Normal wear and tear

Hopefully you’re reading this post just because you’re interested, not because your landlord told you that you damaged your flat beyond normal wear and tear and now you’re trying to find out whether they’re right. Anyway, I hope it will be helpful!

Normal wear and tear – what is it?

According to art. 675 § 1 of civil code a tenant is obliged to leave property in the same condition as when they took occupancy, however, they should not be held responsible for normal wear and tear which is a result of proper use of (items in) the apartment. In other words, if you use the furniture, household equipment and the apartment in general in a proper way and without causing any major damage, this is within the normal wear and tear. Open to interpretation, right? Let me give you a few examples to understand it better.

  • Fading paint and dusty walls are normal wear and tear and unless stated otherwise in the agreement you don’t have to repaint them. But if they are “after-party” kind of dirty, with stains or handprints, it’s beyond normal use. It’s ok to leave a few nail holes or cracks in the wall, it’s not ok to leave large holes.
  • Mild fractures on furniture and change in colour which is a result of the passing time are normal wear and tear. Broken chair leg isn’t.
  • Any sign of items being in regular daily use is normal wear and tear. But for example if you used an oven the whole year long, you never cleaned it and left it all greasy – your landlord may make you pay for the professional cleaning. A carpet worn by ordinary use is ok. Stained carpet is not.
  • Loose hinges on doors or cupboards are ok. Doors ripped off hinges are not. If you broke a cabinet door by accidently hitting it with something heavy – be prepared to pay.
  • If you break a mirror or glass door in shower, or you leave the shower covered in sediment and scale – this is beyond normal wear and tear. Whenever you cause damage you should make sure you repair it.
  • No one really expects you to float around the house but cigarette burns on the couch are not normal wear and tear either.

It’s not possible to put on a scale what is still within and what is already beyond normal wear and tear. Very often a landlord and a tenant will not see eye to eye on this topic and then it might end up in court. How not to let this happen?

Protect yourself

Obviously it is way better to never let that situation happen, right? Here are some ideas that will help you make sure you don’t end up in a situation where you have to end your relationship with your landlord with a feeling of disgust (on both sides).

  • Before you move in or on the day one prepare an inventory with your landlord. This is to confirm the state of the apartment on the day you move in. To make things even easier take a camera with you and take an awful lot of pictures. One, it will help you remember which stuff is yours, what was there when you moved in or what is missing. Two, make sure you report every single damage, the tiniest blemish you see. This inventory should be signed by both you and the landlord and attached to your agreement. 
  • When you finally move in try to be… clean. After you’ve seen this stain a thousand times you get used to it so much you can’t even notice it anymore. You can be sure though that your landlord will see it the first moment they walk into a room. Clean your place regularly and towards the end of your lease maybe hire a professional to do it for you?
  • Again, know your rights and obligations. Should anything break from a normal wear or tear it is your landlord who should take care of it. If they don’t you might step in by fixing it yourself, but then know better to document what you’ve done (pictures before and after, possible invoices). In case the damage is your fault, get it fixed as soon as possible, don’t wait for moving out. Whatever happens, let your landlord know a damage took place and it’s getting fixed. This will create trust 🙂

Any interesting stories of normal wear-or-tear related arguments with your landlord?


Basia Kubicka

Runs her own real estate agency Krakow Apartments. Passionate about helping people in all aspects of finding a perfect property, to buy or to rent. Occasional rope walker and rock climber. Follow Basia on Facebook.

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