Whether you’re a landlord or a tenant, you’ll be familiar with the phrase ‘fair wear and tear’ – but are you confident that you understand what it means?
Fair wear and tear can be a contentious issue at the end of a tenancy. This subjective term is used to describe the deterioration of a home that could be reasonably expected during a tenancy – in contrast to damage that has been caused intentionally or due to tenant negligence.
What does ‘fair wear and tear’ mean?
‘Fair wear and tear’ describes the normal deterioration of a property from ordinary, everyday use. It’s impossible to live in a property without causing some form of minor damage – scuff marks on the walls, worn carpet in high-traffic areas, and so on. Exposure to the elements – particularly the hot Australian sun – will also cause discolouration of curtains, carpets, paint and even floorboards.
Often, once a tenant has moved out, the landlord will become aware of changes to the property that have occurred during the tenancy. Whether the tenant is liable to pay for these changes to be rectified via their bond will depend on whether they’re classified as fair wear and tear or damage which has been intentionally caused or caused by the tenant failing to take reasonable care.
For tenants, having a solid understanding of what’s regarded as fair wear and tear will give them the best chance of receiving their bond back in full at the end of their tenancy. Likewise, landlords with realistic expectations about fair wear and tear and a good property manager should usually be able to avoid bond disputes.
Common types of fair wear and tear
Fair wear and tear generally applies to the areas of a property that would be expected to wear out over time with regular, daily use, such as:
- Faded curtains or frayed curtain cords
- Plaster cracks from building movement
- Scuffed wooden floors
- Furniture indentations and traffic marks on carpets
- Faded paint
- Worn kitchen benchtops
The age of the property and the length of the tenancy will also have an impact on what’s classified as wear and tear. Older properties are often prone to structural cracking, and it’s fair to assume that a tenant who lives in a property for many years will cause more wear and tear than someone who vacates after 12 months.
Common types of damage
Damage to a rental property is caused by tenant negligence or carelessness and can include accidents. Fair wear and tear does not include:
- Torn or missing curtains
- Dented or badly scratched wooden floors
- Stains or burns on carpets
- Burns or cuts to kitchen benchtops
- Cracked or broken light fixtures or windows
- Damage caused by pets
Avoiding disputes over fair wear and tear
The best way to avoid conflict between landlord and tenant regarding fair wear and tear is to ensure a comprehensive condition report is completed at the start of the tenancy and thoroughly updated at every routine inspection. Any damage to the condition of the property should be photographed and recorded, and the landlord kept informed of these changes.
At Greg Hocking, our property management team takes a proactive approach to ensuring condition reports are kept up to date on an ongoing basis. We educate our tenants on fair wear and tear and take detailed photographs of our rental properties at all stages of tenancies to minimise the likelihood of bond disputes.