What is fair wear and tear?

June 9, 2012

Landlords Insurance

Surprisingly, there isn’t a precise legal definition of what can be considered to be fair wear and tear.

In practice, there are a number of issues to be considered and this may prove to be a contentious and controversial issue for tenants and landlords alike.  Here we will share a few observations with you on this sometimes tricky subject:

  • as a landlord, you may have to be pragmatic and accept that your property and contents may suffer regular and minor damage and wear as a result of the business you’re in.  It might be unrealistic to expect either your tenants or the cheapest landlords insurance to pay for every piece of deterioration you and your property suffer over time;
  • if you believe that your property or furnishings have suffered damage due to negligence or a serious accident caused by the tenants, you may have virtually no prospect of proving that unless you have a baseline for discussion. A baseline effectively means allowing you and the tenants to have a clear definition of the condition of the item before its current damaged position arose;
  • if you do not have a baseline, then you may have no grounds for discussion. Essentially it may be hard to prove how things have changed (i.e. been damaged) if you don’t know where you were to begin with;
  • this links very closely to the concept of the initial inventory. It is highly advisable to ensure that you and your new tenants jointly inspect your property prior to signing the tenancy agreement, in order to establish the condition of all significant items including things such as walls, carpets, appliances and so on;
  • in the inventory, it is necessary to explicitly state the condition of an object. For example, simply listing that a wardrobe exists may only be of use to you if you find it gone at the time your tenants give notice.  If it is still present but a door has been ripped off, you may struggle to claim that it was okay to begin with. So, each item should have an explicit comment relating to condition;
  • it hopefully goes without saying that the inventory needs to be signed, page by page, by your tenants;
  • make sure that your rental agreement explicitly states what the inventory means.  In other words, it must state that you will reserve the right to ask tenants to pay for changes in the status of the property or contents based upon the inventory;

Taking and reviewing the inventory can be difficult and a potential cause of conflict – particularly when checking tenants out at departure. You may be able to use a professional company in order to make the process smoother and less personal – something that may help both parties.

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