August 26, 2016
Worn out chair

The term “fair wear and tear” appears on most tenancy agreements. But what is fair to a landlord may not necessarily appear fair to a tenant, and vice versa. With current deposit rules in place, it helps to think like an adjudicator, a topic we have covered previously.

In general terms it is usually understood that fair wear and tear means that in regard to any apparent damage done to part of a landlord’s property, the landlord must take account of reasonable wear in the day to day usage of the property, and he/she must not expect over-compensation, or betterment. Indeed, within reason, wear and tear is part of the cost of letting a property and will vary depending on the type of tenant a landlord takes on.

In calculating any damages that do occur, the original age, quality and condition of any item at the commencement of the tenancy should be considered, along with the average expected useful life of the item, expected reasonable usage, number of occupants, and length of occupancy. There is certainly no legal right for a landlord to expect to have the property returned to him/her in the condition in which it was at the start of the tenancy.

If, for example, a table is damaged, it would not be reasonable for the tenant to replace this with a new table, but with a similar one in terms of age and condition to the one damaged before it was broken. If the damage is repairable then a good repair should be acceptable. A small stain on a carpet should only cost the amount charged to remove the stain, not the cost of entire replacement. However, if replacement is necessary, the cost should be apportioned according to the age and expected lifespan of the item.

We are often asked how to work out apportionment and in most instances the following formula can be used

A = Cost to Replace eg £300
B = Actual age of item eg 4 years
C = Expected Normal Lifespan eg 10 years
D = Residual Lifespan (C-B) 6 years
E = Annual Depreciation (A/C) £30
Apportionment to tenant (DxE) £180

Generally, tenants are much more respectful of a landlord’s property than is often expected, but accidents do happen and this is where the term “reasonable” can be very useful for landlord and tenant alike.

Since the Tenant deposit protection rules came into force on 6th April 2007, we have been party to a number of dispute cases and know exactly what an adjudicator will look for, along with knowing how to present the case.

Of course the best way to resolve a dispute is to agree a solution without the need to involve the ADR (Alternative Dispute Service) and in the main this can be achieved with the agent taking on the role of mediator, whilst of course acting in the best interests of their client, the landlord.

According to The Association of Independent Inventory Clerks (AIIC); “Landlords have unrealistic expectations of wear and tear”. We understand that more and more landlords are attempting to claim against a deposit without any solid photographic or written evidence to support their claim, which is unlikely to impress an adjudicator.

Here are just a few examples of how to differentiate between wear and tear and damage caused by the tenant for which you can seek a deduction.

Wear & Tear

Damages/Deductible Loss

Worn out keys

Lost keys

Loose hinges or door handles

Door damage from forced entry

Worn carpets

Torn or burned carpets

Scuffed up wooden floor

Gouged wooden floor

Lino worn thin

Lino with tears or holes

Worn work surfaces

Burns and cuts in work surfaces

Stain on ceiling from rain or bad plumbing

Stain on ceiling from overflowed bath

Plaster cracks from settling

Holes in walls from carelessness

Faded, lightly chipped or cracked paintwork

Unapproved tenant redecoration

Loose wallpaper

Ripped or marked wallpaper

Faded curtains

Torn or missing curtains

Loose / non-working tap

Broken or missing tap handle

Sliding door off track

Damaged or missing sliding door