What Is Fair Wear and Tear?

Protecting your property investment is a priority for any landlord which is why you initially need a good inventory and to keep a deposit from the tenant in a DPS in order to successfully assess ‘fair wear and tear’. Once you have these essentials in place you are in a position to consider ‘fair wear and tear’ on your property and furniture when you conduct an inspection and you have protection in place should anything be unduly damaged. Tenants are generally unwilling to admit to fault when it comes to damages but your inventory gives something to compare the condition at departure to. Should anything be damaged beyond fair wear and tear you can then withhold the re-payment of some/all of the deposit. The fine line occurs between the question of what is reasonable and expected wear and tear and what can be considered damage. The law is constantly refining and defining what fair wear and tear consists of but here are some guidelines when it comes to conducting inspections in your properties.Reasonable Use LawA tenant cannot be held responsible for changes to the property or items therein caused by ‘reasonable use of the premises by the tenant and the ordinary operation of natural forces’. The tenant has a duty of care to return the property and included items back to the landlord at the end of the tenancy agreement in the same condition, allowing for wear and tear and the passage of time. You cannot therefore expect the property and furnishings to be in the same condition at the end of the tenancy as they were at the beginning.Betterment Law The law does not allow for betterment, so the Landlord cannot expect any enhancements to the property from the tenant, they are not obliged to improve the property or any items. The tenant can’t be expected to clean anything that was dirty when they rented the property or decorate or replace anything with something new, better than the item that was there when they took on the property. The Landlord should not become materially better off at the end of the tenancy so you cannot claim from the tenant more than the cost of any repairs or replacements or the cost equal to replacing things to the condition as to which they were when the tenant took on the property as this would not allow for fair wear and tear. The best way to combat this is to reclaim only part of the costs for damaged items.ContractThe tenant should also comply with any other clause set out in the contract they signed at the beginning of the tenancy such as having the carpets cleaned etc. The contract will also contain specific information as to what is allowed in the property i.e. pets, smoking. If the tenancy agreement states that the property is for non-smokers then as the Landlord you do then have the right to retain the deposit if there is evidence of smoking, nicotine stains etc. in the property. If you allow pets, families with young children or smokers to rent your property then you should expect and allow for acceptable associated deterioration to the property and decoration.InventoryA good property inventory will help you to assess fair wear and tear. You must consider the value and quality of items of furniture to begin with, cheaper items cannot be expected to be as durable, you must also consider the condition of furniture, walls etc at the start of the tenancy then compare them to the condition at the end. Every item has an expiry date, white goods will not last forever nor will the emulsion on the walls so you must come to expect that items will have to be replaced and redecorated.  Try to pay out more for quality fittings and fixtures that won’t need to be replaced so frequently, if you use cheap carpets for example you can expect that they will need to be replaced as wear and tear on them will show quickly.Length of TenancyWhen you have had tenants long term you need to allow this to bear on the condition of the property when they leave. The longer the time passing the more wear and tear can be expected and considered ‘fair’. If the tenant has served you well by paying on time and generally looking after the property, then leniency is probably the best policy.On a final note, if you are renting out a fully furnished property you can claim a 10% wear and tear allowance from the net rent and claim it back on your self-assessment tax return. For more advice, contact Nick Fox, property mentor for all you need to know on property rentals.

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