Fair wear and tear v damage

It’s that arch old divide. Not Eagles vs Dockers, not Celtic vs Rangers, not even Batman vs Superman… It’s Wear and tear vs damage.

Okay, so not as much rivalry as the aforementioned however there is a huge debate on this topic and it seems that this debate will continue long after I have finished writing (and you have finished reading this blog). In order to discuss the debate, let’s define each individually.

Tenant Help (.com.au) defines Fair wear and tear as damage that happens through: the ordinary day-to-day use of a place by a tenant (e.g. carpet gets worn from people walking on it); and. the ordinary operation of natural forces (e.g. sunlight, rain). Naturally these definitions are actually quite ambiguous. As is the definition of damage. From the same source as the loss or harm to property caused by excessive abuse or misuse; and misuse or neglect that results reduces value, usefulness, etc. Great, I feel much clearer now that we have cleared that up. Surely with a definition of both it should be easy to determine which is which. Unfortunately not. The residential tenancies Act takes a similar stand in that it is extremely vague on what can be classed as wear and tear. The reality is that it IS extremely difficult to determine what wear and tear is. The most common articles use the extreme and easily identifiable of examples. Worn carpet through traffic is wear and tear and a red wine stain is damage. Well Duh! What about a carpet which has been worn through the tenant running a business from home in which there is almost 40% more traffic on the carpet than anticipated from a normal family home…The tenant’s use of the property has caused more wear however the owner would have been aware of the tenants running the business. Who is responsible in this situation? It is always an issue which is up for debate, which makes the use of a skilled property manager very beneficial to owners, AND tenants. There is no set chart for possible wear because anything and everything is open to wear and tear. Instead here are a few key tips for both owners and tenants to aid in this debate

Read your Property Condition Report

The PCR is not there to make up paperwork it has a useful purpose. It is important for tenants to thoroughly read through the report and make any notes on issues you do not agree with as this will be the aid in ensuring you return the property to its original condition. Landlords should also read the report thoroughly, especially between tenancies. If you remember the property being a certain way 8 years ago, it may have changed through the times. Check the PCR’s to see mention of wear on the carpets. That might not be the last tenant’s fault and I cannot stress the amount of times some tenants have paid for previous tenants mistakes.

Property Inspections – Do them, allow them

As a tenant, make sure you are cooperative in ensuring access to the property. This is a vital time for the property manager to look at parts of the property normally subject to wear; carpets, curtains etc. At this point they can raise comments to the owner or in times advise the tenant on items to avoid in future in hope of retaining their bond. Landlords should also regularly conduct inspections or have agents conduct them on their behalf. Do not be fooled by the option of saving a few dollars by not inspecting. They are worth it!

Clean

This can be the definitive pivot between wear and tear and damage. A tenant’s failure to keep a property clean and tidy can be deemed as negligence and therefore damage to elements of the property.

Maintain the garden

The garden alone is one of the biggest disputes when it comes to the security bond. As with cleaning, allowing the items to build up can have a huge impact and it is recommended to stay on top of the garden. A few minutes every week can saves hours at the end of a tenancy.

What is reasonable to ask of a tenant?

This one is a recommendation straight from my heart. Think about what you are possibly asking a tenant to do at the property? If there are any unusual trees in the garden which require particular attention, a large pool which requires regular chemicals, or if there are particular features inside the property like an antique log fireplace which requires regular cleaning is it reasonable to ask the tenant to go above and beyond on these items. Consider taking the time to see to these items yourself. It gives both the landlord and tenant piece of mind. It also might make your property more attractive to a tenant.

Like I said at the beginning the discussion of this debate will go on long before you have finished reading this blog. I at least hope I have given some small tips to aid in the debate. (p.s good luck whichever side you are on)