Landlord Advice

What Is Fair Wear and Tear – An Implied and Accepted Principle

We often hear the term of fair wear and tear batted around the rental property sector, but many tenants and even landlords struggle with the concept. For good reason too, as it can be incredibly difficult to tell the difference between negligence and natural damage over time.

Because of the difficulty in figuring out what constitutes fair wear and tear, it has become one of the leading causes of landlord and tenant disputes. So, before becoming a landlord, or renting out a new property, it’s a good idea to get familiar with the term. 

If you: 

  • need to know what fair wear and tear is;
  • what constitutes fair wear and tear;
  • find the best ways in assessing fair wear;

Then stick with us!

What’s fair wear and tear?

Fair wear and tear is a term that dates back to the 1950s and has been repeatedly referred to in many court of appeal cases since then. It refers to the deterioration of items or areas in a rental property through normal use.

In accordance with the tenancy agreement, it is a landlord’s responsibility to maintain and repair any instances of normal wear. Though it is rarely a clear-cut issue. The difficulty for many tenants and landlords is recognising what constitutes normal wear, though have no fear, we’ll go into further detail below.

What does fair wear and tear look like?

Normal wear and tear come in a number of different forms. Worn carpets, wobbly doorknobs, cracked plaster, peeling wallpaper can all be examples. Even keys getting stuck in a lock can be a sign if the locks are dated. Generally, we expect to see the quality and functionality of some items and areas to deteriorate over time, especially with heavy use, and this shouldn’t come at the cost of your tenants. This is especially true if your rental property has been in use for a prolonged period of time without any refurbishment. 

Examples of wear and tear

  • Chipped or peeling plaster
  • Worn and chipped countertops 
  • Worn carpets and minor scuff marks
  • Faded curtains
  • Loose taps and other bathroom and kitchen fittings
  • Thinned linoleum
  • Warping of wood floors
  • Cracked paint
  • Loose wallpaper
  • Dirty windows
  • Worn down keys
  • Oil marks in the garage

Normal use and negligence 

That being said, claims of fair wear and tear shouldn’t be taken at face value. You should always investigate and ask yourself three crucial questions: 

  • Would it be reasonable to assume the damage was caused by normal use?  Depending on the item or area under question, this can be a difficult question to answer and is often the subject of contention. For instance, wallpaper may be scarpered and peeling, which could reasonably be attributed to wear and tear. However, if your tenant has a pet that could have caused that damage, your tenant might be liable to repair the damages. 
  • Did the tenant notify you in a timely manner?  When tenants first start noticing something, which might later become a problem, they should always notify you as soon as possible. If an item begins to deteriorate and becomes worse over time to the point where it breaks, your tenant might be responsible for repairing it.
  • What is the most appropriate remedy? Namely, is the item in a condition to either be repaired or replaced. For instance, a stain on a carpet will be easily cleaned and repaired, whereas large tears and scuffs might result in the carpet having to be replaced. In both cases, unless your tenant has acted negligently, costs should be shared between yourself and the tenant. A reasonable price should be agreed upon between yourself and the tenant.

Betterment of the property

It’s important to note that you shouldn’t expect a tenant to pay for an item that will increase the quality and rental value of your property. Basically, this means that you shouldn’t expect a tenant to pay for or share the cost of something that will leave you financially and materially better off. As an example, let’s say you have a faulty chrome tap and decide to replace it. You shouldn’t replace them with more expensive brass taps and expect your tenant to share the costs. 

Any replacements that improve the property, or improve the rental asking price, should come out of the landlord’s pocket. 

The expected life of an item or area

In a rental property, we usually put the expected ‘life’ of an item or area around the five-year mark. Counters and other fixtures around the property are determined on a case-by-case basis. For instance, you will have to look at how long a tenancy lasts and how much your tenants are in the property daily. 

Because of the Coronavirus pandemic, we’ve seen an increasing rate of remote workers who spend the majority of their time at home. That would mean that, in a rented property, we’d expect to see slightly more wear and tear than someone who works a 40 hour week in the office. This is definitely something you should consider in cases of fair wear and tear. If your tenants spend most of their time in a property, they will use the facilities more on average, which will lead to more wear and tear over time. Don’t instantly assume that the damage is unreasonable. Instead, take into account your tenants working and lifestyle habits, before you make any assumptions. 

Age and quality of items

Something else to look at is the age and quality of the furniture and fixtures within the property. Obviously, the more well-made something is, the longer you would expect it to last, especially if it came with a fairly hefty price tag. 

However, if a piece of furniture was bought secondhand, or you’ve been in possession of it for a fairly long time, then don’t be surprised if it starts degrading over the length of a tenancy. Both the age and quality of an item, furniture, or fixture should be taken into account when looking at a case of fair wear and tear. 

Keep those invoices

As with any dispute, you’re going to need proof to back up your claims. If you can, for any piece of furniture that you’ve brought for a rental property, try and keep your invoices. Knowing the date that an item was purchased on and how much it cost will help you if a dispute does arise. With the invoice backing you up, it’ll be much easier to arrive at a fair price for both yourself and the tenant. 

Fair wear and tear and cleanliness

It’s important to note, fair wear and tear only applies to the condition of furniture, items, and fittings within a rental property. It is a tenant’s responsibility to keep a property clean and tidy and to give back the property in the same condition that it was given to them. If a property isn’t properly cleaned when a tenancy ends, you have cause to deduct from a tenant’s deposit in order to pay for a professional move out cleaning service.

To get a grasp of what’s included in the cleaning, take a look at our end of tenancy clean checklist.

Take inventory of your property 

One of the best ways to protect your pockets and your property is to take a detailed and accurate inventory before a tenant moves in. An inventory is important in cataloguing the condition and cleanliness of all possessions and fixtures within a property and gives you crucial evidence to use if your tenants do cause unnecessary damage within the property. Pictures will be taken of all areas, which will allow you to cross-reference the condition of your possessions before your tenants move in. The cost of inventory is always well worth it, especially in the cases of lengthy disputes.

Make regular inspections of your property 

Landlord inspections are crucial to making sure your tenants are treating your property with respect. Some good advice is to make regular property visits at least once every 3-4 months. You can check the condition of everything within the property, and check the normal wear and tear of items and whether they need to be repaired or replaced. 

They are a good way of minimising wear and tear, as it is likely that your tenants will be more careful within your property, especially if they know you will be inspecting the property at some point in the future.

You should always give your tenants notice of your arrival and work out a day that works for both parties. 

Check-out reports

When a tenancy ends, it is always a good idea to complete a full check-out report. Anything can happen in a tenancy, depending on who your tenants are. 

Check-out reports are sometimes included in a package deal with standard inventories and they are always worth it. They will cross-reference the condition of your property at the beginning of a tenancy to the condition at the end. These can be especially useful when determining fair wear and tear, as you can evaluate the level of damage coinciding with how long a tenancy has lasted. 

Need an inventory of your property?

Why not let Fantastic Services help? We offer comprehensive inventory services, which will list and photograph the condition of your property’s areas, furnishings, and fittings. As we’ve already discussed, inventories are crucial when property disputes arise and can help when trying to determine fair wear and tear. 

We also offer a package deal where you can get an inventory and a check-in service for your tenants. For check-ins, we meet with your tenants on the day that they move in and run through everything listed in the inventory, before giving the keys to the property. This ensures they know exactly what is expected of them once they move into the property and that they should return the property in the same standard that it was given to them. 

So what are you waiting for? Contact us today! 

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Takeaways

  • Fair wear and tear is unavoidable and is the result of normal use from your tenants. 
  • Your tenants are not responsible for repairing any damage caused by fair wear and tear.
  • Cleaning is not included as fair wear and tear. It is your tenants responsibility to keep the property clean. 
  • Inventories and regular landlord inspections allow you to keep a careful eye on the condition of your property and its furnishings. 

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We hope you enjoyed our article on fair wear and tear in rental properties. If you have any questions or anything to add, feel free to leave a comment with us below!

Img Source: Shutterstock / Luan Rezende, DMFhotography, Andrey_Popov

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