How to determine fair wear and tear

There aren’t any set rules on deciding what ‘reasonable’ wear and tear is, but it’s something domestic tenancies have to allow for. If you’re in doubt, here’s how to decide what’s fair and what not, by Simple Landlords Insurance.


The House of Lords says that fair wear and tear is ‘reasonable use of the premises by the Tenant and the ordinary operation of natural forces’, but this doesn’t exactly give a clear cut definition of what fair wear and tear is. How would you assess damage from ‘natural forces’?

Damage that’s happened through negligence, for example nail polish or make-up stains on carpet, is largely avoidable. Slight scuffs on the wall however, may not be. If you have to involve a specialist to repair the damage, it’s a good indicator it’s not fair wear and tear.

A quick look at The Dispute Service website will give you plenty of case studies. From these, you’ll be able to get a good sense of what’s suitable to dispute and what’s not. Take note that you’ll need a good amount of evidence to support a dispute claim. Itemised bills or quotes for repair, receipts for new items, and a copy of the tenancy agreement will all be needed. It’s a good idea to create an inventory that the tenant signs upon check-in to the property, as well as photos of the condition where possible. Then, if there’s a dispute, take photos of the condition after the tenant has left so you can show the difference.

There’s also a number of things you’ll need to factor in when you weigh up what’s ‘fair wear and tear’. For example, how long was the tenancy? The longer your tenant’s been in the property, the more natural wear there’ll be. Think about depreciation, after all, nothing stays brand new!

Factor in if your tenants have children, as the case studies show, it will be brought up in the adjudication process. Is your tenant a smoker? Do they have pets? This should be taken into account, as that may impact on the condition of the property.

Also, newer properties aren’t as tough as old ones; they tend to have thinner walls and will take more damage. That means there’s a better chance they’ll need to be redecorated.

In an ideal situation, there’d be no wear and tear in your property. As a landlord, you’ll want to keep your tenants as happy as possible to avoid any disputes over damage. Just remember: make sure you’re protected with necessary evidence should any disputes arise. You don’t want it to look like you’re trying to improve the property at the tenant’s expense!

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