What is the definition of ‘fair wear and tear?
How long have your tenants lived in your rental property? A month? A year? Can you remember what condition everything was in before you let it out?
During your tenancy, it is anticipated that there will be some reasonable wear and tear. But what is typical wear and tear from everyday living, and what could be seen as something that does not fall into this category?
Knowing the difference can be essential when determining if and what deductions you can make from the tenant’s deposit money. Here, we explain why that is and what’s covered.
“Fair wear and tear” in residential property letting refers to the expected deterioration of a property or its contents over time due to normal use, without any fault or negligence on the part of the tenant.
It is a common term used in rental agreements to differentiate between damages caused by the tenant’s actions and those resulting from ordinary wear and tear.
Examples of fair wear and tear may include minor scuffs or marks on walls and floors, fading of carpets, and general wear on appliances and furnishings that would reasonably occur with regular use.
In contrast, damages caused by neglect, misuse, or intentional actions by the tenant, such as holes in walls, broken windows, or stains on carpets, would not be considered fair wear and tear and may be subject to repair or replacement costs.
Determining what constitutes fair wear and tear versus tenant damage can sometimes be subjective and depend on factors such as the age and condition of the property or items, the length of the tenancy, and the type of usage.
Why do I need to know about fair wear and tear?
It is essential that, as a landlord, you understand the distinction between fair wear and tear and damage. This is because you cannot charge your tenant or deduct from the tenant’s deposit money if it is something that’s happened to the property due to everyday use.
However, it is not always a straightforward, clear-cut issue. There are instances when damage to the property can occur as a result of prolonged wear and tear.
In such cases, the damage caused could be considered the tenant’s fault for not raising the issue with the landlord before the damage occurred, and this could mean that the tenant is charged for the repairs.
So, with this in mind, it is worth ensuring both parties know what they need to look out for. So put yourself in a good position as a landlord by clearly defining what can be classed as typical fair wear and tear.
What do normal wear and tear look like?
The main point to remember is that fair wear and tear refers to the damage you expect to see in a property over time. This element of expectation is essential, as it helps to define what’s natural wear and tear and what is either accidental or deliberate damage.
Things that fall into the normal wear and tear category include worn carpets, scuffed floors, chipped paint and cracks in the plaster. These changes happen due to everyday life and can occur in all types of property over time – crucially, these are unavoidable.
Knowing what fair wear and tear are in your rental property, you can be ready with the facts should your tenant contest this when they come to move out.
Can you make deductions for wear and tear?
You might see damage to your property and think it results from neglect or deliberate abuse. However, if you can prove that it is actual damage rather than gradual wear and tear, you can deduct it from the tenant’s deposit money to cover the cost of repair and replacements when they move out.
One of the main ways they can prove that damage has been caused is through dated photographs. It is worth taking and dating your pictures when you first let the property to ensure your account of how things looked when you let the property with your tenant.
Alternatively, you can speak to your tenant about creating a photographic inventory that you both agree upon (and sign and date together). Read on to find out why this is important.
What is classed as damage and not fair wear and tear?
As with understanding what wear and tear look like, you must know what your tenant or letting agent will attribute to damage.
Damage can be one of many things, whether accidental, deliberate or neglected. Broken windows and locks, holes in the walls, carpet burn marks and torn curtains and carpets are all considered damage.
Also, if your tenant means well by painting over a scuff on the wall, but the colour does not match, or they have lost the house keys, and you had to replace them, these can be added to the ‘damaged property list.
This is why it is good to know what a landlord can charge a tenant before the tenant moves out so they can address the issue.
What happens if they prove damage?
Tenants can lose money from their deposit if they move out without fixing the damage to your rental property. They could also take legal action in extreme cases. For example, a landlord might want to evict the tenant if there is severe damage to the property during a tenant’s tenancy.
How do you prove wear and tear?
But what if you, the tenant, have not damaged the property? How will they prove it is down to everyday life rather than something more?
Proving who caused the damage
When you first let a property, an inventory must be drawn up. This is to prove whether the damage was there when you first let the house or the previous tenant caused it, or whether it happened during the current tenancy.
No matter how long a tenant lives somewhere, it is impossible to remember every chip in the paintwork and scuff on every carpet. This is why you must list the condition of every part of your rental property as soon as you let it out.
If your tenant does pick up on any defects immediately upon taking possession of the property, this is when you may want to swap the fixtures and fittings or leave them as they are.
Landlords should ensure their property before letting should be fit for letting, which means it is in good repair.
If possible, take photographs too. This will help you to document and detail every part of the rental house and pinpoint signs of wear and tear before you let the property out.
Therefore, if there is a dispute later and you wish to claim damage to the property when the tenant moves out. You can refer to the inventory to check whether this had been noted ahead of the tenancy.
Proving wear and tear during a tenancy
A tenant’s deposit is protected by a scheme, meaning a landlord cannot deduct for the expected wear and tear mentioned earlier. It also means that specific criteria must be met for something to be classified as damage over fair wear and tear.
So how can you prove wear and tear during your tenancy? What are the instances where you can claim damage? A tenant clearly understanding what is considered wear and tear and what could be considered damage can be useful when proving the state of the property when they move out.
Examples of wear and tear would be:
– Worn out keys and door locks- Fading furniture and curtains- Worn and dirty carpets and indents where furniture has previously sat- Loose hinges- Cracked paint- Dirty windows- Loose tap handle
Examples of damage would be:
– Missing keys and broken locks – Tears in curtains or missing curtains- Ripped, stained or burnt carpets- Badly painted surfaces- Broken taps- Broken windows
What if there’s, is a dispute with the tenant?
If your tenant disagrees with a landlord about any damage claims, the deposit scheme holding your deposit is likely to include a dispute resolution service. Follow their guidance on how to resolve the issue best.
However, if, for example, the inventory lists that the tap was loose at the beginning of a tenancy and broken by the time your tenant moves out, a landlord has a case of damage rather than reasonable wear and tear.
Importance of a good inventory report – Protecting yourself
As well as having an inventory, as a tenant, you can protect yourself against deposit deductions by considering Tenants Liability Insurance. This is another way to get some peace of mind should you accidentally damage your landlord’s items while you live in your rental.
It is unrealistic and unreasonable for a landlord to expect a tenant to be able to leave the property exactly as it was when they moved in. However, ensure both parties have a clear idea of how things look when you move in and know the difference between wear and tear and damage.
For example, a tenant can move out of a property, knowing whether or not any deductions to their deposit are reasonable and fair.
If you are a member of the British Landlords Association, you can download a free inventory here.
Common damage in residential property rentals
Landlords and estate agents commonly come across damage to residential lettings, and these are:
- Broken toilet seat
- Scuff marks
- Burn Marks
- Marks on Walls
- Stains on carpets
- Water Damage
- Damage to carpets
- Wine stains
- Dents in walls
Some damage may look like intentional damage but may have been caused by ordinary operation or natural forces, not intentional damage.
Damages considered excess of reasonable wear and tear would likely include holes in walls and doors, burn marks, excessive staining to carpets, missing fixtures, nicotine damage if smoking was expressly prohibited, torn curtains, and broken glass in windows.
For example, worn carpets, faded curtains and small scuffs and scrapes on the walls are all things that are very difficult, if not impossible,
This is especially important for tenancies that have run for a more extended period of time, e.g. five years.
The security deposit returns to the tenant may be affected when considering the damage and wear and tear.
The law allows a landlord to deduct portions of the security deposit to cover the cost of damages caused by a tenant.
However, a landlord cannot deduct from the security deposit to repair everyday wear and tear or the expected property depreciation.
How To Talk To Your Tenant About Property Damage Security Deposit Disputes Wear And Tear Vs Damage: Get It Right!
However, charging the tenant the full replacement cost is unjust, so you must apportion the cost to the tenant.
A The replacement cost of a similar carpet is £500 B Age of the carpet is two years C The expected lifespan of the carpet is ten years D The remaining lifespan of the carpet (C – B) 8 years E Annual depreciation (A ÷ C) £50 per year F The apportioned cost to the tenant (D x E) £400 The expected lifespan of the carpet should reflect the conditions outlined under fair wear and tear, such as the number and type of occupants.
What determines fair wear and tear vs tenant damage?
Though there are no precise rules on fair wear and tear, the House of Lords defines the term as the “reasonable use of the premises by the tenant and the ordinary operation of natural forces”. Normal wear and tear refer to gradual damage you would expect to see in a property over time.
The 10% wear and tear allowance covers things like movable furniture or furnishings, such as beds or sofas, televisions, fridges and freezers, carpets and floor-coverings, curtains, linen, crockery or cutlery, beds and other furniture.
It is important to remember that an adjudicator or Tribunal are unlikely to award the price of a new sofa when the one damaged was 9 years old and had seen considerable use.
An average of 30% of all tenancies end with deposit deductions, of which 13% lose all their deposit money.
20% of all tenants who have lost a part or the entirety of their deposit feel the deduction has been unfair.
FAQ Wear & Tear
Here are some frequently asked questions about fair wear and tear in residential property letting:
What is considered fair wear and tear?
Fair wear and tear refer to the expected deterioration of a property or its contents over time due to normal use without any fault or negligence on the part of the tenant.
Examples of fair wear and tear include minor scuffs or marks on walls and floors, fading of carpets, and general wear on appliances and furnishings that would reasonably occur with regular use.
Who determines what is fair wear and tear?
Determining what is considered fair wear and tear versus tenant damage can sometimes be subjective and depend on factors such as the age and condition of the property or items, the length of the tenancy, and the type of usage. It is usually up to the landlord or property manager to make this determination.
Do tenants have to pay for fair wear and tear?
Tenants are generally not responsible for paying for fair wear and tear as it is considered a normal part of renting a property. However, if damages go beyond fair wear and tear caused by the tenant’s actions or negligence, the tenant may be held responsible for repair or replacement costs.
How can landlords protect themselves from damages beyond fair wear and tear?
Landlords can protect themselves by conducting regular inspections of the property, keeping detailed records and photos of the property’s condition before and after the tenancy, and including a clause in the rental agreement specifying the tenant’s responsibility for damages beyond fair wear and tear.
Can landlords charge a security deposit for fair wear and tear?
Landlords can charge a security deposit to cover damages caused by the tenant beyond fair wear and tear. However, the amount of the security deposit must be reasonable and in compliance with local laws and regulations.
At the end of the tenancy, any deductions made from the security deposit must be documented and provided to the tenant.
The British Landlords Association is a national landlords association for residential & commercial landlords. Join us today; membership for the year is only £69,95!
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