What constitutes reasonable wear and tear? It’s a question often asked by landlords and tenants, and can be an ambiguous topic. The House of Lords defines fair wear and tear as: ‘Reasonable use of the premises by the tenant and the ordinary operation of natural forces’. Landlords and tenants often have a different view of what constitutes damage to a property. In this article, landlord maintenance company Salford based RFM Trading try to clear up some of the confusion, and provide advice for landlords.
Quality and Expected Lifespan
When appraising wear and tear, landlords should take into account the quality of materials used in the property. Higher quality materials, though more expensive, are often more resistant to damage than their cheaper counterparts. Scuff marks on walls fall under the remit of general wear and tear, and are more likely on poor quality paint. However, deep scrapes, screw, nail, and drill holes, sellotape and blue tack marks, and marks caused by repetitive damage (such as a chair pushed repeatedly against a wall) all count as damage, as does a tenant repainting a room without permission. The tenant can then be held responsible for repair costs.
Similarly, good quality wallpaper should not scuff as easily as poor quality, but there is still a high chance it will receive some marking, especially in a heavily used area such as a hallway. It may also discolour over time. The tenant cannot be blamed for such problems, as they are part of everyday life. If, however, the wallpaper is ripped or scuffed so that large sections fall off, it is reasonable to expect a tenant to cover the costs.
If poor quality counters are installed in kitchens and bathrooms, do not be surprised if they scuff easily. As scuffs count as reasonable wear and tear, landlords are expected to cover the costs of surface replacement. Therefore, investing in more expensive, but ultimately hardier work surfaces, may save landlords money in the long term. However, if a tenant leaves surfaces with burn marks and deep cuts, they will be liable to pay damages.
Carpets will become flattened over time, which counts as wear and tear. This includes flattened areas where furniture has been placed. The tenant can only be held liable if the carpet is heavily stained, burned, or torn. Wooden floors may become scratched over time, but this only counts as damage if there are deep gouges visible. Loose door hinges and locks, and worn out keys, are all part of wear and tear. Lost keys and broken or missing locks and hinges, on the other hand, count as damage by the tenant.
Curtains throughout a property will fade over time; a tenant cannot be blamed for this. However, if the curtains are torn or missing, this is the tenant’s fault. It is inevitable that furniture will become lightly marked; this is wear and tear. If a tenant rips, or renders unusable, a piece of furniture a landlord can charge for repairs. In bathrooms, damage beyond wear and tear includes broken toilet seats, tank tops, and shower doors.
If a pet damages surfaces which need to be repaired, or if it leaves smells or hairs which require cleaning a landlord can charge their tenants.
Number of Tenants
The levels of acceptable wear and tear will also be affected by the number, and type, of tenants in a property. A family with young children will put more pressure on a house than an individual. There will also be greater wear and tear in communal areas such as lounges and stairways. Additionally, the longer the tenancy, the more natural wear and tear there will be.
Repairing and Replacing
If a landlord decides to replace an item, they are not entitled to claim one hundred percent of the replacement costs, even if damage is minimal. For example, if a new carpet was fitted at the start of a two year tenancy, it would be expected to still have a few more years of use. The landlord would only be able to claim costs from the tenant for the period they used it.
If a landlord has to replace missing items, they must do so on a like-for-like basis. They cannot expect a tenant to pay for a more expensive replacement. A property cannot be improved at the expense of a tenant.
Whatever amount is proposed as a deduction must be proportionate to the damage caused by the tenant which is in excess of fair wear and tear.
Avoiding Wear and Tear
Landlords can take a number of steps to avoid wear and tear becoming an issue. At the beginning of a tenancy, they can begin to create a good relationship with tenants. They will be more likely to extend their tenancy, and this will lead to a reduction in occupier turnover. Landlords will then not have to redecorate as frequently as they would for shorter tenancies, thus saving money. They may also wish to advise tenants on good practice for the upkeep of the property.
Before a tenancy begins, and after it ends, a full inventory should be drawn up and the property’s condition fully recorded in a photographic report. If a landlord has this evidence, it will serve as a good negotiating tool at the end of the tenancy. The onus of proof will be on the landlord to justify why some, or all, of the security deposit has been taken.
Landlords may also wish to carry out a midterm inspection on their property. This will allow them to identify potential issues which could escalate by the end of the tenancy, and to resolve them quickly.
Also consider inspecting the property four weeks before the end of a tenancy. This allows the landlord to assess wear and tear early, and outline problems to the tenant. They may be able to resolve issues before the end of the tenancy and therefore avoid a dispute.
How Landlord Maintenance Company Salford based RFM Trading Can Help You