The terms “fair wear and tear” appears on most tenancy agreements. But what is fair to a landlord may not necessarily appear fair to a tenant, and vice versa.
In general terms it is usually understood that fair wear and tear means that in regard to any apparent damage done to part of a landlord’s property, the landlord must take account of reasonable wear in the day to day usage of the property, and he/she must not expect over-compensation. Indeed, within reason, wear and tear is part of the cost of letting a property.
In calculating any damages that do occur, the original age, quality and condition of any item at the commencement of the tenancy should be considered, along with the average expected useful life of the item, expected reasonable usage, number of occupants, and length of occupancy. There is certainly no legal right for a landlord to expect to have the property returned to him in the condition in which it was at the start of the tenancy, and the tenant’s deposit should not be used to achieve this.
If, for example a table is damaged, it would not be reasonable for the tenant to replace this with a new table, but with a similar one in terms of age and condition to the one damaged before it was broken. If the damage is repairable then a good repair should be acceptable. A small stain on a carpet should only cost the amount charged to remove the stain, not the cost of entire replacement. However, if replacement is necessary, the cost should be apportioned according to the age and expected lifespan of the item, using the following formula, where:
A=Cost to Replace eg £300
B=Actual age of item eg 4 years
C=Expected Normal Lifespan eg 10 years
D=Residual Lifespan (C-B) 6 years
E=Annual Depreciation (A/C) £30
Apportionment to tenant (DxE) £180
Generally, tenants are much more respectful of a landlord’s property than is often expected, although good vetting procedures at the outset help. But accidents do happen and this is where the term “reasonable” can be very useful for landlord and tenant alike.