The legal meaning of the term "ordinary wear and tear" is concise, however it is still a debated topic between a landlord and his tenant. In all states a landlord can require a security deposit, but the funds must be returned to the tenant at the end of the lease as long as the property is in its original condition, minus normal wear and tear.
Wear and Tear vs. Damages
Matting on a carpet is considered wear and tear however stains or burns would be damage. Small nails holes in the walls is wear and tear however large holes would be damage. Fading paint is wear and tear but large stains would be considered damage. Other things that are considered everyday wear and tear would be worn electrical switches, loose hinges on doors, frayed pull strings on blinds, lightly scuffed hardwood floors, worn linoleum, loose wallpaper, dirty window screens and faded curtains.
Stay On Top of Little Problems
One way you can avoid causing damages as a tenant is to stay on top of regular maintenance rather than leaving it to turn into damage. You don't have to fix these items yourself however notifying your landlord in a timely manner will enable them to fix it before the problem gets worse. Addressing the problem early can prevent wear and tear from turning into damages.
It is very important to do a walk through with your agent prior to moving in. Your agent can provide you with a form where you can note down any existing problems and make sure you take photo's of every visible problem even if it seems minor to you. Remember a minor problem today could turn into a major one tomorrow. You should also do another walkthrough with the landlord prior to moving out, this was you can have the opportunity to repair any problems before the landlord charges you for it. Again, take photos of everything of interest. The idea is to be able to prove that any changes to the home are due to wear and tear and that you have not damaged the property in any way.
Demand Your Rights
If, after moving out, the landlord withholds damages from your security deposit for items you believe to be nothing more than wear and tear, give him notice. Send him a letter by certified mail, asking him for your deposit and providing copies of your photos as proof that you did not damage the home