When 'wear and tear' is damage

Posted on 16th October 2012

An increase in the number of tenancy deposit or 'bond' disputes between tenants and landlords or letting agents in the last year is mainly due to cleanliness of the property at the end of the tenancy. When a tenancy ends a tenant quite rightly is always keen to receive their deposit back at the earliest opportunity, after all it is their money. What isn't clear cut however is what constitutes 'fair wear and tear' and what constitutes damage, an area all to often that is eventually decided by the Depsoit Protection Service and their dispute resolutions department. This in itself can be a long drawn out protracted affair.

The law stipulates 'fair wear and tear' as 'reasonable use of the premises by the tenant and the operation of natural forces' - doesn't clarify much and certainly in our experience no two cases are ever the same. By definition 'fair wear and tear' should be the lessening in value of an asset due to ordinary and normal use.

Damage on the other hand can generally be defined as mis-use or neglect that reduces value. Handlebar mark in the hallway? - not wear and tear, the hallway is the entrance, a place for coats and shoes not bikes. This is damage to the property.

Rusty shower rod? Yes fair wear and tear. Rust builds up over time through no fault of the tenant. If you apply common sense it's quite often easy to work out who is right and wrong.

A full inventory, digitally video recorded, will help clarify the condition of the property and determine if fair wear or tear or damage should be disputed.  Its something that landlords these days simply must have unless they are prepared to take a gamble that all will be well.