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Both landlords and tenants often find it difficult to grasp the intricacies of the rules of fair wear and tear and the disputes that follow can be both costly and time-consuming.

One of the best ways for landlords to protect themselves is by insisting that the condition of their property is comprehensively recorded at the outset of any tenancy. This can be achieved by ensuring that a full inventory is in place when any new tenancy begins and that both check-out and check-in reports are correctly completed.

Inventory clerks, together with landlords and property managers, must collectively find ways in which to accomplish this in the most effective and efficient manner possible, with systems such as InventoryBase providing appropriate functionality.

Back to basics

The basic legal premise is that tenants should ensure that property is left in its original condition with an allowance made for average wear and tear. In the absence of an original record of the state of individual items, however, this can be difficult to determine.

A landlord may feel that an item has been left unreasonably dirty, for example, but a tenant is not obliged to restore property that was unclean at the start of a tenancy. A clear record of the original state is the only way in which this type of issue can be prevented.

The legal situation

The rules on fair wear are becoming ever more clearly defined as a result of the legal process but there is still a considerable degree of subjectivity involved. The best antidote to unreasonable interpretation, however, is the experience and common sense of a seasoned inventory clerk, together with firmly entrenched practices that leave as little room as possible for error or debate. Professional inventory procedures can also help to protect particular items through the inclusion of specific terms in tenancy agreements.

The law as it stands does not currently allow for betterment, meaning that landlords cannot expect that old items will be replaced by new at the end of a tenancy and cannot charge tenants for cleaning items that were soiled when the tenancy began.

Excessive wear and tear

Precisely when wear and tear can be regarded as excessive is one of the most difficult things to establish. Walls and floor coverings can generally be attributed with a life expectancy at the start of a tenancy based upon factors such as their original state, manufacturer’s recommendations and the type of tenant accepted into the property. This can be beneficial in establishing any excessive wear and tear at the end of the tenancy.