What exactly is “Fair” Wear & Tear
12 October 2017 1992 Views
Wear and tear can be a highly contentious issue for many tenants and landlords; many arguments have arisen because of unclear definitions of what is meant by fair usage and when acceptable wear becomes actual damage.
Due to the highly subjective nature of these disputes, it’s not uncommon for tenants and/or landlords to be left out of pocket when parting ways with a property.
Defining Fair Wear and Tear
It has been reported that tenants win 90% of independently adjudicated disputes regarding fair use of properties.
It has also been stated that an increasing number of landlords are now attempting to classify ordinary wear and tear as damage without providing photographic or written evidence. When she was in charge, Pat Barber, former Chair of the Association of Independent Inventory Clerks, stated that 'landlords have unrealistic expectations of wear and tear’.
As tenancy laws stand, landlords must allow for reasonable wear and tear, and whilst the House of Lords defines wear and tear as ‘reasonable use of the premises by the tenant and the ordinary operation of natural forces', there are no exact rules on what is reasonable.
With such a grey area surrounding the topic, there are several criterium to consider when determining ‘reasonable use’
Firstly, the duration of occupancy by a tenant will impact what is deemed as acceptable wear and tear. This means landlords should expect more wear and tear from longer tenancies.
Notably household items such as carpet, wallpaper and countertops that are used daily are most likely to appear worn, however, there is a distinct difference between a carpet that has been flattened by a high footfall and a carpet that has been stained or burned; this is damage not wear and tear.
Consideration is also given to the purpose of the tenancy, for instance, it is fair to assume that a family with young children may cause more wear and tear than a single occupant. Similarly, in shared accommodation it’s highly likely that common areas such as a living room, bathroom or kitchen may be exposed to more wear and tear as they see more traffic than other parts of the property.
And lastly, consideration is given to the quality of the items inside the property. New developments are usually built with material trends or efficiency in mind. Recycled plastic, timbercrete and bamboo can be favored over stonework or concrete, which reached the height of its popularity in the twentieth century, meaning that new builds are likely to require more frequent redecoration.
Fair Wear and Tear and You
The AIIC asserted that, “normal wear and tear is a fact of life with rental properties, just as it would be at home. The best way to landlords and agents can ensure that the property’s condition is fully recorded, is by having a comprehensive inventory in place at the start of any new tenancy, and that a thorough check-in and check-out report is completed”.
This highlights the importance of both parties cataloging a property’s condition at the beginning of a tenancy.
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