The term ‘fair wear and tear’ is one we often hear in relation to rental properties and furnishings. But how is ‘fair’ decided, and how can landlords and tenants ensure there’s no dispute when tenancies end and deposits are due to be returned?
Tenants pay sizeable deposits when moving into a property, and many need the money returned swiftly at the end of their tenancy to enable them to move elsewhere. However, there is no hard-and-fast rule and landlords all interpret fair wear and tear differently.
Deductions are often made for damage that hasn’t been reported or excessive wear to fittings such as carpets. Landlords and letting agents must make a clear distinction between acceptable wear and damage. There are several factors that must be considered, including the age of items at the outset and the length of the tenancy.
For example, a carpet will naturally flatten over time and may have some light marks due to tenants continually walking on one area - this is acceptable wear and tear. However, a burn mark on the carpet would constitute damage, and a proportion of the deposit could be retained to repair or replace it.
Fair wear and tear is a judgement call made on a case-by-case basis. If there has been good communication between landlord and tenant throughout the tenancy then they can usually come to an agreement.
Deposits in Scotland must be protected by an approved Tenancy Deposit Scheme (TDS) such as SafeDeposits Scotland and, in cases where an agreement cannot be reached, the TDS can arbitrate between parties to help them agree and failing that make a decision based on evidence from both parties.
What To Consider
To help make an informed decision on fair wear and tear, there are several issues that need to be considered:
- Length of tenancy - a property lived in for two years will experience more natural wear than one that has been occupied for six months so this must be taken into account.
- Age of items – an accurate inventory at the start of a tenancy is important, with photos of furnishings and the condition of walls/carpets/doors. Landlords should retain receipts for items purchased, providing proof of age.
- Lifespan of décor, fixtures and fittings – everything has a limited lifespan, and even high-quality furnishings don’t last forever. High-use items such as sofas and carpets can be expected to show some wear, but if they become damaged then the tenants should be expected to contribute to repair or replacement.
- Tenants – the number and type of tenants living in a property should also be considered. A family home with small children or a student house in multiple occupation is likely to have more fair wear and tear than just a couple or individual.
Communication is key, and tenants can help themselves by complying with requirements such as the need to fully complete and sign off an inventory within the first week of tenancy. Sending a list of amendments with photos and keeping a record is important.
Tenants should also be reminded to report incidents of damage or maintenance issues as soon as they occur. Failure to report an issue that could have been rectified, such as a leaking tap, may result in a tenant being charged for damage.
For guidance and advice on wear and tear and any other tenancy issues, get in touch through the usual email address with your Property Manager who will be happy to advise.
The Scottish Association of Landlords also offers information on wear and tear and Safedeposits Scotland has an excellent guidance document on product lifespans to help decide if a deposit deduction is justified.
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