What is 'fair wear and tear'?
How long have you lived in your rental property? A month? A year? Can you remember exactly what condition everything was in before you moved in?
During your tenancy, it’s expected that there will be some wear and tear. But what is classed as typical wear and tear from everyday living, and what could be seen as something that doesn’t fall into this category?
Knowing the difference can be essential when it comes to you moving out. Here, we explain why that is and what’s covered.
Why do I need to know about fair wear and tear?
It’s important that, as a tenant, you understand the distinction between fair wear and tear and damage. This is because your landlord can’t charge you or deduct from your deposit if it’s something that’s happened to the property as a result of everyday use.
However, it’s not always a clear-cut issue. There are instances when damage to the property can occur as a result of prolonged wear and tear. In these cases, the damage caused could be considered the fault of the tenant for not raising the issue with the landlord before the damage occurred, and this could mean that the tenant is charged for the repairs.
So, with this in mind, it’s worth making sure that you know what you need to look out for. As a tenant, put yourself in a good position by having a clear idea of what can be classed as typical fair wear and tear.
What does normal wear and tear look like?
The key point to remember is that fair wear and tear refers to the damage that you expect to see in a property over time. This element of expectation is important, as it helps to define what’s wear and tear and what’s either accidental or deliberate damage.
Things that fall into the wear and tear category include worn carpets, scuffed floors, chipped paint and cracks in the plaster. These are changes that happen due to everyday life and can take place in all types of property over a period of time – and, crucially, these are things that are unavoidable.
By knowing what’s fair wear and tear in your rental property, you can be ready with the facts should your landlord contest this when you come to move out.
When will I see deposit deductions for damage?
Your landlord might see damage to their property and think it’s the result of neglect or deliberate abuse. If they can prove that it’s damage rather than gradual wear and tear, they can deduct from your deposit to cover the cost of repairs and replacements when you move out.
One of the main ways they can prove that damage has been caused is through dated photographs. It’s worth taking and dating your own photographs when you first move into the property in order to make sure your account of how things looked when you arrived tally with your landlord’s. Alternatively, you can speak to your landlord about creating a photographic inventory that you both agree upon (and sign and date together). Read on to find out why this is important.
What can be classed as damage and not fair wear and tear?
As with understanding what wear and tear looks like, it’s important that you know what your landlord or letting agent will attribute to damage. Whether accidental, through neglect or deliberate, damage can be one of several things. Broken windows and locks, holes in the walls and torn curtains and carpets are all classed as damage.
Also, if you mean well by painting over a scuff on the wall but the colour doesn’t quite match or you’ve lost your house keys and your landlord has to replace them, these can be added to the ‘damaged property’ list. This is why it’s good to know what your landlord will charge you before you move out, so you can address the issue.
What happens if they prove damage?
You could lose money from your deposit if you move out without fixing damage to your rental. They could also take legal action in extreme cases. If there is severe damage to the property during your tenancy, your landlord might want to evict you.
How can I prove wear and tear?
But what if you’ve not damaged the property? How will you prove that it’s down to everyday life rather than something more?
Proving who caused damage
When you first move in, your detailed inventory is drawn up. This is to prove whether the damage was there when you moved in and caused by the previous tenant, or whether it happened during your tenancy.
No matter how long you live somewhere, it’s impossible to remember every chip in the paintwork and scuff on every carpet. This is why it’s crucial that you list the condition of every part of your rental as soon as you move in.
Use this as your chance to let the landlord know that there is a large scuff on the wall in the hallway or that the curtains in the living room look faded. This is the moment when your landlord might want to swap the fixtures and fittings or leave them as they are for your tenancy.
If possible, take photographs too. This will help you to document and detail every part of the rental and pinpoint signs of wear and tear before you arrived. Therefore, if your landlord tries to claim damage to the property when you move out, you can refer to the inventory to check whether this had been noted ahead of your tenancy.
Proving wear and tear during your tenancy
Your deposit is protected by a scheme, which means that your landlord can’t deduct for the expected wear and tear mentioned earlier. It also means that there are certain criteria that must be met for something to be classed as damage over fair wear and tear.
So how can you prove wear and tear during your tenancy? What are the instances where your landlord can claim for damage? As a tenant, having a clear understanding of what is considered wear and tear and what could be considered damage can be helpful when proving the state of the property when you move out.
Examples of wear and tear would be:
- Worn out keys and door locks
- Fading furniture and curtains
- Worn and dirty carpets and indents where furniture has previously sat
- Loose hinges
- Cracked paint
- Dirty windows
- Loose tap handle
Examples of damage would be:
- Missing keys and broken locks
- Tears in curtains or missing curtains
- Ripped, stained or burnt carpets
- Badly painted surfaces
- Broken taps
- Broken windows
What if there’s a dispute?
If you disagree with your landlord about any of their claims of damage, the deposit scheme that is holding your deposit is likely to include a dispute resolution service. Follow their guidance on how to resolve the issue.
However, if, for example, the inventory lists that the tap was loose at the beginning of your tenancy and it’s broken by the time you move out, your landlord has a case of damage rather than fair wear and tear.
As well as having an inventory, you can protect yourself against deposit deductions by considering Tenants Liability Insurance. This is an additional way to get some peace of mind should you accidentally damage your landlords items whilst you’re living in your rental.
Things to remember
It’s both unrealistic and unreasonable for your landlord to expect you to be able to leave the property exactly as it was when you moved in. However, by making sure you both have a clear idea of how things look when you move in and by knowing the difference between wear and tear and damage, you can move out of the property knowing whether or not any deductions to your deposit are reasonable and fair.