Fair Wear & Tear?
I spoke to some clients recently who’d lost their bond due to a small stain on the kitchen bench-top which the landlord had replaced at their expense. Now, some would say that circumstance would fall under fair wear and tear. They may have possibly saved their bond if they’d fought the claim at VCAT.
Legally a landlord should not end up, either financially or materially in a better position than he was in at the commencement of the tenancy or than he/she would have been at the end of the tenancy having allowed for fair wear and tear.
It follows therefore (and is an established legal tenet) that a landlord is not entitled to charge his/her tenants the full cost for having any part of his property, or any fixture or fitting “put back to the condition it was at the start of the tenancy.” This would constitute betterment.
Therefore, appropriate remedies available to the landlord might range from:
- Replacement of the damaged item where it is either severely and extensively damaged beyond economic repair or, its condition makes it unusable
- Repair or cleaning
- Compensation for diminution in inherent value of the item or the shortening of its useful normal lifespan
Legislation states that the tenant must leave the property in the same condition as it was at the commencement of the tenancy, taking into consideration fair wear and tear. It is a common expectation by landlords that the property is to be left in a perfect condition as it was at the commencement of the tenancy, without taking into consideration fair wear and tear.
A generalised definition of fair wear and tear is: something that happens during normal use or changes that happen with aging. So where do we draw the line? This has been one of the ongoing challenges for many years with both tenants and landlords.
Generally though, property managers and landlords have standards above the norm and the small claims tribunal majority of the time rule against them and accept it as fair wear and tear. This puts tenants at ease as landlords will do their best to keep the bond money to replace things at the tenants expense.
When determining fair wear and tear the following should be taken into consideration:
- The number of tenants that resided in the property;
- The term of the tenancy; and
- The age of the fixtures & fittings
There is going to be a greater allowance for “fair wear and tear” if you have a property with a family of four children, who resided in the property for five years and no improvements/replacements were carried out with carpets, curtains & painting of walls etc – compared to a single couple who resided in the property for 6 months where the carpet, curtains and walls were painted in the last 12 months.
Areas that may be considered fair wear and tear:
- Holes in fly screens
- Marks on carpets
- Marks on walls
- Marks on curtains
- Insects in light fittings
- Dusty window tracks
- Tears in lino or cracks in tiles
Once again, the above areas will depend on the circumstances of the tenancy. Hopefully this will give you more understanding to the grey area we call ‘fair wear & tear’. For more info regarding end of lease cleaning, contact us on (03) 9092 0636 or click here.