Avoiding end of tenancy disputes over what consitutes fair wear and tear is often down to communication at the begining of the tenancy
Fair Wear & Tear
There are certain precautions a landlord can take to minimise end of tenancy disputes.
- Use a third party inventory company
- Provide the tenant a document at the beginning of the tenancy as to what constitutes fair “wear and tear”
- Inspections quarterly
Through the legal process it is becoming more defined, a tenant cannot be held responsible at the end of the tenancy for changes in a property’s condition caused by what the House of Lords has called ‘reasonable use of the premises by the tenant and the ordinary operation of natural forces (i.e. a passage of time).
It is usually the common sense and experience gained by using inventory clerks which are the two most important assets for successful ‘Fair Wear and Tear’ decision making.
The terms of the tenancy agreement (or other agreements, preferably signed and dated by both parties) may over rule recommendations made herein. It is recognised that Inventory Clerks are at liberty to make alternative recommendations because a document such as this cannot consider all the nuances of every property, its furnishings and events that occur during tenancies.
Many factors should be assessed to reach a fair judgement. For example the following should be taken into consideration.
- The quality of the supplied item (which can vary greatly)
- The condition at check in
- The condition at check out
- Any extenuating circumstances
The Law does not allow for betterment, which means a Landlord cannot expect to have old replaced with new at the tenants expense or charge cleaning costs for that soiled at the start of the tenancy. The tenant has a duty of care to return the property at the end of the tenancy in the same condition, as that recorded on the inventory at the start of the tenancy , unless as a result of fair wear and tear.
There may be circumstances where excessive wear and tear will require compensation or charges to make good, for example numerous nail or pin holes, torn wallpaper, paint/woodwork gouges, soiling etc. Landlords should expect acceptable associated deterioration to their property when permitting smokers, families with young children and pets.
Damage caused by smoking, tar and nicotine staining/soiling, may not be considered as fair wear and tear, depending upon the clauses in the Tenancy Agreement. All affected surfaces have to be thoroughly washed prior to being repainted to ensure that staining does not gradually reappear through the new paint.
Location is an essential aspect of the life expectancy of many wall coverings. If there is any doubt with regard to the expected life of specialist coverings such as silk panels, linen/silk finished wallpaper etc, it is advisable to recommend that specialist advise be sought with regards to cleaning or making good.
Surface scratches, nicks and minor indendations are considered to be consistent with fair wear and tear. Drag marks, deep scratches or scrapes, burn marks and stains are considerable to be chargeable as damage. There are many qualities of laminated flooring, many of which are not suitable for areas such as kitchens and bathrooms.
If water penetrates the joints, the laminate surface has a tendency to raise up or blister therefore the tenant cannot be held responsible
The following information is required when calculating compensation for stained or damaged carpets.
- Manufacturer’s recommended life expectancy for that carpet
- Traffic/wear at time of check in
- Expected traffic during the tenancy
- Condition at check out
- Any extenuating circumstances
Fabrics, Blinds and Upholstery
Tenancy Agreement sometimes require fabrics, (for example, curtains, blinds and upholstery etc) to be professionally cleaned for the start of the tenancy (particularly corporate lettings).
It is usual practice to expect the cleaning of fabrics after a 12 month or longer tenancy if professional cleaning was carried out at the commencement of the tenancy. However, we recommend that professional cleaning of curtains be carried out at the owners discretion as regardless of quality, most fabrics age prematurely with too frequent professional cleaning.
Soiling or staining to any degree is not considered to be fair wear and tear
The life expectancy is of that recommended by the manufacturers; however, damage caused by misuse is not considered to be consistent with fair wear and tear.
It is usual for a Landlord to be responsible for the control of trees. Who is responsible for large evergreen shrubs and hedging should be indicated in the tenancy agreement. Normal weather soiling is considered to be consistent with fair wear and tear including marks left by planters on paving Paths and paving should be swept and the furniture cleaned.
Good information at the beginning of the tenancy about wear and tear will avoid End of tenancy disputes as everyone knows where they stand.