Tenant Deposits: When is Damage 'Wear and Tear'?

If there is a single event that vexes landlords most it’s when a property is deliberately or carelessly damaged by tenants during a tenancy.

This ranges from broken furniture to cracked windows both of which a post-tenancy inventory inspection will flag up and the relevant deduction will be made from the deposit. But there are a host of other types of damage that are in a much greyer area. So what do you do when deciding what to deduct from the deposit when they move out?

Dirty or Damaged Flooring

Despite a professional clean carpets or wooden flooring may still look tired at the end of a tenancy but it’s hard to claim for this off the deposit unless they have severely stained the flooring, burnt it or ripped it with a sharp object.

Damage to Kitchen Top

If your tenants have been doing some chopping without the board and the top has significant damage to it – i.e. more than just a few cuts here and there – then they will have to pay for a replacement.

Enamel Chips to the Bathroom Furniture

This is not wear and tear. If the tenants have been careless enough to chip the enamel down to the metal then a ‘bath doctor’ will be needed to patch it and the cost deducted from the deposit. This normally costs between £80 and £150 to fix depending on the size of the chip.

Blocked Drains

If drains get blocked then you can’t charge tenants to clear them but if they fail to report the blockage and it goes on to create other damage then you can.

Wall Plaster Damage

Minor scuffs, scrapes and bashes come under ‘wear and tear’ but if the plaster damage is clearly negligent or intentional then the repair cost can be claimed.

Broken White Goods

Even if white goods break down because your tenants fail to maintain them properly (i.e. put salt in the dishwasher reservoir) it’s still hard to claim it as ‘damage’. This is mainly because it’s very hard to prove negligence.

Damaged Electrical Fittings

At home it is unusual for sockets, light fittings and switches to break unless they are hit with a hard object so any damage to these should be deducted off the tenant’s deposit.

You can help yourself to avoid ambiguity around what constitutes wear and tear by having a well written tenancy agreement, which is available of part of our tenant signup service.

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You should also ensure both you and your new tenants agree on the condition your property is in when they move in. You can do this by ensuring a clear and accurate inventory is prepared.

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Finally, ensure that as a landlord you are covered should you need to make an insurance claim.

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