As a landlord, it’s important to remain realistic and understand that you’re very unlikely to get your property back in exactly the condition you rented it out in. Your brand new, pristine white carpets probably won’t be the same shade of white a year or two down the line. You must expect fair wear and tear, at least.
Fair wear and tear has been a grey area for landlords and letting agents because each case is different. But what exactly is it? Well, there’s no legal definition. It’s subjective, which can make it tricky to navigate.
Essentially, fair wear and tear is the amount of damage that can be reasonably expected throughout a tenancy. This could be worn and threadbare carpets, faded curtains, and minor scuffs and scrapes on the wall. It’s almost unavoidable damage caused by aging and normal everyday use. This damage cannot be rectified using your tenant’s deposit.
What isn’t fair wear and tear?
If fair wear and tear can be defined as reasonable damage through everyday use, damage caused by a tenant is often more substantial, committed on purpose, by accident, or through neglect that affects the normal function or usefulness of the property, or something within it that you provided, such as an oven or a piece of furniture.
This could include a damaged toilet seat, a smashed window or mirror, holes in the wall, and stained carpets. In these instances, it’s up to your tenant to rectify the issue. Alternatively, you can use money from their deposit at the end of the tenancy to fix it. Remember to make sure that you are appropriately covered with our landlords content insurance, protecting you against tenant damage.
It’s also important to note that you must take into account the type of tenants renting your property, and assess damage or fair wear and tear accordingly. Realistically, you are likely to see less wear and tear from a professional couple than you would with a family or students. You need to account for this when assessing the condition of your property.
Keep a detailed inventory
What’s deemed as ‘fair wear and tear’ versus damage caused by the tenant can be up for debate. The last thing you want is to end up in a dispute over it. It’s difficult to measure, so for this reason, you should always put together a detailed inventory of the property at the start of a tenancy, complete with photographs that show all furniture and furnishings in its current state. Do the same for paintwork, walls, and flooring. This way, you can check back at the end of the tenancy and decipher whether something is damaged by fair wear and tear, or something more.
So, how do you put together a detailed inventory? Before a new tenant moves in, note down everything that has been provided within the property. Take photos (preferably date-stamped) that clearly show the condition of the property and the items within it. You could also include purchase receipts and reports and statements from professional surveyors or specialist tradesmen, if applicable. Before your tenants move in, go through the inventory with them in person. Both you and the tenants should sign the inventory to confirm that you are both happy with it.
When the tenants move out, go through the inventory with them again to document and assess any changes to the condition of the property, taking photos as evidence. If you spot anything that you believe should be classed as tenant damage rather than fair wear and tear, explain why you will be taking deductions from the deposit. This gives your tenant the chance to agree, or dispute this. It’s important that this process takes place in person if possible, as tenants are more likely to dispute claims that they aren’t aware of.
Also, ensure that you are carrying out your regular property inspections throughout the tenancy to keep an eye on the property’s general condition. This will allow you to get a handle on the rate of wear, and assess whether something is unreasonably damaged or has just worn out through fair use. You can update your inventory as you go to document this.
What if my tenant disputes the damage?
If you have correctly documented the condition of your property before, during, and after the tenancy, you should be able to successfully claim the amount from your tenant’s deposit. Always tackle the issue with your tenant first, but if you can’t come to an agreement, then you will need to refer the dispute for arbitration by informing the deposit scheme administrators.
You will need to provide the arbitrator with the tenancy agreement and inventory, a statement of your reasons for making the claim, proof of the damage, evidence that the amount of money you wish to deduct from the deposit is reasonable, and any other supporting evidence, such as a statement from a building surveyor.
Use your common sense when preparing your property for tenants. Decorate accordingly, opting for hard, durable floors where possible over carpets, and installing hardy fixtures and fittings that will withstand the test of time and potentially turbulent tenants. Be a good landlord and ensure that your tenant respects you enough to take care of the property, and be honest about any accidental damage. Be realistic about your expectations and don’t forget to prepare that all-important inventory.