Home Landlords What is Fair Wear and Tear?

What is Fair Wear and Tear?

by Joe Green

Many potential disputes with your tenant can arise during the final property inspection and disagreements to what is reasonable wear and tear when it comes to the property. The positions on this can be passionately argued by both parties. Tenants are concerned with the return of their deposit, which can be a large amount of money, while landlords are considered about the maintenance required on their property investment.

Use of the term

The term fair wear and tear is used in residential leases to define the expected deterioration of the fixtures, fittings and decor within the property. The House of Lords defines this as “Reasonable use of the premises by the Tenant and the ordinary operation of natural forces.” however stops short of defining what exactly is reasonably acceptable. Office leases are different, they require the premises to be returned to the condition at the beginning of the lease, often requiring replacement flooring and full redecoration with some even specifying the necessary number of coats of paint.

There is no precise guideline to what is considered fair, so landlords and letting agents must distinguish between reasonable wear, and damage caused by tenants. This must be accurate as being withholding deposits for reasonable wear and tear will result in poor satisfaction and reviews from tenants, whereas ignoring damage caused by tenants will have negative financial impacts on your investment.

There are considerations that a landlord should make when deciding on what is fair wear and tear to their property.

Tenancy Length

The length of time your tenants have lived in your property should be considered. Those longer the tenancy, the more wear can be expected. For student properties leases are usually between 6 and 12 months.

Number of Occupiers

The more people living in a property, the more wear and tear there will be to the common areas, with entrances and hallways experiencing the most footfall. Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO) have large numbers of tenants, with some houses regularly housing 8 or more students.

Age of Decor and Furnishings

Landlord must also consider the age of the items in the property and the condition they were in when the tenancy began. Keeping notes and receipts from the last time an item was replaced or redecorated will help establish this.

Wear and Tear or Actual Damage

This is important to establish, whether something was caused by negligence or just through use. Carpets are a prime example, they are likely to flatten over time and attract marks from use, particularly in hallways or entrances. These marks may be unavoidable, however if a carpet has burn marks or cuts, this is likely classed as damage caused by the tenant.

Quality of Property

The fabric of the property itself must be considered. New build properties generally aren’t as robust as older properties, so more wear can be expected. For example walls tend to be thinner and are likely to suffer more stress from everyday use.

Minimising Dispute

To ensure that disputes are kept to a minimum, thorough inventories and schedules of condition should be conducted before and after a tenancy. Creating clear photographic evidence of the condition of the property and furnishings and agreeing these with your tenants will limit the potential for disagreements. This will ensure that descriptions of conditions are accurate and any damage caused is identifiable as happening during the tenancy. It is also better to have a realistic expectation of wear that will occur, normal wear and tear is a fact of life. It is impossible to live in a property without leaving wear behind.

Therefore common sense must be used, improper withholding of tenancy deposits will result in bad tenant reviews and negatively impact your investment.


Clan Gordon. 2017. Accessed 7th November, 2019, from https://www.clangordon.co.uk/blog/tenants/what-is-fair-wear-and-tear/

National Landlords Association. Accessed 7th November, 2019, from https://landlords.org.uk/news-campaigns/news/what-fair-wear-and-tear

Home Let. 2018. Accessed 7th November, 2019, from https://homelet.co.uk/landlord-insurance/landlord-lowdown-blog/article/wear-and-tear-what-is-deemed-acceptable

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