Landlord wear and tear

What is Defined as Fair Wear and Tear?

25 August 2020 Simon Banks Read time: 3 min
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Simon Banks

The term “wear and tear” can represent a grey area for both landlords and renters. Determining whether a household item needs replacing because of improper use or simply because of day-to-day use over a sustained period of time can be tricky.

It’s in the best interests of landlords and renters to be completely clear about wear and tear, and it should be stated in the tenancy agreement. That way, everyone knows their rights and any issues will be limited.

In our latest guide, we’re detailing everything you need to know about wear and tear in your rental property. From how to spot it to handling renter disputes, read on and find out everything you need to know about understanding wear and tear and ensuring a smooth tenancy with your renter(s).

What is wear and tear?

Tenancy agreements define the term “wear and tear” as any damage that happens with ordinary day-to-day use of a property and its contents. Essentially, that means landlords can’t blame renters for household damage that is deemed a result of fair wear and tear.

Rusty taps

Examples of wear and tear include a sofa that has been used for several years and has lost some of its firmness, a worn-out carpet from people walking on it, or minor scuffs and marks on wood floors from general use. While a renter lives in the property, it's inevitable there will some wear and tear – especially if they have been there  along time. 

Other wear and tear to lookout for includes:

  • Faded curtains
  • Finish on chrome fixtures and fittings wearing away
  • Bathroom tile grout
  • Loose door handles
  • Dirt marks blinds or curtains
  • Paint fading on the walls
  • Minor scuff marks on walls

As the landlord, it is your responsibility to ensure that fair wear and tear issues are fixed and ready for when the next renter moves in – or even during the current tenancy.

How do you know when it’s not fair wear and tear?

Deciding if something constitutes fair wear and tear can be problematic for landlords. As a general rule of thumb, however, anything that gets damaged which doesn’t typically “wear out” counts as misuse from the renter.

This can include:

  • Broken items around the property
  • Marker or drawings on the walls
  • Visible damage, such as holes and ents in the wall and floor
  • Burn marks
  • Missing door handles and locks
  • Pet urine in the property

If such scenarios occur, you are within your right to withhold a portion of the renter’s security deposit to cover the costs for the damage. However, should the renter decide that demand is unfair, they can appeal to the tenancy deposit scheme where the security deposit is registered. At this point, an intermediary will decide if you can withhold the amount in question.

Fortunately, tenancy deposit disputes are rare. Since 2013, only 0.89% of tenancies needed intermediaries to step in. In most cases, transparency between the landlord and renter goes a long way to forging a professional relationship without any major difficulties.

The need for an inventory at check-in and check-out

Conducting a check-in and check-out is one of the best ways to mitigate potential fair wear and tears issues. You – or a professional company – can prepare an inventory that states all the items included with the rental, as well as their condition and the overall condition of the home.

Items on an inventory

The check-in clerk will then walk the new renter around the property at the start of the tenancy, pointing out items on the inventory. At the end of the tenancy, the check-out clerk will look at the inventory and see how it matches up against the condition of household items, recommending any deductions to the landlord if they believe there is damage caused by the renter. 

Calculating wear and tear

As a landlord, you will need to pay for wear and tear replacements. Previously, you could deduct 10% from their rental earnings for fair wear and tear. However, as of 2016, changes mean that you can only claim for costs of actual replacements.

Replacement Relief sees landlords claim the real-time costs, rather than an estimation. That means a sofa bought for £400 needs to be replaced with a sofa of the exact same price. If you buy a more expensive one, you will only be able to claim the amount the previous one was worth.

Understanding wear and tear

Wear and tear doesn’t need to be an issue, as long as you have a professional relationship with your renter or efficient property management company in place. Yet, it’s worth knowing how wear and tear works so that you can feel confident knowing when you need to replace items or when the renter lies at fault for damage related to your rental property.

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