What is fair wear and tear?

WEAR AND TEAR – A GUIDE FOR LANDLORDS… Although there are no exact rules for what is reasonable wear and tear we offer some useful advice to help landlords decide what they feel is fair and what is not when deciding whether anything should be deducted from the deposit when the tenant(s) move out.  The […]

What is fair wear and tear?


Although there are no exact rules for what is reasonable wear and tear we offer some useful advice to help landlords decide what they feel is fair and what is not when deciding whether anything should be deducted from the deposit when the tenant(s) move out.  The following factors should be taken into consideration:

  • Wear and Tear vs Actual Damage
  • Quality and Condition
  • Length of Tenancy
  • Number and age of occupiers
  • Inventory and Schedule of Condition Reports
  • Photographic/Video Evidence
  • Summary

Wear and Tear vs Actual Damage

When is it no longer normal wear?  If something is in good condition at the start of the tenancy but is broken or damaged at the end of the tenancy and resulting in replacement or repair by a specialist.  Light marking on carpets may have to be viewed as unavoidable, however iron burns or candle wax that have occurred due to the tenant(s) negligence could be seen as liable for repair or replacement.  It needs to be considered if the item has been damaged or worn out through natural use rather than negligence.

Quality and Condition

The original quality of the item and what it cost to provide needs to be considered at the beginning of the tenancy.  It is unfair and unreasonable for a landlord to provide cheap and poor quality furniture and then blame the tenant(s) if the items has fallen apart/damaged through normal usage.  Keeping receipts of any items purchased is very important as it is a good way of proving age, cost and quality when new.  Consideration should also be given to the quality or fabric of the property.  Older properties tend to be more robust than many new builds or conversions.  Walls, partitions and internal painted surfaces tend to be thinner and therefore more likely to suffer more stress, particularly in higher footfall areas of the property.  This means there may be a greater need for redecoration at the end of the tenancy period and therefore anything other than a simple contribution to the cost of the redecoration may be seen as unreasonable.

Length of Tenancy

The longer the tenancy, the more natural wear.  Common sense, but think, for example, how much wear a carpet in your own home shows after one, two or three years.  Consider what condition the item was in when the tenancy started, was it brand new or has it already seen a few tenancies?

Number and Age of Occupiers

The more bedrooms and occupants, the higher the wear and tear in all common parts should be expected e.g. living room, hallways, stairs, bathrooms and kitchen.  If letting to a family with children this needs to be factored in as well.  Scuffs and scrapes are unavoidable in normal family life.  A property with a single occupant should see far less wear than a property with a family of four, so take this into account when it comes to the check-out.

Inventory and Schedule of Condition Report

It should not be underestimated the importance of an inventory.  This document could be used as evidence by either an adjudicator or court.  Deposit protection schemes do not disregard, out of hand, inventories that have not be compiled by an independent companies or individuals.  Many landlords use their agents to conduct their check-in and check-out inspections.  There is however an added need to show that the process and person undertaking the inspection was impartial.  It is very important to get the tenant(s) to view the documents at the start of the tenancy, preferably at a check-in and allow them to amend (if necessary) and sign the documents.  If the tenant does not sign them, you should explain why.  If a landlord puts the onus on the tenant to complete their own check-in, this is far less robust than a ‘full’ check-in.  Just providing an inventory to the tenant and expecting them to note any discrepancies, or relying on a document that has not been signed, will not be sufficient to convince an adjudicator or court.  You will need to provide other evidence to show that the tenant(s) obligations and expectations were fully explained to them.  It is sensible to carry out periodic inspections of the property during the tenancy.

Photographic/Video Evidence

Photographic and video evidence can be used to support, and/or defend a claim against a deposit.  Only photos that are relevant should be submitted.  Preferably before and after photos should be submitted with a clear narrative as to what the photo is showing e.g. colours, item description, marks on surfaces etc.  Do not assume that an adjudicator or court is seeing the same image as you – draw them to the part of the photo you want them to focus on.  Photos should ideally, be dated and signed by both parties, or alternatively digitally dated (preferably visible on the photograph).  Photographs need to be of a good quality to show clearly the condition of the property at any given time.  Photographs are useful as supporting evidence in addition to a signed inventory and schedule of condition report.  Video evidence can also be useful where photographic evidence is unclear or unavailable.  Only submit the relevant part of the video and again direct the adjudicator or court to view a certain point in the video itself.


When considering if cleaning/repair is necessary versus complete replacement at the end of the tenancy, an adjudicator or court will examine the inventory and schedule of condition report, together with any photographic/video evidence in order to compare the condition of the property at the start of the tenancy.  In some cases, the damage may not be so extensive as to require the complete replacement of an item at the tenants expense (such as kitchen worktop or carpet), however the adjudicator or court will award sums in recognition of any damage which has occurred.  In the rare circumstances where damage (to the worktop/carpet/mattress/item etc) is so extensive or severe as to affect the achievable rent level or market quality of the property, the most appropriate remedy might be replacement and to apportion costs according to the age and useful lifespan of the item.

An example of how this might be calculated is set out below:

  1. A) Cost of similar replacement carpet/item = £500.00
  2. B) Actual age of existing carpet/item = 2 years
  3. C) Average useful lifespan of that type of carpet/item = 10 years
  4. D) Residual lifespan of carpet/item calculated as ‘C)’ less ‘B)’ = 8 years
  5. E) Depreciation of value rate calculated as ‘A)’ divided by ‘C)’ = £50 per year
  6. F) Reasonable apportionment cost to tenant(s) calculated as ‘D)’ times ‘E)’ = £400

Whilst it is impossible for any guide to guarantee what the outcome to a tenancy deposit dispute might be.  By their very nature, disputes are contentious and one party is likely to feel aggrieved at the end of the process.  Adjudicators or courts are looking for a fair and reasonable outcome.

Follow This Simple Step By Step Guide

  • When taking a deposit, you should protect it within 30 days from receipt from the tenant(s) – either register it with a custodial deposit scheme or arrange protection through an insurance scheme.
  • You need to consider carefully any deductions you wish to make from the deposit and ask yourself ‘is this fair?’ or ‘how would I feel if I was the tenant?’  You should discuss your concerns with the tenant(s). Open communication prevents a large number of potential disputes.
  • When dealing with a custodial deposit scheme, familiarise yourself with their process and follow them.  Custodial deposit schemes are allowed to make awards to the tenant(s) where landlords break their scheme rules.
  • If making a claim, try and view the evidence that you are submitting from a point of view of an independent third party i.e an adjudicator or court who does not know your property.  Will your evidence convince them of your case?
  • If you agree to adjudication then remember that you cannot appeal against the final decision unless you challenge it through the courts.


Do you have any questions regarding fair wear and tear? If so, reply to this email and we will be happy to advise you.

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