Wear and Tear vs. Damages

Security deposits can be used to repair damage for which a resident is responsible. However, the landlord cannot apply the security deposit to normal wear and tear. The question is: “What’s the difference?”

The legal definition of “normal wear and tear” as stated in the Tennessee Landlord Tenant Act

“Normal wear and tear means that deterioration which occurs, based upon the use for which the rental unit is intended, without negligence, carelessness, accident, or abuse of the premises or
equipment or chattels by the tenant or members of his household, or their invitees or guests.”

Damage can be therefore be defined as deterioration which occurs due to negligence, carelessness, accident, or abuse of the premises or equipment or chattels by the tenant or members of his household, or their invitees or guests.

Notice that normal wear and tear does not include dirt – excessive dirt is considered negligence, carelessness, accident or abuse.

The following incomplete list of examples are intended as a guide to reasonable interpretation of the differences between expected ‘wear and tear’ from normal residential use and irresponsible, intentional, or unintentional actions that cause damage to a landlord’s property.

Courts have also ruled that the length of time a tenant has occupied a property must also be taken into consideration when assessing damages in relation to deductions to a tenant’s security deposit. The longer a resident has resided in a property, the more allowance must be given for ‘wear and tear’ over damage.

Wear and Tear

  • Small nail holes caused by a 6 penny nail or smaller. A 6 penny nail is 2 inches long and is used for hanging picture frames and other items on the walls
  • Faded paint
  • Faded caulking around the bathtub and tiles
  • Hard water deposits
  • Worn out keys
  • Loose or stubborn door lock
  • Loose hinges or handles on doors
  • Worn carpet traffic patterns
  • Faded finish on wood floors
  • Linoleum worn thin
  • Worn countertops due to daily use
  • Drywall cracks from settling
  • Faded, chipped or cracked paint
  • Loose wallpaper
  • Worn or heat blistered mini-blinds
  • Dirty window and door screens
  • Sticky window.
  • Loose or inoperable faucet handle.
  • Running toilet
  • Musty odor
  • Closet bi-fold door off track
  • Non-functioning smoke or CO detector
  • Non-functioning light fixture
  • Dry lawn
  • Slow draining drains


  • Large holes from hanging shelving, pictures, screws, wall anchors, flat screen television brackets or any other wall hanging that causes damage larger than a 6 penny nail
  • Spot painting and patching or touch up painting of any kind
  • Missing caulking around the bathtub and tiles
  • Buildup of dirt, mold, mildew, or water stains from a preventable or unreported water leak or drip
  • Broken, lost or unreturned keys
  • Broken or missing locks
  • Damage from a door from forced entry, or damage from using feet to open doors
  • Torn, burned, stained, missing, ripped, scratched, or snagged carpet, pet damage
  • Scratched, gouged, warped or water damaged wood floors
  • Linoleum with tears, chips or holes
  • Burned, cut, stained, scratched or water damaged countertops
  • Holes in walls, doors, screens or windows from misuse, negligence, carelessness, accident, or abuse
  • Unapproved or poor tenant paint job
  • Ripped or marked-up wallpaper
  • Broken, bent, cracked or missing slats, wands or hardware. Broken strings.
  • Torn or missing screens
  • Broken window
  • Broken or missing faucet handle
  • Broken toilet seat, tank top or chipped or cracked toilet bowl
  • Urine or pet odor throughout unit
  • Damaged or missing bi-fold door
  • Missing or detached smoke detector or CO detector or missing batteries
  • Missing, burnt out, or incorrect style light bulbs
  • Lawn with pet urine spots, dead areas, excessive weeds
  • Drains that are clogged by hair, toys, or other non-flushable objects

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