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When does wear and tear become damaged property?

A common dispute between letting agencies and tenants centres upon the definition of wear and tear. At the end of a letting period and during the check-out process, tenants have to leave the property as they found it. The law states that the property needs to be as it was in the check-in inventory, allowing for normal, everyday wear and tear.

However, one person’s definition of wear and tear may be deemed as damaged goods by another.

The property and belongings must also be as clean as they were when the tenants checked in. Otherwise the agent can demand that the tenant pays for the items such as carpets or sofas to be cleaned.

The best way for agents to avoid disputes during check-outs is to keep a full inventory of the condition of the property, furniture and other items at the start of the tenancy. Photos can be taken of rooms and the furniture so that their condition cannot be disputed.

Inventory software can be used to make a full check list at the start and end of each tenancy as well as during interim checks. As this software can be used on phones and tablets, the agent or inventory clerk can perform the inspection in situ. That way there is clear evidence of the state of the property, its cleanliness and what items of furniture, fixtures and fittings are available for the tenant to use.

Wear and tear needs to make allowance for the age and quality of the item when the tenancy commenced. It also needs to take into account the average lifespan of an item and what constitutes normal use.

If an agent feels that an item is damaged rather than just worn out, the tenant could be asked to replace, repair or clean it, or to compensate the landlord for reducing its normal lifespan.

If a proper inventory is recorded at the time of check-in, it should be fairly easy to come to an agreement. Even if the tenant disputes the claim that goods or property are damaged, the agent will have a record of the state of the disputed item at check-in if a proper inventory is in place.

Investing in inventory software or apps which can therefore save time and money if a dispute arises.

Another common problem is that tenants claim that the landlord promised new furniture or to clean the property when they initially viewed it. Tenants may say that they took the property on the understanding that it would be redecorated, deep cleaned, a new flat-screen TV would be installed or Wi-Fi would be available, for example.

Again, it is difficult for an agent or landlord to dispute this unless they kept a clear record as to what was said at the time of the viewing or when a contract was signed. By using specialist software they can keep a record at the time of the viewing to pre-empt any disputes in the future.