Fair wear and tear

What definition is considered to be fair for term “wear and tear” that cause many disputes in respect of unfair deduction or withholding deposit between landlord and tenant?

It is unarguable that landlord has not right to withhold any part of you deposit for “wear and tear”. The problem happens where the certain condition of carpet, walls, fixture or fittings go beyond the scope of the normal and reasonable use.

One of common and most known legal definition for this term was given by  Talbot J in 1928 in Haskell v Marlow lawsuit:

Reasonable wear and tear means the reasonable use of the house by the tenant and the ordinary operation of natural forces. The exception of want of repair due to wear and tear must be construed as limited to what is directly due to wear and tear, reasonable conduct on the part of the tenant being assumed.

fair wear and tear in rental flat

Later in 1937 Lord Justice explained that two part of phrase “fair wear and tear” covers two type of disrepair

1) that caused by the normal operation of natural causes, wind and weather

2) that caused by the tenant in the course of the fair or reasonable use of the premises.

Thus, landlord couldn’t put obligation onto tenant to spend money on stopping wear and tear due to natural elements or ordinary use of the premises.

The second issue is distinct fair “wear and tear” and “damages”. In case of 6-12 month tenancy it is a low chance for tenant to cause a real damage as a wear and tear. That’s why it is may be important for landlord to keep all receipt and manufacturer’s warranty which may be a only proof of age and lifespan of furniture, devices or appliances.

Examples of ordinary “wear and tear”

1.average lifespan of carpets in tenanted property is considered to be about 5 years, but it is still depends on the initial quality of manufacturer guarantee.

2.discolored ceramic tile

3.rust stains on the tap and other metal elements, except cases when excessive humidity was caused by tenants and his negligence.

4.small cracks on the wall and grout on the bathroom tiles

5.loose door handles

6.carpet, curtains, walls fading caused to exposure to sunlight

7.“desilvering” bathroom and furniture mirrors unless it caused physical damage

Example of damages:

1.holes in the wall caused by tenant, for instance, placing hinges or hanging pictures. To avoid dispute it is advisable to include such term in the tenancy agreement.

2.broken mirrors, shelves, door, cupboard with clearly evidence that it caused physical action not a house or property settling or soil sediment

3.burn carpet and furniture upholstery

4.excessive odor that caused the tenant’s negligence, for example, collection a waste inside the house, fail to clean the property regularly, presence of pet to together with their improper treatment

5.lost door keys and broken locks or handles

The landlord is responsible for maintaining a property to include repairs and redecoration and thus fair wear and tear falls with in the scope of this liability. Furthermore, landlord may claim “wear and tear” allowances together with the cost of repairs.

There are no precise rules on what is considered to be ‘reasonable wear and tear’, that’s why there are no comprehensive list of all examples. Nevertherles, TDS provide guidance that help landlord and tenant avoid or resolve dispute in respect of what is considered to be damage or ordinary “wear and tear”.

How to count the damage caused by tenants?

In case of broken or damaged items, landlord should calculate the tenant’s responsibility. Tenant couldn’t be charged a full price of replacement broken item. First of all, landlord must know:

  • full price of new item
  • average lifespan of item
  • current age of item and remaining useful life

Having this data, tenant’s liability is calculated using residual principle:

Tenant Responsibility =

Full Price x (Average Lifespan of Item - Current Age of Item)

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