What Exactly Is Fair Wear And Tear?

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Fair Wear And Tear Is One Of Biggest Issues Of Private Sector Rentals

Fair Wear And Tear Is One Of Biggest Issues Of Private Sector Rentals

Determining Fair Wear And Tear Is One Of
Biggest Issues Of Private Sector Rentals

The Association of Independent Inventory Clerks (AIIC) say that letting agents and landlords struggle most with determining what exactly constitutes fair wear and tear in a rented property and the whole process is among the most hotly contested issues about renting property, tenants rights and a major cause of deposit disputes.

Lettings and property management agents and private rented sector landlords still appear to have unrealistic ideas about what deductions can be rightfully claimed back from the tenant’s deposit due to damage of fixtures and fittings in rented property.

Accidents happen – and paying for property damage can be expensive, but even if the damage is accidental it is the tenant’s responsibility to pay for the repairs or the landlord will be entitled to deduct the costs from the tenant’s deposit, that’s where a Tenant Liability Insurance policy can be worthwhile investment for both landlords and their tenants.  Government guidance states 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. However, this statement does not cover accidental damage to the fabric or materials within rented property and this can cause deposit disputes between landlord and tenant if deductions are being sought.

Data published by the latest annual survey conducted by the Tenancy Deposit Scheme revealed that landlords mainly seek to recover damages because of:

  • 56% – Cleaning related issues
  • 43% – Damage to property
  • 30% – Property redecoration
  • 17% – Rent arrears
  • 13% – Gardening issues

55% of all UK tenancy deposit disputes are raised by tenants unhappy about proposed deductions from deposits by landlords or letting agents and of these, only 21% of tenants actually received all of their deposit back.

In contrast, 45% of disputes were raised by landlords and letting agents and of these, only 19% received the amount in dispute.

Tenant Liability insurance typically costs less than a night out and provides peace of mind for all types of private rental sector tenants can save lengthy deposit disputes and bad feeling between landlords and their tenants, and the cost can either be included in the annual rental price or paid for by either the landlord or the tenant at the start of the tenancy.

As with nearly all residential tenancies, it is the tenant who is responsible for repairs if they cause any damage to the property, even if it is accidental, to the rental property and any fixtures, fittings and furniture provided with it.

If the tenant’s deposit does not cover the cost of the repairs, then it is likely that the tenant will be expected to pay the difference. If there is a guarantor in place they could also be expected to pay for the repairs.

Accidents happened, and even the most careful tenants could unintentionally cause damage which could cost them their deposit, or much more in excess.

Legal 4 Landlords Tenants Liability Insurance provides insurance cover for accidental damage claims up to £2,500 (GBP).

Pat Barber, Chair of the AIIC commented:

“Everyone has their own view of what constitutes fair wear and tear, I have lost count of the number of times that a landlord or letting agent has demanded 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. Landlords and letting 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 on the other hand may believe that all the marks, pin holes and damage to the interior walls at time of check-out will be covered by normal wear and tear. The same viewpoint is often also applied when assessing damage and wear to the contents of the property and its fixtures and fittings. There are two main things to remember with wear and tear. Firstly, 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. Secondly, the law does not allow for betterment or ‘new for old’ when assessing the action needed to be taken after a check-out inspection. 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 simply replace this item with a new one. Instead, some sort of compensation is allowable towards future replacement. This betterment principle applies to cleaning issues as well. If a carpet was badly stained at time of check-in, a landlord cannot expect the tenant to pay for cleaning at time of check-out, no matter how long the tenancy has been. The over-riding factor when deciding fair wear and tear is common sense and communication is vital. Landlords and agents should always encourage tenants to be present at any check out inspection and they should be made aware of all the issues that are raised in a check out report. This includes cleaning, damage to items listed on the inventory, additional gardening, or missing items. This discussion will inevitably include the subject of fair wear and tear.” 

So what can a landlord expect a tenant to fund from their deposit over and above normal fair wear and tear?

  • Cleaning: This should never be a wear and tear issue. If something can be cleaned, then it should be – at the tenants’ cost, providing there is documentary evidence in the form of a detailed inventory to prove the item was clean at time of check in and this covers all rooms, especially kitchens and bathrooms. If, for example, an oven is left dirty then the tenant can be charged for it to be professionally cleaned.
  • Damage: Any damage to the property and its contents can 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 and broken windows; and burns to kitchen worktops.
  • Decoration: If the tenant has painted the property with a non-neutral colour, without the landlord’s permission, then the cost of repainting can be charged to the tenant. Any serious damage caused to walls and ceilings will fall under the tenant’s responsibility also.
  • Gardens: Tenant’s belongings such as children’s play equipment, swimming pools and trampolines can cause large areas of damage to lawns, as do dogs and other pets. This is not a wear and tear issue and the tenant must be held responsible for making good the damaged areas.

This was written by Mike Clarke. Posted on at 11:30 am. Filed under Insurance. Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow comments here with the RSS feed. Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.