Wear and tear is the damage that naturally occurs in a building over time as it is used. Even if proper care and maintenance are regularly performed, some damage will inevitably still occur.

Disputes can arise between a landlord and tenant when each party has a different idea of what should qualify as natural fair wear and tear. 55% of all disputes raised with the Tenancy Deposit Scheme stem from tenants who are unhappy with deductions from their deposit for what they consider to be unavoidable deterioration. Knowing what qualifies as reasonable wear and tear helps you as a tenant to ensure that you will have your security deposit returned at the end of your lease.

How do you determine what is fair?

The guidelines for fair wear and tear differ between commercial or office leases compared to residential tenancies. Typically, a commercial lease will be more strict and requires the property to be left as it was found once vacated. Most of the factors to consider will be the same for all types of rental property though.

Tenancy duration

The longer a tenancy lasts, the more wear and tear should be expected, and landlords should be prepared to give more leeway. What a landlord should expect the carpets to look like after a 5-year lease compared to a 1-year lease should be very different.

Number of occupiers

The number of occupants in a given space will play a major factor in the wear and tear as well. In commercial properties, a business with five employees would logically cause less wear than one with thirty employees.

Quality of build materials

Things that are built to last can be reasonably expected to withstand general wear and tear better than properties where cheaper build materials have been used. For example, a flatpack pine table may not be expected to be in great condition after ten years, but one made of solid oak may be. Landlords who opt for cost effective furnishings and fixtures should not then penalise tenants when they need replacing more regularly.

The lifespan of an item should be taken into account when calculating wear and tear liabilities. If the carpets of your building should have an expected lifespan of 5 years and they will need to be replaced after you have occupied the premises for three years, the tenant should expect to pay 40 per cent of the cost to replace them.

What you can and cannot expect tenants to pay for

Most structural items fall squarely under fair wear and tear, and are the responsibility of the landlord. This includes things such as loose hinges, warped door frames, reasonably worn floors and countertops, water damage to ceilings from rain, and similar items.

Damages, on the other hand, involve anything ‘broken’ by you as a tenant, either wilfully or by accident. This may include holes in the wall, burn marks or broken windows. The tenant will be held responsible for any such damages and can expect to pay as a result. In addition to damages, a landlord can also deduct money from a deposit for unpaid rent, cleaning costs, or any furnished items missing from the property.

In most cases, both tenants and landlords are reasonable people. It is advisable for tenants to own up to any damage they caused and expect to pay for it. It’s the least they can expect to do if they also expect their landlord to be reasonable when it comes to service charges and rent renewals.

In some cases, there may be an item that you simply cannot agree upon. In the event of a dispute, both parties have the right to take the case to an independent arbitrator. They can examine all the evidence and make an impartial yet legally binding ruling.

Find out more

If you are a commercial landlord and need more advice on wear and tear costs and handling service agreements with tenants, contact our property management team today.