What is ‘Fair Wear and Tear’ for Your Rental Property?

When negotiating deposit deductions at the end of a tenancy, the landlord may be entitled to compensation for any perceived damage. 

In each unique situation, a set of criteria needs to be looked at, to ascertain whether the deduction amount proposed is reasonable and relative to the damage attributable to the tenant (in excess of fair wear and tear).

Fair wear and tear meaning: What is wear and tear UK?

Fair wear and tear refers to the reasonable deterioration in the condition of a rented property, caused by normal everyday usage during the tenant’s period of the tenancy. 

In the context of residential lettings, fair wear and tear means damage to carpets, decorations, fixtures, fittings and furniture that would reasonably be expected during a tenancy. If certain items were worn at the start of the tenancy, but are now damaged, this may be fair wear and tear. 

Therefore, landlords must bear in mind the age, quality and expected lifespan of decor, fixtures and fittings, the number and type of tenants (students or a family, for example), and the length of their occupancy. 

Fair wear and tear clause and legal definition UK law

The House of Lords defines fair wear and tear as “reasonable use of the premises by the tenant and the ordinary operation of natural forces.” These forces refer to the passing of time, and the effects of normal daily habits.

To avoid the appearance of betterment (a landlord replacing old items with new, and charging the tenant for the privilege), the allocation of costs or compensation must legally take into account these three elements:

1) Fair wear and tear

2) The most appropriate remedy or replacement

3) That the landlord is neither financially nor materially better off, having taken into account (1) and exercised (2).

What does fair wear and tear excepted mean?

At the end of a tenancy, the tenant has a responsibility to leave the property in the same order and condition recorded at the inventory stage, with fair wear and tear taken into account.

What constitutes fair wear and tear?

Wear and tear adds up over time; the longer the tenancy, the more wear and tear should be expected. It is a legal requirement that when considering compensation for damage, an allowance for fair wear and tear must be made. 

At the end of a tenancy, a landlord cannot ask the tenant to pay for repair or replacement for changes which were caused by fair wear and tear.

Some examples of fair wear and tear are worn carpets, faded curtains, minor scuffs and scrapes on walls, worn keys and dirty windows.

What is the difference between wear and tear and damage?

Wear and tear is a natural and inevitable occurrence, as a result of time and repetitive daily habits. Damage on the other hand is caused by human carelessness, negligence or recklessness.

If it’s not a result of abuse or neglect, the tenant cannot be held responsible. However, if tenants cause an unacceptable level of damage, they’re liable to be held accountable under their tenancy agreement.

In summary

A certain amount of wear and tear is unavoidable in rental properties, and normal wear and tear is required to be paid for by the landlord – but damage is not.

Landlords have the right to take action to claim the cost of repairing or replacing their possessions. However, what’s deemed ‘wear and tear’ as opposed to ‘damage’ can be a subject matter of opinion between tenant and landlord.

A landlord is entitled to possession of their property at the end of the term in the same condition as when they gave possession to the tenant, except that fair wear and tear is expected and must not be penalised.

To avoid this issue, a detailed and accurate inventory must be put in place before the tenant moves in – including a photo library, purchase receipts and trade reports – and completed again on exit to avoid disputes.

A landlord must be no better off at the end of the tenancy; it is important for all parties to understand that the landlord is not entitled to compensation to the extent that the property will be improved at the tenant’s expense.

FAQs

 

Q1. Are furniture marks on carpet wear and tear?

A. Yes, as naturally worn down carpets are wear and tear.

Q2. Are marks on the wall fair wear and tear?

A. Yes, small scuffs/marks on walls are wear and tear.

Q3. Are carpet stains normal wear and tear?

A. Dirty carpeting is wear and tear, yet torn, stained or burned carpeting is classed as damage.

Q4. Are scratches on wood floors normal wear and tear?

A. Scuffed up wood floors are normal wear and tear, yet badly scratched or gouged wood is classed as damage.

Q5. Are nail holes normal wear and tear?

A. Yes, a few small nail holes is considered wear and tear. However, dozens of nail holes which need patching and repainting is not.

Q6. Are light bulbs normal wear and tear?

A. No, replacement of most common light bulbs is the tenant’s responsibility.

Q7. Are oil stains normal wear and tear?

A. Oil stains on a garage floor are not unexpected, and also may be considered ordinary wear and tear, unless the floor is destroyed.

Q8. What is excessive wear and tear?

A. Significant damage caused that is not the tenants fault.