Accidental, Malicious, Deliberate damage or Wear & Tear – What is the difference?


A common query our Property Managers often hear from Landlords and Tenants is…

“What is accidental damage and how is this different to malicious damage, deliberate damage and/or wear and tear?”

From an insurance perspective, it is defined as per below:

Accidental Damage: An unexpected or sudden loss. This is generally something that is an accident and not planned or intentional. Examples include spills on carpet and damage to furniture.

Malicious Damage: Damage which was motivated by spite, malice or vindictiveness with the intention of causing damage. Examples include holes kicked/punched in walls and doors, graffiti and doors knocked off their hinges. A police report is required for malicious damage claims.

Deliberate Damage: An act that will alter the current state of an item, however, the act is carried out without any spite, malice or vindictiveness. An example is putting picture hooks into walls without
permission. This is not a vindictive act, it is, however, a deliberate action but generally with the intent of making the property more homely.


Wear and Tear: Damage which occurs naturally and inevitably simply because people reside in the property. Wear and tear occurs just as much in an owner-occupied property as it does in a rental
property and may include scuff marks on walls, carpet in walkways appearing worn, small marks on lino etc.


Another area of contention sometimes can be, poor housekeeping. This is where a tenant maintains a property in a poor condition but where no damage has occurred. This can include tenants who do not clean up after themselves, who don’t air their house, who don’t regularly clean areas such as carpets, ovens and bathrooms etc.

Wear and tear and poor housekeeping are not generally covered by an insurance policy, even where a property may be brand new prior to being occupied by tenants. As a Property Manager, you can monitor this during routine inspections and outline to the tenants when they sign the Lease what the expectations of cleanliness, maintaining the property etc are. Ensure that they are aware that any damages or maintenance is reported to your office immediately and that these are rectified in a timely manner.

Landlords should expect fair wear and tear to their property, as would happen in any home that is being lived in.

Sources used:


4 Responses to “Accidental, Malicious, Deliberate damage or Wear & Tear – What is the difference?”

  • Cristi Springer says:

    Hi. My partner and I vacated a property over two weeks ago. there was some damage to the walls which we were happy to pay for however after two weeks we finally hear back from the agent stated that the landlord has had to rip the carpets up in two rooms as they smelt (we had them professionally cleaned) the carpets were old, stained and had cigarette burns when we moved in. Also the owner is saying there is scratches throughout the wooden floor in the kitchen. they are claiming $1000.00 from us for the flooring and the carpets. Where do we stand on this?

    • Vanessa Pereira says:

      Hi Cristi,
      In our opinion, two weeks is a long time between you giving vacant possession and the agent claiming that the carpets had to be ripped up. What were the circumstances around the delay?
      What was the age of the carpet? This determines how much you would be liable for carpet damage.
      What kind of scratches are on the wooden floors?

  • Avery Hale says:

    Hello. I live in North Dakota where the winters are very harsh. However, I have never in my life been informed to keep my heat on or above a certain temperature at all times. I left town and as far as I remembered the heat was on, but I’m not for certain because the insulation is so bad in my condo that there have been times when I have turned it completely off. A few days after Christmas, I had been told by my landlord’s daughter that a pipe had burst in my kitchen and caused about $20,000 worth of damages due to the heat being off. The owner called me himself and told me that his insurance covers the damage but that he’s holding me responsible for his $5,000 deductible. He also made a huge deal about me not having renters insurance, whereas the lease mandates that “Renter will acquire renter’s insurance on their personal belongings.” It also says that any damages will be taken out of the initial deposit, but it doesn’t state anything about if the costs were more than the deposit. Can they take my deposit for this even though it was covered under his insurance claim? He says keeping the heat on & above a certain temperature is “common sense”, yet I’ve heard of leases actually having to state for the tenant to do so. Even still, he says the fire department took a picture of the thermostat when they responded to the alarm. Is that enough to prove I am at fault? I’m also skeptical at the fact that my unit wasn’t the only one where a pipe had burst, and one that I do know of isn’t connected to my row of condos. He claims that in the lease it states that I will not expose the interior to elements, when it states that natural wear and tear is not “Water damage caused by overflow of kitchen/bathroom sinks, bathtub, wash machine or by failure to close windows or doors during inclement weather, thereby exposing interior of apartment to elements”. He also threatened that if I would rather not pay his deductible, he could have the insurance company come after me for the entire $20,000. Wouldn’t valid proof be necessary for that? Again, is a photo of the thermostat enough proof? His claims are not thorough and it sounds like a scare tactic. What could I actually be held liable for?

    • Bec Reid says:

      Hi Avery, thanks for your comments and questions. We can’t help you as you are in the USA – we are sorry! See if there is a tenant advocate in your area or state and see if they can give some advice to you. Alternatively, you could ask another property management company in your area and see if they can share their opinion. All the best, Bec

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