What damage is a tenant liable for?

Wear and tear, in the context of a tenancy, describes a property’s gradual deterioration over the course of a lease. Landlords deduct money from a deposit to cover reasonable wear and tear because it is an expected degradation of a property over time. But, it is the consideration of reasonable that creates blurred lines between a landlord and tenant’s obligations to replace and repair.

Because of uncertainty, it is crucial to understand the difference between normal wear and tear and damage brought on by the tenant, so you can ensure any damage for which the tenant is responsible will be accounted for financially. Read the guide by property law experts at AST Assistance below to understand who is liable for different types of property damage.

Instruct Us Our Approach

Why should I be aware of reasonable wear and tear?

It is critical that you, as a landlord, know the difference between damage and normal wear and tear. If damage to the property results from normal use, as the landlord you will not be able to charge your tenant or deduct the cost of repair from the deposit.

In some cases, property damage can develop as a result of consistent wear and tear. In these situations, the tenant may be held responsible for the damage because they failed to bring it to your attention before it was too late, and you may therefore bill the tenant for the necessary repairs.

In light of this, it is important to be aware of what constitutes fair wear and tear for various aspects of the property. Put yourself in a good position as a landlord by specifying what constitutes regular fair wear and tear before the tenancy starts.

How does typical wear and tear appear?

Fair wear and tear refers to the damage you would reasonably anticipate seeing in a property over time, and this is crucial - it helps to distinguish between normal wear and tear and intentional or accidental damage.

Wear and tear commonly includes:

  • Stained walls
  • Lightly scratched flooring
  • Chipped paint
  • Plaster cracks

Importantly, these are inevitable changes that occur as a result of daily life and can occur in all types of property over time - regardless of how well you care after a property. When the tenancy ends, knowing what constitutes fair wear and tear means that you will be financially compensated for any damage that is not for you to bear the burden of.

When will the damage-related deposit deductions appear?

If you notice damage to your property, you must use your fair judgement to determine whether it was caused by neglectful behaviour. If you can demonstrate that the damage is ‘actual damage’ - rather than gradual - you will be eligible to deduct relevant repair costs from your tenant’s deposit.

Dated images are one of the best ways you can demonstrate that damage has been caused. Prior to a tenant moving in, it is important to take photos and date them. Alternatively, you can discuss making a photo inventory with your tenant, which you both sign and date.

What is damage outside of normal wear and tear?

Damage outside of what is considered reasonable includes things like shattered windows and locks, holes in the walls, and torn curtains and carpets.

Furthermore, it is considered damaged property if despite your tenant’s best efforts, they paint over a scratch on the wall but the colour does not quite match, or if they lose the property keys and you have to buy new ones. This is why it is important to communicate the fees you may impose before your tenant leave; there are few grounds for rebuttal.

What happens if you can prove the damage caused?

If the tenant vacates without repairing the damage, you will have grounds to cover the costs through their deposit. In extreme circumstances, you might also be eligible to pursue legal action. In the event that the tenant causes significant property damage, you might have grounds for eviction

Before the tenant moves in, you should create a thorough inventory. This can demonstrate the property’s condition when the tenant moved in or if it degraded throughout the rental period.

Missing keys, damaged locks, missing or torn drapes, torn, soiled, or burned carpets, poorly painted walls, broken taps, and broken windows are all examples of problems for which you could remove money from your security deposit.

The deposit plan storing your tenant’s deposit is likely to have a dispute resolution mechanism if you and your tenant disagree about any damage claims. However, you may have a case of tenant-caused damage if, for instance, the inventory notes that the tap was loose at the start of the tenancy and it is broken by the time the tenant moves out.

Determining fair wear and tear can often be difficult and can cause disagreements. To understand what you would be owed following damage to your property, you should seek the help of legal experts in property rights, such as the experienced team at AST Assistance. 

Contact us today by calling us on 01706 619 954, emailing info@ast-assistance.com, or filling out our contact form here and we will get back at a convenient time for you.


Information, help & advice

Visit our Facebook and LinkedIn pages