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What is the difference between normal wear and tear and damage?

Landlords in Ontario are expected to maintain rental units based on a strict standard of care. These standards are in place both while a tenant is under lease and between renters. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for a landlord to face significant or even excessive damage after a renter has moved out.

Most lease agreements require that a tenant maintains a standard of care and cleanliness throughout their stay. Normal wear and tear is to be expected. Essentially, normal wear and tear is what would be caused naturally through common everyday use. Scrapes on a hardwood floor, a leaky bathroom faucet or carpet discoloration would likely have happened no matter how careful a tenant was over the course of a year or more. Additionally, furniture, appliances or doorframes will likely show some bumps and bruises.

When normal wear and tear crosses the threshold into damage, however, landlords will likely notice a significant difference. Damage is generally defined as “unnatural” and would not seem consistent with everyday use. Damage can either be caused intentionally or through neglect. Holes in walls, for example, or pet-stained carpet can be considered damage.

In these situations, the landlord will likely deduct the cost of repairs or replacements from the deposit. The landlord will be tasked with proving that the damage wasn’t there when the tenant initially moved in. It is not uncommon for heated disputes to emerge around these topics. The burden of proof might originally lie with the landlord to prove the tenant damaged the property. It would then shift to the tenant to prove that either the property was damaged prior to the lease agreement or that what the landlord considers damage is actually due to normal wear and tear.

It is wise to seek the guidance of an experienced real estate lawyer to provide the answers and representation you need from start to finish in your landlord tenant dispute.

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