How to Valuate Tenant Caused Damages

Tenant Caused Damages
Dog Damaged Chair

It’s inevitable: tenants will cause damage to the rental property. Even good tenants may cause some damage to the property. Landlords must deal with valuating those damages for purposes of making a claim on the security deposit or filing a lawsuit for damage. One of the biggest misunderstandings landlords have is valuating damages caused by the tenant. Florida law controls damages are valued. Here are a few rules that landlords must follow. 

Depreciation and Valuation of Tenant Caused Damages

Landlords are not permitted to charge the tenant full replacement value for an item that has depreciated in value. The court will depreciate the depreciated item that is damaged, and the tenant would owe that depreciated value of the damaged item, not full replacement value. 

Example 1

For example, assume the tenant burns the carpet in the living room; and the carpet is 10 years old. The court will not order the tenant to pay replacement value of the 10-year-old carpet; but will order the tenant to pay for the depreciated value of the damaged carpet. 

Example 2

For another example, if the tenant damages a 5-year-old microwave beyond repair, the tenant is responsible to replace a 5-year-old microwave of similar like and kind, not to buy a new microwave at full replacement value. 

In these situations, the landlord needs to determine, what is the full replacement value of that carpet; what is the “useful life” of the carpet; how old is the carpet that was damaged; and what was the condition of the carpet when the tenant moved in? From there, the landlord can calculate the depreciated value, but in some cases, the landlord may need to consult with a professional in the carpet industry to get a professional opinion of what the depreciated value of the carpet is.

If there is a damaged item that needs to be replaced, landlords must depreciate the value of the item, but a fair market labor charge can be claimed for having to replace the item. Be careful not to include labor unrelated to the replacement of the damaged item. For example, if the tenant damaged, say, just the living room, but the landlord replaced all the carpet in the home, the landlord cannot charge the tenant for the labor of replacing all the carpet, but only the portion of the carpet that the tenant damaged.

Distinguishing Normal Wear and Tear from Damages

There is a gray area of law regarding what constitutes “normal wear and tear”. There can be a fine line between “normal wear and tear” and damages. In general, courts do not consider normal cleaning costs to be “beyond normal wear and tear”, but the lease agreement defines the tenant’s obligations regarding damages, including normal wear and tear.

In general, if there is not enough proof that the tenant intentionally or negligently caused damages, the court may find that the damage that occurred was due to normal wear and tear, and thus will not hold the tenant liable. Where evidence cannot establish beyond a preponderance of the evidence that the matter in question is beyond “normal wear and tear”, it is advisable not to make a claim for that item. 

Economic Waste

There is a legal principle about “economic waste”. That is, if the court has a choice of ordering the tenant to pay the landlord a lesser or greater amount to make the landlord whole, the court will choose the lesser amount. In other words, the court will only order the amount that will make the landlord whole and will not allow the landlord to have a “windfall”. 


For example, if the tenant damages the front door, and it can be repaired by applying new paint, the court will not order the tenant to pay for a whole new door. The simple rule is, whatever the least amount of money it takes to make the landlord “whole”, that is the amount that should be claimed.

Owner’s Options

Many times, the damages exceed the security deposit. If the damages caused by the tenant exceed the security deposit, landlords have the following options to seek remedy:

  1. file a lawsuit yourself for damages;
  2. hire an attorney to file a lawsuit for damages; or
  3. hire a collection company to collect for monies owed under the lease agreement.

There is no guarantee of success on any of these options. If the tenant does not have enough income, does not own sufficient assets, or files bankruptcy, landlords may not be able to collect, and in those situations, the tenant is “judgment proof”. Consult with an attorney to get further advice on the best approach to collect on the value of damages.

Valuating tenant-caused damages in Florida requires landlords to follow specific rules, including accounting for depreciation, distinguishing between normal wear and tear and actual damages, and understanding the principle of economic waste. Properly assessing and claiming these damages ensures fairness and compliance with Florida law. If damages exceed the security deposit, landlords have various legal avenues to seek compensation, though success may vary depending on the tenant’s financial situation. Consulting with a professional or attorney can help landlords navigate these complexities and effectively manage tenant-related property damage claims.

Property Management Law Solutions, LLC is a Florida law firm that specializes in landlord-tenant law and is a landlord-only law firm. We provide statewide services including evictions, consultation plans, education and training, membership plans, lease agreement plans and more. If you are a landlord or property manager, contact us today or subscribe to one of our online membership plans.