Many tenancies end with a dispute over the return of security deposits and in many cases this revolves around what is reasonable wear and tear.
The Association of Independent Inventory Clerks (AIIC) ‘rule of thumb’ is that a tenant cannot be held responsible for damage caused by ‘reasonable use of the premises and the ordinary operation of natural forces’. For example, scuffed walls might be acceptable whereas pin marks in the walls or stains on the carpet may not be.
‘Mydeposits’, one of the authorised third parties that hold tenants’ deposits instead of Landlords have suggested some tests and advice for Landlords and Tenants alike.
These tests revolve around;
1. Length of tenancy – The longer the tenancy, the more natural wear and tear should be expected.
2. Number and age of occupiers – The more bedrooms and occupants, the higher the potential for wear and tear. It is reasonable to expect that a property occupied by a single person will see far less wear than a family of four.
3. Wear and tear vs damage – Clearly, obvious damage like a smashed window or broken plasterwork is unlikely to be classed as wear and tear and the costs of repair or replacement are likely to be set against the tenant’s deposit.
4. Quality of accommodation – the less substantial a property at the beginning of the tenancy the more wear and tear is likely to be reasonable at the end of a tenancy.
5. Good Management – As with our streets, keeping on top of the little things as Landlord will result in a tenant maintaining respect for your property. It also keeps your tenant happy! Periodic inspections might also be useful to ensure a tenant is keeping a property clean and tidy.
6. Keep a photographic schedule – Photo and video inventories are a helpful means of recording the condition of the property pre and post the tenancy and should provide a clear record of the property prior to its occupation. Support this schedule with a comprehensive inventory. Make sure both parties sign and date it and give your tenant a copy.
7. Be reasonable when being, well, reasonable! If something was ‘brand new’ then identify it as such – but keep the receipt as evidence too.
8. Keep records & evidence expenditure and damage.
9. Best practice – Keep on top of wear and tear and lax upkeep of your property to ensure a lesser problem later in the process.
All of this said, the law is the final arbiter and if you end up going to arbitration or court you will be best served by a clear tenancy agreement that details the rights and responsibilities of the parties, a detail photographic ‘schedule of condition’ undertaken at the start of the tenancy and a details ‘schedule of dilapidations’.
A detailed inventory will also be useful as will any correspondence that illustrates how reasonable you have been along the way. Without this, a successful outcome in court can be elusive and expensive.