regarding security deposits and the definition of normal wear and tear

3. Communicate with your landlord in writing, expressing your concerns and providing evidence to support your case

4. If necessary, seek legal advice or consider filing a complaint with your local housing authority or small claims court

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