Fair wear and tear

Some landlords believe that a property should be returned to them in exactly the same condition as at the start of the tenancy. However, the law recognises that change will happen in a property over time which falls short of intentional damage or neglect. This is referred to as "fair wear and tear".

It has been defined by the House of Lords as "reasonable use of the premises by the tenant and the ordinary operation of natural forces".

For example, it is reasonable to expect carpet tread to flatten over time where there has been foot traffic. This would be considered fair and wear. However, if a tenant drops a hot iron on the carpet which leaves a burn mark, this would be considered damage.

A landlord is not able to claim deductions from the deposit for any change in the condition of the property which is due to fair wear and tear.

Key factors when considering fair wear and tear

  • Age

    How old is the carpet or when was the property last decorated? These details should be included in the check-in report. It is also helpful if these details are supported by invoices or receipts from
    before the tenancy.

  • Quality and realistic lifespan

    It is important to take into account the lifespan of items and their quality. The quality of the carpet or an appliance can affect the expected lifespan.

  • Number and type of tenants

    A family with young children and pets will have a greater allowance for fair wear and tear than a single person.

  • Length of tenancy

    A greater allowance should be made if a property is let for several years. Normal usage over a longer period of time will naturally mean a greater change in the condition of the property and its
    contents.

In general terms, the longer the tenancy or the greater the number of occupants, the higher the level of wear and tear.

Wear and tear is a topic that is open to interpretation. Sometimes the best way to resolve any potential disagreement over what is fair wear and tear is open and honest communication.



Betterment

A landlord is not entitled to 'betterment'. This means a landlord is not allowed to benefit from an improvement or enhancement in the value of the property at the tenant's expense. Landlords should therefore keep in mind that the deposit cannot be used like an insurance policy where you might get "full replacement value" or "new for old".

For example, if the carpet was old at check-in and damaged by the tenant during the tenancy, the landlord can't claim from the deposit to replace it with a new carpet. This would be considered betterment. In this example, the landlord is more likely to be successful if they claim for some compensation towards the carpet.

Appropriate remedies

We recommend that landlords consider the most appropriate remedy when considering how much to claim from the deposit for a damaged item. For example, this could be cleaning a stained rug rather than buying a new one.

The different remedies to consider are:

  • Repair or cleaning if an item hasn't been so extensively damaged that it's still usable or can be repaired;

  • Compensation may be appropriate in cases where an item has had its value reduced or its lifespan shortened;

  • Replacement may be justified where an item is either severely damaged beyond economic repair or its condition makes it unusable.

The importance of the check-in and check-out reports

It is essential that the check-in and check-out reports are sufficiently detailed to confirm the condition of the property and its contents at the start and end of the tenancy. If there is a dispute over deductions to the deposit, an adjudicator will make a judgement, based on the evidence provided by the landlord and tenant, about whether any change in the condition of the property was above what would be expected.