Understanding Repair Costs: Who Pays for Tenant-Caused Damage

Published on: 14

Establishing who bears the cost of property damage to a rental property is not always straightforward, but taking the time to properly understand which obligations lie with which party will ensure the dispute process goes more smoothly.

In the following guide, AST Assistance advises on the various considerations landlords should make when reviewing a tenancy agreement towards the end of a tenancy, or if damage concerns arise during one.

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Understanding the basic obligations of landlords and tenants

The relationship between a landlord and tenant is dictated by certain rights and responsibilities. In the UK, landlords are legally obligated to manage certain types of property maintenance and repairs, such as any general wear and tear and electrical appliances supplied by the landlord.

On the flip side, tenants have a duty to keep the property in a 'tenant-like manner', respecting the fabric of the building and its surroundings. The specifics of these responsibilities can often seem ambiguous and challenging to navigate.

What is the difference between wear and tear, and damage?

One of the key areas of potential confusion in property maintenance is distinguishing between wear and tear and damage. 'Wear and tear' is a term used to describe the expected and natural degradation of a property and its fixtures over time due to regular use. This might include things like faded paint, worn-out carpets, or minor scuffs and scratches on the walls or floors. The important point here is that wear and tear occur naturally over time, even when the tenant is taking good care of the property.

Damage, on the other hand, refers to harm inflicted on the property that goes beyond the expected wear and tear. This could include anything that affects the property's value, utility, or functionality. Damage might be the result of an accident, negligence, misuse, or even intentional harm.

Examples of damage could include a broken window, large holes in the walls, burn marks on the carpet, or a broken door. These are instances where the tenant has caused harm to the property beyond the regular ageing process and is expected to bear the cost of repair.

The distinction between wear and tear and damage is crucial because it directly influences who foots the bill for repairs. Normal wear and tear is generally the landlord's responsibility to fix, as it is part of maintaining the property. However, if a tenant causes damage to the property, they are typically held responsible for the repairs.

Who is responsible for covering tenant-caused damage

If the damage to a property extends beyond the realm of normal wear and tear, the financial responsibility generally falls on the tenant. But if tenants refuse to pay, this situation can quickly evolve into a distressing dispute. During this time, landlords should refer to the tenancy agreement which was signed by both parties, where the responsibilities of each party should be clearly outlined. Should a disagreement arise between tenant and landlord, a wise step is landlord tenant mediation.

How to prove tenant-caused damage

Solid proof of property conditions at the beginning and end of a tenancy can make all the difference when dealing with disputes over damages. This is where a thorough inventory and schedule of condition-reviews come into play, backed by photographic evidence and written documents. With the help of tenancy management experts - such as those at AST Assistance - landlords can be confident that any expenses will be covered by the correct party.

The Deposit Protection Scheme and its role in settling disputes

In the UK, the Deposit Protection Scheme acts as a significant line of defence for landlords when settling disputes about property damage. It serves to safeguard the tenant's deposit and offers a free dispute resolution service if disagreements occur at the end of the tenancy. AST Assistance can guide landlords in utilising this scheme optimally, helping them make well-informed claims and settle disputes in an efficient and effective manner.

Dealing with serious damage

No landlord wishes to confront serious tenant-caused damages. However, the unpredictable nature of property letting necessitates a comprehensive landlord insurance policy. Taking out insurance can protect landlords against any unnecessary costs and legal expenses should a dispute arise. Serious damage may include structural damage, fire damage, broken windows or water damage.

Legal recourse for landlords with AST Assistance

In certain unfortunate circumstances, when all efforts have been exhausted, legal action may become inevitable and may lead to tenant eviction. Navigating the legal landscape can feel overwhelming and daunting, especially when landlords are already dealing with the stress of property damage. However, with AST Assistance by their side, landlords can find the process more manageable.

For more information on how AST Assistance can help your unique situation, call us today on 01707 619954, or fill out the online contact form below to arrange a time for us to call you back.

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