The Colorado Landlord’s Rough Guide to “Normal” Wear and Tear

Filed Under (Leases and Landlord Tenant) on 10-27-2011

normal wear and tear, wear and tear, rental contract Useful Life as a Framework for Understanding Deductible Repairs

By Victor M. Grimm, Esq. and Rachel Brand

“Normal wear and tear” is one of those fuzzy legal terms that begs for clarification.

When it comes to security deposits, Colorado landlords can keep money for repairs, cleaning, unpaid utility charges at the end of a tenancy, and even back rent and other expenses if a tenant moves out unexpectedly. But landlords are NOT allowed to deduct money for normal wear and tear of the property.

The problem is what one landlord calls rock star level damage, a tenant considers as normal wear and tear.

Colorado law defines normal wear and tear as “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.”

Useful life

Since the legal definition doesn’t offer much guidance, here’s another way to think of normal wear and tear: Consider it the reasonable amount of wear that a given appliance, household item, or piece of furnishing should incur for every year of its useful life. (A useful life is how long you can expect something to live or work.)

So, if a carpet’s useful life is 10 years, then every year, it should deteriorate about 1/10th. One place you can find such information is an advisory guide to useful life, found on the city of Longmont’s web site and republished below:

Item Lifespan Item Lifespan

Carpeting 10 years Door and window hardware 15 years
Bathroom flooring 12 years Stove, cooking range 12 years
Kitchen flooring 12 years Hot water heater 10 years
Curtains 5 years Bathroom sink 17 years
Drapes 10 years Kitchen cabinets 15 years
Curtain rods 8 years Kitchen sink 17 years
Interior doors 20 years Garbage disposal 5 years

You can also find useful life information from product manufacturers. (Such projections likely assume the appliances and household furnishing are regularly maintained and/or cleaned.)

Still confused? The city of Longmont provides this framework for weighing normal wear and tear vs. abnormal use.

Normal Wear and Tear                  Abnormal Wear and Tear

Worn and dirty carpet                  Torn, stained, or burned carpet

Faded curtains                            Torn or missing curtains

Worn out keys                             Lost keys

Dirty window screens                   Torn or missing screens

Faded, chipped paint                   Hole in the wall

 

For more information, see the Landlord & Tenant Guide to Colorado Leases and Evictions, 5th Edition, by Victor M. Grimm, Esq. and Denise E. Grimm.





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  • Victoria

    I just moved into a house in Superior, CO. The carpet here is the original carpet installed when the house was first built. I am not sure when that was but based on the cabinets, lighting fixtures and carpet, I would say 1990’s. That is 24 years. At what point does the landlord (
    in our case (slumlord) have to replace the carpet? Is it legal to let it go this long? It feels sooooooo disgusting under my feet.

    • http://www.bradfordpublishing.com/ Melissa

      Tenant Victoria,

      Thank you for your query. First of all please note that this is general information regarding the law and is not intended to be specific legal advice relative to your situation. This is particularly true since I have not reviewed your lease.

      The law you to refer to CRS 38 – 12 – 103, It deals with security deposits and return thereof at the end of the tenancy. In general it provides that a landlord cannot deduct for normal wear and tear caused by tenant during the course of the tenancy.

      Unfortunately, it does not address the condition of the property at the commencement of your tenancy. Generally, unless otherwise agreed to between the parties a tenant accepts the condition of the property “as is” at the commencement of the lease. The Landlord does not have any affirmative duty to replace items in the apartment unless it would rise to the level of a violation of the warranty of habitability ( it is very unlikely the carpets would rise to such a level).

      However, Your question brings up a good point, if a prospective tenant tours a unit which they wish to rent and there are certain conditions which are unacceptable it is very important to make an agreement with the landlord (in writing) that such conditions will be remedied with respect to the property prior to occupancy.

      Therefore, the law with respect to normal wear and tear does not give you a legal right to request replacement of the carpet. On the positive side, because the carpet is so old, it would probably be quite difficult for the landlord to argue that any additional wear and tear that you caused upon the carpet was above and beyond that of normal wear and tear and thus the landlord could in all likelihood not attempt to hold you responsible to replace the carpet if they chose to do so at the end of your tenancy.–Victor

  • Torsten Lund Snee

    I’ve been leasing an apartment in Fort Collins, Co for 2 years, and my lease expires at the end of the month. In my lease, there is a section that states:

    “All carpets must be commercially cleaned at the Tenants [sic] expense, such cleaning will be scheduled by the Landlord with theLandlords [sic] preferred Vendor’s [sic].”

    Which I interpret to mean that, even if I clean my apartment perfectly, and leave it in the same condition that I found it, my landlord will charge me for professional cleaning.

    This seems to be contrary to CRS 38 – 12 – 103, which I interpret to mean that the landlord can only compel me to pay for cleaning (or take it from my deposit) if the state of the apartment when I leave it exceeds “normal wear and tear”.

    In your interpretation, is it legal for Colorado landlords to charge for professional cleaning services even when the tenant left the property in the same condition he/she found it?

    • http://www.bradfordpublishing.com/ Melissa

      Tenant Torsten,

      Thank you for your query. First of all please note that this is general information regarding the law and is not intended to be specific legal advice relative to your situation. This is particularly true since I have not reviewed your lease.

      The law you to refer to CRS 38 – 12 – 103, deals with security deposits and return thereof at the end of the tenancy.It reads as follows:

      38-12-103. Return of security deposit.
      (1) A landlord shall, within one month after the termination of a lease or surrender and acceptance of the premises, whichever occurs last, return to the tenant the full security deposit deposited with the landlord by the tenant, unless the lease agreement specifies a longer period of time, but not to exceed sixty days. No security deposit shall be retained to cover normal wear and tear. In the event that actual cause exists for retaining any portion of the security deposit, the landlord shall provide the tenant with a written statement listing the exact reasons for the retention of any portion of the security deposit. When the statement is delivered, it shall be accompanied by payment of the difference between any sum deposited and the amount retained. The landlord is deemed to have complied with this section by mailing said statement and any payment required to the last known address of the tenant. Nothing in this section shall preclude the landlord from retaining the security deposit for nonpayment of rent, abandonment of the premises, or nonpayment of utility charges, repair work, or cleaning contracted for by the tenant.

      Please note the last sentence of the above quoted section which I have highlighted. The professional carpet cleaning agreed to in the lease and referred to in your query appears to be the type of “cleaning contracted for by the tenant” which is specifically permitted by the law to be deducted from the deposit in the event it is not paid by the tenant.

      I hope that this information is helpful.
      Victor M Grimm

  • Stephanie Kettner

    After living in a house for 2-1/2 years, my roommates and I were asked to leave the property so the owner and his family could resume living in it. The carpet was brand new (albeit terrible quality) upon our arrival, and was subject only to what I consider to be normal wear and tear. During our occupancy, the basement flooded once due to the water heater malfunctioning, there is one stain. We cleaned the carpets once in the middle of our occupancy and once before vacating, but the landlord is now demanding that we pay $3400 to replace the carpet, a gargantuan estimate for what is realistically a $1000 job. As I understand it, damages imply burns, tears, and rips, not stains or odors. Can someone confirm if it’s reasonable for the landlord to demand payment for replacement (and a possible 300% markup)?

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