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Defining Fair Wear & Tear


This subject is the most misunderstood area of the whole renting process. Everyone has their own view on just what constitutes fair wear and tear. Landlords and letting agents 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 marks, pin holes, damage etc. left on 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 a property and its fixtures and fittings.

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’.

Professional inventory clerks have to make decisions on chargeable issues and exactly what is normal fair wear and tear every day – every time a tenant checks out of a property. Clerks must have a clear idea about fair wear and tear and be able to justify their recommendations, the same applies to both landlords and letting agents if they are responsible for the final check out inspection and the check out report.

The over-riding factor when deciding fair wear and tear issues is common sense! A rare commodity at times when emotions are running high. Communication is vital, the tenant should be aware of all the issues to be raised in a check out report, cleaning, damage to items listed on the inventory, additional gardening and it is helpful to include details of wear and tear issues also on a report. This helps to demonstrate that the report is trying to be fair and unbiased and that not everything is chargeable to outgoing tenant.

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 the exception of fair wear and tear.

It is also useful to be aware that 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 landlord 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 also. 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 no matter how long the tenancy has been.




There are several important factors to be taken into account when assessing damage and suitable action or compensation.


The age of the item at time of check in

You need to know it the item was brand new when the tenant moved into the property, or was it several years old already, or even an antique.


The quality of the item

A ready made piece of furniture from an upmarket furniture supplier as against a flat pack/build it yourself item bought from Argos, B & Q and the similar stores. Each has it’s merits of course but each will have a different life expectancy and therefore the judgement of fair wear of tear will be looked at differently.

The original condition of the item at time of check in

Whether the items supplied was new or slightly used an important factor will be – what was the exact condition, as described on the inventory. Was the item originally damaged in any way, or scratched, chipped, were there any defects?


The type of tenancy

 A property let to a family of six with a dog will inevitably cause more wear and tear than a property let to a young single professional, or couple. If a landlord agrees to a let, with pets, children or smokers then they are accepting a certain amount of additional wear and tear. Sometimes a slight increase in the rent will reflect this, the landlord can plan ahead for extra costs at the end of a tenancy. AIIC Guidelines for Fair Wear & Tear 2012

Any extenuating circumstances.

When making assessments all the available information about the property must be taken into account. For example – a small crack in the corner of an old wooden framed sash window is considered fair wear and tear. This is because, unless there is an obvious impact mark signifying tenant damage, old wooden window frames will move slightly, wood warps over time etc. This is not the tenants fault, the window will have been used in a normal way during the tenancy but movement causes stress cracks to the corners of the glass. This is unavoidable and deemed to be normal fair wear and tear.

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