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Highlight: July 11, 2024

Wear and Tear in a Rental Property

Rental property interior, showing a table, vases and picture on the wall.

Wear and tear’s an inevitable part of renting your property, but knowing the difference between fair wear and tear and tenant damage is crucial for a good landlord-tenant relationship. 

What is Fair Wear and Tear? 

According to the House of Lords, fair wear and tear is the “reasonable use of the premises by the tenant and the ordinary operation of natural forces.” In simple terms, it refers to the gradual deterioration that you’d expect to see in a property over time from everyday use. 

Examples of fair wear and tear include faded curtains, worn carpets, and minor scuffs on walls – all unavoidable things that happen when living in a property. It’s important to note that fair wear and tear relates to the “condition” of the item, not its “cleanliness.” The property should always be left in the same clean state as at the start of the tenancy. 

When Does it Go Beyond Fair Wear and Tear? 

Tenant-caused damage is totally different to fair wear and tear. Damage occurs when a tenant’s carelessness, recklessness, or negligence leads to harm to the property or its contents. For instance, a stained and ripped carpet or burn marks on a kitchen counter would be considered damage, not fair wear and tear. 

So, how can you determine when the line is crossed? A few factors come into play: 

  • Product Age: The older an item, the more wear and tear you’d expect to see. 
  • Product Quality: Quality items may last longer, but they can still suffer from wear and tear. 
  • Product Lifespan: Every item has a useful lifespan, and wear and tear should be measured against this. 
  • Number of Tenants: More occupants mean more wear and tear. 
  • Length of Tenancy: The longer the tenancy, the more wear and tear should be expected. 
  • Pets: Pets can also have an impact on the extent of wear and tear on a property. 

Whose Responsibility? 

As a Landlord, you’re responsible for the maintenance of your rental property, and Tenants have their own responsibilities as per the tenancy agreement.  

Tenants are not held financially accountable for fair wear and tear as it occurs naturally over time.  

How to Manage and Prevent Disputes 

Managing fair wear and tear to avoid disputes needs proactive measures. Here’s what you can do as a Landlord: 

  • Detailed Check-In and Check-Out Inventory: Create a detailed inventory report, covering the property’s condition and its contents at the start and end of the tenancy. 
  • Keep Written Records: Hold onto written records of invoices, emails, and receipts that can be helpful in Tenant disputes. 
  • Communicate effectively: Be clear with your tenants, making sure they understand the concept of fair wear and tear. 
  • Property Maintenance: Regularly maintain the property, replacing worn interiors and performing mid-tenancy checks. 
  • Avoid Betterment: This is when a landlord is financially or materially better off at the end of a tenancy and should be avoided. Avoid betterment by fairly splitting the cost of repair or replacement between you and the tenant based on the item’s age, quality, and remaining useful lifespan. 

If you’re improving the property or its contents, the tenant shouldn’t foot the bill. 

Remember, fair wear and tear is natural and should be expected in rental properties. By being fair and reasonable in your assessments, you can help ensure a positive and long-lasting tenancy. 

Want more property management tips and guidance? Follow August on Facebook or Instagram, or become a Founding Member for first access to our app launching soon. 

This article is a guide, and not intended to be relied upon as legal or professional advice, or as a substitute for it. August does not accept any liability for any errors, omissions or misstatements contained in this article. Always speak to a suitably qualified professional if you require specific advice or information. 

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July 11, 2024

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