Understanding fair wear and tear is hugely important for both landlords and tenants. Yet a lot of misunderstanding remains over what’s considered wear and tear and what is classed as damage that can be deducted from a tenant’s deposit.
Here, we’ll explain everything you need to know about fair wear and tear, including the rules around the Wear and Tear Allowance for landlords, as well as answering some common questions from tenants.
Wear and tear: What does it mean?
All properties suffer damage when they’re lived in for a period of time.
Wear and tear is classed as a normal level of damage or decay that you would expect to see in a property that is lived in ‘normally’ over a certain timeframe.
Any damage or decay that falls into the category of wear and tear should not be covered by deducting from a tenant’s deposit.
The wear and tear allowance: What landlords need to know
Old rules on wear and tear were scrapped in 2016 and replaced with a new Replacement Relief system for landlords.
Under Replacement Relief, landlords:
Can claim tax relief on the cost of a replacement item, which is capped at the cost of a ‘modern equivalent’, but:
• Must deduct any proceeds of sale of the old item
• Can include any cost of disposing the old item
Replacement Relief is available on domestic items for a rental property, including:
• Moveable furniture supplied for a tenancy
• Carpets, curtains and linen
• Appliances like fridges, freezers and ovens
• Kitchen items like crockery and cutlery
• Televisions and other technology
What constitutes wear and tear?
‘Wear and tear’ is essentially anything that occurs naturally over time and is almost impossible to avoid over periods of months and years.
Damage, on the other hand, is something that wouldn’t occur naturally over time and is caused deliberately, by accident or through neglect.
The biggest problem with fair wear and tear is that it can be hugely subjective – something a landlord considers as unnaturally occurring damage might be seen as exactly the opposite by a tenant. This is where a detailed, photographic inventory is key so the condition of your rental property at the start and end of a tenancy can be assessed alongside visual evidence.
Are broken blinds normal wear and tear?
Blinds that have been faded by the sun would be considered fair wear and tear, as this kind of damage is naturally occurring.
A frayed pull string that has worn out through normal use would also be considered natural wear and tear.
However, a blind with twisted or bent slats may be classed as damage due to misuse and the cost of repairing or replacing it could be deducted from your deposit.
Is a chipped tile wear and tear?
A chipped or marked kitchen or bathroom tile would almost certainly be classed as fair wear and tear in most cases, unless the damage was caused by clear negligence. However, missing tiles, or those that are severely damage or shattered, could be judged to be damage.
Is a clogged drain normal wear and tear?
A blocked drain will, more often than not, be classed as damage as it’s not something that would, or should, naturally occur.
Clogged drains are caused by foreign objects or a build-up of fat, grease, or debris, and so your landlord will usually be within their rights to deduct the costs of fixing the issue from your deposit.
Are carpet stains normal wear and tear?
Worn carpets will usually be classed as wear and tear. But carpet stains are usually down to an accident or negligence and, as such, your landlord would be able to deduct the cost of repair or replacement from your deposit.
The difference between wear and tear and damage
The difference between what’s classed as wear and tear and what is considered to be ‘damage’ is often a very fine line.
Here are some examples of what could be considered wear and tear and what will almost certainly be labelled ‘damage’.
Wear and Tear
Burned or stained carpet
Minor scuff to hard flooring
Deep scratches or gouge marks on flooring
Water damage on ceiling from leaky roof
Water damage on ceiling from bath water
Slightly worn kitchen countertop
Burn mark on kitchen countertop
Ripped or burned curtains
Small amount of dirt on windows
Cracked or smashed windows
Loose toilet seat
Broken toilet seat
Things landlords should consider when assessing fair wear and tear
Deciding whether to class certain damage as fair wear and tear or whether to deduct from a tenant’s deposit can be tricky for landlords.
When assessing a property at the end of a tenancy, you should consider:
• The age and condition of each item / area of your property at the start of the tenancy
• The realistic, natural lifespan of each item
• The number of tenants in your property and the usage levels of each item
• The age and demographic of your tenants and how much that impacts on their use of items / areas of your property
• The length of the tenancy
What are betterment and apportionment?
Betterment is the term for rules that state landlords can’t be financially or materially better off at the end of a tenancy through deposit deductions.
That means you can’t charge your tenant for the full cost of replacing an item with something better.
That means if there is a stain on the carpet of your rental property at the end of a tenancy that would cost £80 to repair, you aren’t able to replace the carpet and charge the tenant the full cost of doing so. Instead, you should apportion the cost.
So, if you spent £300 on a new carpet, you would pay £220 and charge your tenant what it would have cost to have the carpet repaired (£80).
The start of a new year frequently means landlords need to prepare for a raft of legislation changes.
This year is no different, but we’ve rounded up everything landlords can expect from 2021.
And if you’re a tenant thinking of renting a new property, take a look at our guide on the do’s and don’ts of renting.