Can a landlord charge for nail holes?


Last updated 5/7/2024 at 10:02am

Dear Property Guy:

We recently moved out of an apartment and the management company charged us over $500 for holes in the walls. Which not only seems unfair, but totally unreasonable for the work that was done. We had a few pictures and a TV up on the wall. All of which I consider normal. How should this all work.

— Nailed in Sisters

Dear Nailed:

Here’s a dirty little secret about some, but not all, property management companies. Repairs are a profit center. There, I said it. Separate conversation.

You are asking the million-dollar question of every renter and property owner, “What is normal wear and tear?”

In this instance we have some guidance from HUD (Dept. of Housing Urban Development), and case law. In short, nails are normal wear and tear. Holes and gouges are not. As always there are grey areas here.

If you have 100 pictures up on an apartment wall, that is unreasonable, expect to charged for it. Also generally not considered normal wear is any installation using molly bolts, lag bolts, or drywall anchors.

Many leases specify what kind and size nails are OK. And many smart owners include a pack of 3M sticky mounts at the start of a lease.

The most common train wreck that I see here is TV mounts, which can leave huge holes and are usually installed incorrectly by tenants. For this reason, I have started to recommend that all owners include a nice TV with the unit. Or, at the very least, a property installed wall-mount that renters can use with their own TV.

— Mike

Dear Property Guy:

How are home maintenance items handled. It seems everything in a house needs a filter or a battery on the regular nowadays. Does this belong in the lease or how should I handle this?

— Maintained

Dear Maintained:

Yeah, just when you thought owning rental property was all about sitting on your couch, collecting passive income, reality hits.

While this can be covered in the lease, the reality (as is oftentimes the case) is different. The big one here is furnace or A/C filters, these need to be changed more like quarterly to prevent expensive damage to the system. Best practices call for smoke detector batteries to be changed every six months, even if they are hard wired. I generally don’t recommend refrigerators with filters or water filtration systems in a rental property.

So, here’s the deal: Don’t be cheap. Protect your investment. Be a cool landlord. Buy the filters. Buy the batteries. Make sure it happens. Put it on your calendar. Help the tenants change them if need be. This also gives you an opportunity to inspect the place for damage.

— Mike

Mike Zoormajian is principal at WetDog Properties in Sisters. Providing local real estate, property management and investor services. Questions and comments to: [email protected]. Free legal advice is worth what you pay for it. Consult a real attorney before doing anything crazy.


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