Insights and Opinions Sandy Bastin 23/11/2020

Blog: Fair wear and tear - what landlords need to know

Every landlord expects a general level of deterioration in a property over time when renting to tenants. However, when it comes to assessing conditions at end of tenancy, what is considered fair wear and tear and when can you make a deposit deduction claim? In an exclusive blog Head of TDS Adjudication Services, Sandy Bastin explains.

Wear and tear in a property can be inevitable even when tenants have taken a reasonable amount of care. Apart from where clear and significant damage has been caused, fair wear and tear can often be a grey area due to elements of subjectivity that surround exactly what is ‘fair’.

Numerous factors need to be taken into consideration when deciding if a claim is to be made for deterioration such as, the length of the tenancy, ages and relationships of the tenants, the pre-tenancy condition, the original cost of an item at the start of the tenancy and the average useful lifespan of an item.

So, what is considered fair wear and tear?

Where a tenant has used items in the property reasonably and for their proper use, thought should be given as to whether a claim is justified.

Gradual deterioration is likely to occur from everyday ordinary use and is inevitable. For example, worn carpets or minor markings and scuffs to walls.

This type of change in condition is to be expected and is likely to fall within the scope of wear and tear and if claimed, it is unlikely to be considered justified by an adjudicator.

Further changes in condition that are likely to be considered fair wear and tear include:

  • Fading to curtains and upholstery
  • Minor scratches to worktops
  • Minor scuffs to skirting boards and wood floorboards
  • Shading and fraying to carpets
  • Loose door locks
  • Loose hinges or handles
When can a landlord claim against wear and tear?

When tenants cause damage to a property that would not be expected to occur gradually over time or be deemed unavoidable, a landlord may make a claim.

The landlord will be able to do this regardless of whether the damage to the property was intentional or by accident.

The factors above must be considered when deciding the amount to claim, for example when an item is old this means that it is more likely to break which could mean the tenant is not liable for the damage caused. The item may have been either at or nearing the end of its useful lifespan and perhaps needed to be replaced anyway.

Types of claims that are considered to be beyond the scope of fair wear and tear include:

  • Holes in walls
  • Drawing on walls
  • Broken doors
  • Significant damage to work surfaces
  • Significant stains or carpet burns
  • Chipped or cracked sinks or broken kitchen appliances
  • Torn curtains
How to avoid confusion when making a claim

If a tenant disagrees with a landlord’s claim for damage, arguing that the deterioration is wear and tear, the landlord will need to rely on the details captured in the check-in report at start of tenancy and the check-out report taken for the end of the tenancy. These reports will then be compared to show the extent of the deteriorations. This highlights the importance of completing and agreeing check-in and check-out reports providing thorough detail on the condition of the property at each stage of tenancy.

Dated photographs, alongside the written word of the check-in and check-out reports are extremely useful as before and after evidence to show the extent of deterioration and damage claimed.  

  • Comprehensive check-in and check-out reports can make all the difference in the likely success of a deposit dispute. Find out how to conduct a comprehensive inventory report in the free guide on the TDS website here.
  • To gain more insight into how adjudicators reach their decision, visit the TDS Lounge to read real case studies relating to damages and wear and tear.
  • NRLA members can join DepositGuard, a service that provides accredited landlords with low-cost and free deposit protection from Tenancy Deposit Scheme (TDS). To find out more about how you could benefit from DepositGuard, please click here.
More information

The NRLA runs a course on the 'fees ban, deposits and inventories' which includes information on wear and tear along with claims. For more details click here.

For a link to the NRLA's guidance on wear and tear click here.