Wear and tear, or damage?

by Ed Firmin

Posted on Wednesday, November 11th, 2015 at 10:00

The check-out process and the final inspection can be stressful for both parties, it can either end perfectly reasonably, or all go to pot, dependent on how you find the property, and whether or not the tenant disputes the fact that you’re intending to recoup some of the money from their security deposit.

One of the most contentious issues that has caused many an argument includes whether an item needs replacing due to wear and tear, or whether it has been damaged. Sometimes, it’s a very fine line between the two. The reason that it’s important to distinguish between them is that if it’s wear and tear, then the landlord is responsible for any repairs, but if it’s damage, then the liability lies with the tenant.

It doesn’t help in that the law isn’t very clear either. A tenant can’t be held responsible for damage that has been caused by ‘reasonable use’. What reasonable use is anyone’s guess. So, it’s down to common sense.

It’s probably going to mean that you can’t charge a tenant to replace a carpet if it’s looking a bit threadbare, but you will be able to if there are massive stains or holes that probably have been caused by more than just walking on it.

So how should you judge whether something has just been ‘reasonably used’ or in reality, has been damaged? Well, you should probably think about things like the age of the thing you are assessing, and how likely it should realistically last. If you are looking at an electrical appliance that’s been going for a few years, then you’re probably going to expect to replace it anyway, it’s probably on its last legs, and you can’t really blame the tenant for that.

Then think about how often the item is used, and by how many people. If you rent out an HMO and the microwave packs up after only a year, it probably will have been used at least 4 or 5 times in one night with different people cooking their dinner, so will wear out quicker than one person living on their own.

Legally, you’re not allowed to benefit from a tenant, so if you do have to replace an item which you’ve had to charge the tenant, you can’t charge them for a ‘new for old’ replacement. You have to take into consideration wear and tear that will have occurred during their tenancy, as well as considering how old the item was when they moved into the property.

So being realistic, and probably showing some compromise is going to be key here to keeping your relationship civil at the end of a tenancy, after all, neither of you wants to end up with a costly dispute over a kettle.

If you would like any advice on how to handle an end-of-tenancy check out, then please get in touch, I can help point you in the right direction.


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