Honourable and personal residential letting experts


What is normal wear and tear?

In this blog about wear and tear, I shall cover:

  • How judgements are made to assess damage
  • How to minimise disputes at the end of the tenancy
  • How you can judge if a property is clean at the end of a tenancy

At the end of any tenancy a negotiation will usually take place if the landlord feels that there is a claim on the tenant’s deposit. In short, to have a claim there needs to be heavy wear and tear (damage) which is found at the end of the tenancy. You are on a very sticky wicket if you try to claim for normal wear and tear: the judgement will be very much down to the differences in the check-in inventory at checkout. Also, you would need to consider the length of the tenancy as this will also play a part.

How do you make that judgement  

The first thing you need, to be able to prove anything, is a photographic inventory dated just before the start of the tenancy, which your tenant signed at the start. Without this document you will have very little chance of proving anything and start off on a back foot. Also remember that as a landlord you cannot have ‘betterment’ i.e., you cannot get new for old.

For example, you also need to consider the age of any item you feel that has been damaged. An average carpet has an expected lifespan of 10 years. Therefore, if a tenant has been in situ for 5 years and the carpet was new when they moved in. Any damage to the carpet would be calculated at 50% of the original value.

Examples of normal wear and tear vs damage

I have often used the example of knowing that young children have lived in the property. Normal wear and tear would be hand marks down the walls of the staircase. Damage would be crayon marks. Another example would be picture hooks: one or two picture hooks in a wall would be constituted as normal wear, however multiple hooks could be classed as damage as filling a lot of holes will usually mean that the wall will need repainting.

Over the last year, we have claimed back an average of £357 from tenants’ deposits. The most straight forward claim is cleanliness. About 50% of the claims we make come under this heading. The criteria being – is the property as clean as shown on the ingoing inventory?   The best way of knowing is to have a professional clean at the start of each tenancy so the standard is set.  We cannot force tenants to have a clean done by a professional cleaner, but the requirement is that they clean the property to the standard of the professional cleaner shown on the ingoing inventory. This is then photographically reflected and noted on each inventory moving forward.

For example, finger marks on the light fittings are classed as needing a clean. Limescale on the taps again it needs to be clean. One thing that makes me gag, is hair in the shower or basin traps. We would never expect a tenant to start a tenancy on this basis.  So, our expectations on the outgoing tenant are quite straight forward – we don’t want to see any evidence that they have lived there.

But again, we have to have a photographic inventory to prove the state of cleanliness as without this we are in a no-win situation.

How many times is there a dispute at the end of the tenancy?

Most tenancies end with the deposit going back to the tenant within 10 days so the chances of having an issue are minimal. However, when a dispute occurs it can be very time consuming and invariable leaves a bad taste in everyone mouth. That is why we make sure that we go into any discussion with all of our ducks in a row.

What happens if you can’t reach an agreement?

We must register any deposits we hold with the TDS (Tenancy Deposit Scheme), therefore if there is a dispute on a claim on the deposit, we must send the undisputed amount the tenant within 10 days. The disputed amount goes to the TDS for them to arbitrate. Once the TDS decide an amount there is no arguing the outcome, so we must make sure that we are very clear on damage and the cost of the damage.

If you have any queries on how you could improve the way you negotiate on the deposit. Please give me a call on 01480 494939


If you have any comments you would like to make or any subject you would like me to cover in a future blog, do let me know.