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Agencies & People

What is ‘fair wear and tear’ for lets?

Pat Barber, Chair of the AIIC, is weary of wear and tear disputes.

PROPERTYdrum

wear_tear_disputes_cleaningI have lost count of the times that a landlord or agent demands that a property is repainted from top to bottom following a five year tenancy when the marks on the walls are no more than normal wear and tear.

Fair wear and tear is the most misunderstood area of the whole renting process – everyone has their own view of what constitutes it. Landlords and agents may hold the view that a tenant is responsible for repainting a whole property at the end of their tenancy, however the law may not agree. A tenant may believe that marks, pin holes and damage to the interior walls at check-out
will be covered by normal wear and tear. The same view is often applied when assessing damage and wear to the contents, fixtures and fittings.

Cleaning isn’t a wear and tear issue – anything less than clean needs cleaning!”

The facts

It is a commonly held view that the House of Lords has stated that a tenant cannot be held responsible for damage at the end of a tenancy caused by ‘reasonable use of the premises and the ordinary operation of natural forces.’ While I cannot find a precise source for this quote, it is a general guideline, accepted across the industry.

Landlords and agents have to make decisions regarding chargeable issues and normal fair wear and tear every time a tenant checks out. They must have a clear idea about it and be able to justify their recommendations.

Clear cleaning issues are never treated as wear and tear, in spite of what tenants would like to think. It really is that simple. Clean is clean. Anything less than ‘clean’ needs cleaning.

The figures

Recent figures from the Tenancy Deposit Scheme annual survey reveal that cleaning related issues make up 56 per cent of all disputes. Damage to property accounts for 43 per cent, redecoration 30 per cent, rent arrears 17 per cent and gardening issues 13 per cent.

55 per cent of disputes are raised by tenants unhappy about proposed deductions from their deposit – of these, 21 per cent received all their deposit back. 45 per cent of disputes were raised by landlords and agents and of these, only 19 per cent received the amount in dispute.

Assessment

The tenant has a duty of care to return a property in the same condition at the end of the tenancy as found at the start and as listed on the initial inventory report – with allowance for fair wear and tear.

The law does not allow for betterment or ‘new for old’ when assessing the action needed after a check-out. If an item was old at check-in and after a two year tenancy, there is some additional damage, the law will not allow a landlord to replace it with a new one. Instead, some compensation is allowable towards future replacement. This betterment principle applies to cleaning issues too. If a carpet was badly stained at check-in, a landlord cannot expect the tenant to pay for cleaning at time of checkout, no matter how long the tenancy.

The overriding factor is common sense! A rare commodity when emotions run high. Communication is vital. Landlords and agents should encourage tenants to be present at check-out and make them aware of the issues that are raised in a check-out inventory, additional gardening, or missing items. This discussion will inevitably include the subject of fair wear and tear.

Guidelines

What can a landlord expect a tenant to fund from their deposit for fair wear and tear?

  • Cleaning: This covers all rooms, especially kitchens and bathrooms. If an oven is dirty, the tenant can be charged for it to be professionally cleaned. Cleaning is never a wear and tear issue. If something can be cleaned, it should be, at the tenants’ cost, providing there is documentary evidence (a detailed inventory) to prove the item was clean at time of check in.
  • Damage: Damage to the property and its contents may be charged to the tenant. Common and expensive damage includes burns to carpets and floorings; chips and cracks to baths and sinks; serious scratches to ovens; cracked/broken windows; burns to worktops.
  • Walls: If the tenant has painted the property with a non-neutral colour, without the landlord’s permission, the cost of repainting can be charged to the tenant.
  • Gardens: Play equipment, pools and trampolines can cause large areas of damage to lawns, as do dogs and other animals. This is not a wear and tear issue and the tenant must be held responsible for making good the damage.

AIIC has released a new book entitled ‘Understanding Fair Wear and Tear’, priced at £9.99 as a PDF. Visit: www.theaiic.co.uk

October 5, 2014

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