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What is fair wear-and-tear?

23 October 2014

Too many landlords and letting agents are disputing the return of deposits because they expect tenants to pay for general wear-and-tear to their rented homes.

A new study by the Association of Independent Inventory Clerks (AIIC) argues landlords do not understand the difference between ‘wear-and-tear’ and ‘betterment’.

Under tenancy laws, if an item was in a rented home at check-in, after a tenancy the landlord cannot demand the tenant pays for a new one just because of a few scuffs or scratches.

These scuffs and scratches are general wear-and-tear and are to be expected in the day-to-day use of any home.

The degree of wear-and-tear can also vary between tenants.

A family with two toddlers and a pet dog are likely to leave a home with heavier wear-and-tear than a single pensioner.

Betterment also carries across to cleaning, says the AIIC.

A tenant should not be expected to pay for cleaning a new carpet that was stained at the start of the tenancy. The same rule applies to scuffs and marks on paintwork.

The AIIC’s Pat Barber said: “We have seen many cases where the landlord or letting agent has not bothered to read the check-in inventory, so when it comes to the check-out, they are unrealistic over issues, which they believe should be included in the check-out and charged to the tenant.

“In one case, we had a property where the landlord demanded that the tenants pay for repainting several rooms following a one year tenancy. The check-in inventory clearly stated that the walls were already well marked and the few additional scuffs and rubs were clearly a normal wear and tear issue, due to the length of the tenancy.“

Normal wear-and-tear is part of a property business, just as at home, explained Barber.

“The best way landlords and agents can ensure that the property’s condition is fully recorded is by having a comprehensive inventory at the start of any tenancy followed up with a thorough check-out report,” she said.