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Lucy, Esq.
Lucy, Esq., Attorney
Category: Landlord-Tenant
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Experience:  Attorney
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I own several apartments in Dc which I regularly rent with a

Customer Question

I own several apartments in Washington Dc which I regularly rent with a one year lease.When the tenants move in the apartments are always handed over in prestine conditions with no dammages, scratches, etc,etc. Instead when tthe apartments are returned to me often I find deep holes on the walls made by the tenants to hang pictures; etc;etc. Here the problems start, in fact in order to plaster the holes I need to repaint the walls and this is expensive as it is done by a professional contractor. When then I deduct the cost of the repairs from the deposits, many tenants claim that the holes on the walls must be considered as normal wear and tear so they should not be charged for their repairs. Thus continous and endless arguments with the tenants about this issue.Therefore in order to establish once and for all who is right and who is wrong I would like to know what the DC jurisprudence says about this issue.
Submitted: 11 months ago.
Category: Landlord-Tenant
Expert:  Lucy, Esq. replied 11 months ago.

Hi,

I'm Lucy, and I'd be happy to answer your questions today.

Most cases regarding the return of a security deposit (and what constitutes "wear and tear") are filed in Small Claims Court and are not appealed, which means that the cases typically don't find their way into the case law books. The books primarily discuss cases heard in the Supreme Court or the Court of Appeals. Even District Court cases wouldn't usually show up. That makes it extremely difficult to point to specific case law unless you're willing to pay someone to spend a few hours searching at their normal hourly rate.

Putting a few nail holes in the wall to hang pictures is ordinary wear and tear and therefore is not something that the tenant is required to pay for. Gaping holes would be considered damaged, or if a wall were so covered with holes that it was all you could see (like when someone uses a wall to hang dozens of pictures in a collage or something). Even in that scenario, the landlord would have to pro-rate the cost of repainting, depending on how long the tenant occupied the apartment. Paint degrades over time, and typically needs to be redone every 3-4 years. So, a landlord would never be entitled to charge the tenant for the full cost of repainting if they stayed a year. At most, you'd get 2/3 or 3/4, depending on the quality of the original paint. If a tenant were to sue over security deductions for paint and nail holes, they would get at least part of what they were charged refunded.

I have managed to find a couple of articles for you that support this response. I hope you find them helpful:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/realestate/whats-the-damage/2012/06/18/gJQAq2i8lV_story.html

https://www.washingtonpost.com/express/wp/2014/03/07/ask-the-advocate-normal-wear-and-tear/

https://gordonjamesrealty.com/resource/normal-wear-and-tear-or-damage/

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