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Fair Wear & Tear "Misunderstood"

Tuesday, 14th October, 2014

Fair wear and tear is the most misunderstood area of the whole renting process, according to the Association of Independent Inventory Clerks (AIIC).

The AIIC says landlords have unrealistic expectations about the deductions that can and cannot be made from the tenant deposit.

The AIIC adds that it is a commonly held view in the lettings industry that the House of Lords has stated that a tenant cannot be held responsible for damage at the end of a tenancy caused by "reasonable use of the premises and the ordinary operation of natural forces". However, while the precise source for this quote is known, it is a general guideline that has been accepted across the industry. 

Recent figures from the Tenancy Deposit Scheme annual survey reveal that cleaning related issues make up 56% of all disputes. Damage to property accounts for 43%, redecoration 30%, rent arrears 17% and gardening issues 13%.

It seems that 55% of all disputes are raised by tenants unhappy about the proposed deductions from their deposit and of these, only 21% received all their deposit back. In contrast, 45% of disputes were raised by landlords and agents, and of these 19% received the amount in dispute.

Pat Barber, chair of the AIIC, said: "I have lost count of the number of times that a landlord has demanded that a property is repainted from top to bottom following a five-year tenancy, when the marks on the walls are no more than normal wear and tear.

"Everyone has their own view of what constitutes fair wear and tear. Landlords may hold the view that a tenant is responsible for repainting a whole property at the end of their tenancy, however the law may not agree. A tenant on the other hand may believe that all the marks, pin holes and damage to the interior walls at time of check-out will be covered by normal wear and tear. The same viewpoint is often also applied when assessing damage and wear to the contents of the property and its fixture and fittings.

"There are two main things to remember with wear and tear. Firstly, the tenant has a duty of care to return a property in the same condition at the end of the tenancy as found at the start and as listed on the initial inventory report - with allowance for fair wear and tear.

"Secondly, the law does not allow for betterment or "new for old" when assessing the action needed to be taken after a check-out inspection. If an item was old at check-in and after a two year tenancy, there is some additional damage, the law will not allow a landlords to simply replace this item with a new one. Instead, some sort of compensation is allowable towards future replacement. This betterment principle applies to cleaning issues as well. If a carpet was badly stained at time of check-in, a landlord cannot expect the tenant to pay for cleaning at time of check-out, not matter how long the tenancy has been."


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