Fair wear and tear guide for landlords
Wear and tear must always be differentiated from wilful or negligent damage caused by the tenant to decide what level of costs can be proposed at the end of a tenancy.
Fair wear and tear is reasonable use of the premises by the tenant and the ordinary operation of natural forces. Below guide will give an understanding of the term fair wear and tear from a landlords perspective.
What is normal wear and tear in a rental property
A tenants responsibility is to take proper care of the place he/she is renting. A tenant must do the little jobs at the place which a reasonable tenant would do. In addition, he must not damage the property wilfully or negligently; and he must ensure his family and guests do not damage the property and if they do, the tenant must repair it.
If the property falls into disrepair through fair wear and tear or lapse of time, or for any reason not caused by him, the tenant is not liable to repair it.
What is the difference between wear and tear and tenant damage
The rule is that fair wear and tear refers only to the condition and not the cleanliness of a property or item. The property must be left cleaned to the same standard at the end of the tenancy as it was at the beginning.
In essence, fair wear and tear is the deterioration of an item or area due to its age and that which would be reasonably expected over the course of a tenancy, that is not due to the tenant’s actions.
Deterioration i.e scuff marks, scratches and wear to flooring is unavoidable in all properties. You must consider whether the deterioration is reasonable, or excessive, for the number of people and whether there are any pets living in the property. It is necessary to question if any deterioration may have happened naturally and is it considered reasonable?
Who your tenants were and how many lived in the property
Different tenants will live differently in your property. Understanding the type of tenant you rent to will help you manage your own expectations on how they may leave the property at the end of the tenancy. You may consider harder wearing or economical carpeting and furniture. If you allow tenants to have pets then you might consider hard flooring.
Avoidable damage such as a child’s scribbles on the wall or any ripped furniture, that were not there at the start, is damage and not wear and tear and therefore will be a cost that the tenant is responsible for.
Duration of tenancy and the age, expected life and quality of items and areas
It makes sense that the longer the tenancy the more natural wear and tear will occur and this fact must be factored into any calculations. Tenants are not responsible for normal wear and tear of any part of the property which was there before their tenancy started or during the time they lived there.
When assessing wear and tear, consider the age of the areas or items. What condition were they in to start with, was the item new at the start of the tenancy? The life expectancy of an area or item vary greatly depending on its quality and the amount of use it gets. High traffic areas such as carpets between two well used rooms will deteriorate more quickly than carpeting in other areas. The deterioration of décor and carpets for instances should be allowing five years for their lifespan in a tenanted property, and three years for student tenancies.
Demonstrating the quality and age of an item would need to be shown through records, such as an invoice or receipt, or a contractor’s report. This would be noted on the inventory at check-in before the tenant moves in.
Avoiding betterment and considering apportionment
As a landlord you are not legally entitled to have old items replaced with new ones at the tenant’s expense which would then leave you better off than you would have been had the damage not happened. This practice is called ‘betterment’.
Instead of benefitting from betterment the landlord must:
- Take into account fair wear and tear
- Carry out the most appropriate remedy, whether replacement or repair
- Not end up financially nor materially better off having observed (1) and (2)
How to keep wear and tear to a minimum
- Have photographic and video evidence
Wear and tear is a topic that is open to interpretation and is decided on a case-by-case basis. By giving your tenants good advice, managing the relationship and everyone’s expectations throughout, disputes can be reduced.