What is Fair Wear and Tear?
Landlords can sometimes confuse ‘Fair Wear and Tear’ (FWT) as ‘Tenant Misuse’ when it comes to negotiating a rental security deposit return. Therefore, it is important to define FWT as the ‘natural deterioration of an item or area, due to its age and everyday normal usage’.
Any item within a rental property, including fixtures, fittings, carpets and décor, will have an “average useful lifespan”, meaning that its value will deteriorate over time.
That is one of the reasons why it is imperative to use the services of a professional inventory clerk to prepare an inventory and schedule of condition, with which to check-in a tenant or tenants at the start of the tenancy. This document should be as detailed as possible, clearly showing the quality of all items and showcasing any marks, scuffs, signs of age and, where possible, list the make and date of purchase of any items, so that their “average useful lifespan” can easily be assessed, and the cost of repair or replacement be calculated at the end of the tenancy.
Purchasing items for your rental property and logging them correctly
At the outset of the tenancy, it is very good practice to attach any receipts or payment details for items purchased for the rental property. You should do this for your tax allowance anyway, so it should not be too difficult!
If your inventory lists any item in a generic way – for instance – 1 pair of long cream curtains – then when you come to assessing deposit deductions for damage / repairs at the end of the tenancy, you will have to make those deductions based on the ‘average cost of a pair of curtains’ which could be incredibly different to the actual cost. You would need PROOF of purchase if you wanted to make deductions for ‘made to measure’ curtains as opposed to ‘off the shelf’ curtains.
It is also very wise to purchase items for your rental property which have a guarantee attached. That way you can clearly assess damage or repairs based upon the manufacturer’s lifespan and, where applicable, use the guarantee or warranty to repair or replace the item/s.
Assessing fair wear & tear at the end of a tenancy
The check-out inspection will identify changes in the condition of the property from the start of the tenancy and the end of the tenancy. However, deterioration does not necessarily mean that the tenant has breached a contractual obligation and damaged, or misused, an item or area of the property. It could be the case that an item has deteriorated over time through normal usage and that no deduction from the deposit is justified.
Once a letting agent or landlord is in receipt of the check-in and check-out reports, it is important to review the documents thoroughly noting any deterioration. This is also where you should pay attention to any receipts for items and check the manufacturers
There are a number of factors that influence the scope of FWT which a landlord may expect within a rental property. Such factors include:
- The number, age and relationships of the occupants in the property.
- Are there pets living at the property, if so how many and what type – dogs & cats will use the furniture & fixtures!
- Are there young children living in the property?
- What is the length of the tenancy? Someone in a property for 6 months will have far less wear & tear than a family living in a property for 5 years.
- As discussed already, what is the condition and age of the item or area at the start of the tenancy?
- And, what is the quality of the item and what is the manufacturer’s recommended lifespan?
An example of this explanation would be to consider a case in which a carpet was in ‘fair condition’ at the start of a tenancy; however, at the end of a five-year tenancy the carpet is ‘fraying’ and ‘shaded due to use’. You may attempt to make a deduction from the tenant’s deposit for the shading and fraying of the carpet, however, in actual fact the carpet was not new at the start of the tenancy and the tenancy ran for a period of five years meaning the carpet is likely to be six or seven years old. The shading is shown to be due to use and the fraying may have occurred due to natural usage.
Considering FWT and the factors set out above is necessary in order to reach a fast and fair resolution with the tenant. Failure to consider would likely lead to deductions being proposed from the deposit which are unreasonable and unjustified which could prolong the end of the tenancy process and lead to a tenancy deposit dispute in which the adjudicator makes no award.
Let’s take a look at some examples:
Pets use sofas, carpets, maybe even beds. They have claws that can scratch items, they can have lots of hair that will shed all around the house – pets in a rental property will mean more wear and tear on your items. You can insure against any damage caused, but they will count towards FWT in a rental property.
The photo of the sofa is likely to be FTW: This is not a scratch or cut, it looks like the seam of the sofa has worn and come apart.
A family living in a rental property with people at home throughout the day will account for more fair wear and tear on the property than one professional tenant who works long hours away from home. Of course, since the pandemic, most people have been working from home, this will undoubtedly mean more fair wear and tear caused to the property.
In these images, we have 2 ‘beige carpets’. One appears to be more hardwearing than the other (on the right) – of course, the purchase receipt and details will be able to confirm that – so wear and tear on that carpet should be less than on the other. However, we have a paint mark to factor in. In the first instance, a specialist stain removing company should be spoken to, could the paint mark be removed? If not, or if not to a satisfactory level – which means to exactly the same level of ‘wear and tear’ as the remainder of the carpet in situ – then a deduction would be assessed based upon the lifespan and quality of the carpet, and how large or visible is the mark.
You would not get a brand new carpet paid for in this instance!
Scuff marks, scratches, picture frame marks are all assessed based upon the FTW criteria listed above. Again, this is why it is so important to have a detailed inventory and schedule of condition prepared at the outset of the tenancy, and that the tenant is officially checked into the property. Either of these pictures could be FTW or could be damage, and you would need proof in order to assess correctly.
Clearly, the photo on the left has scribble marks on the wall, these could have been caused by a child living at or visiting the property. It should be clear from the check-in report if these marks were already at the property at the outset of the tenancy, which would be very unlikely. However, if you have accepted children into your rental property there would be more likelihood of this type of issue happening, and it is likely that the FWT on the paintwork would be considered less than in a home without children’s hands on the walls.
On the right-hand side is a photo of a carpet that has worn with age. It is likely that this carpet needs replacing by the landlord and no charge would be made on the tenant.
The average lifespan of some household items:
- Carpets: A moderate, slightly higher quality carpet has a lifespan of 5 to 15 years. The lifetime of the best carpet on the market varies between 15 and 25 years on average.
- Paintwork: In general, interior paint will last from 5 to 10 years, depending upon the type of paint and how many coats were applied. You can expect your exterior paint to last between 5 to 7 years. Keep in mind that your exterior paint will be affected by regional climate conditions, the material painted, and the type of paint used.
- Sofa: While the average sofa should last between 7 and 15 years, signs of wear and tear are likely to appear before then.
- Fridge/Freezer: If your appliance is maintained efficiently, you could expect a fridge freezer lifespan of at least 10 years.
- Mattress: Should last between 7 and 10 years before it starts to decline and becomes uncomfortable.
- Other items, soft furnishings, curtains: click here.
Choose a qualified inventory clerk and keep records!
At Ashington Page, we have an in-house inventory service available and we are proud of the record-keeping we do on behalf of our landlord clients. This means that we offer a completely fair service to all parties, in accordance with the law. If you would like any information about fair wear and tear and how to minimise any damage happening at your rental property, please contact us on 01494 685518 or read more about our landlord services here.