What Constitutes Normal Wear and Tear in Rental Properties?

Two men talking about a damaged ceilingIt’s a common tenancy story.  Tenant leaves at the end of the lease term. Landlord checks the property and sees the “damage” and decides not to return the rental bond to the tenant. Tenant explains that the damage is nothing but “fair wear and tear”.

A dispute usually arises when the landlord and tenant cannot agree on what constitutes “fair wear and tear”. 

The lease agreement must state precisely what “fair wear and tear” means. Otherwise, it is open to interpretation and will cause a disagreement between the two parties. 

What is fair wear and tear?

The phrase is defined as the usual deterioration of a property over time, as a result of daily use and other factors such as exposure to different types of weather conditions.

The legal definition varies for each state, but here are the industry-accepted definitions of “fair wear and tear”:

(Landlord’s responsibility)

  • Threadbare kitchen benchtop
  • Loose windows or door handles, or hinges; worn out sliding tracks
  • Cracked walls due to movement
  • Faded paint around the light switch
  • Scratched wooden floors
  • Discoloured curtains or tattered cords
  • Furniture depressions and traffic tracks on the carpet
  • Worn, damaged or cracked paint
  • Water marks on carpet due to leaking roof or poor plumbing

Damage due to negligence or carelessness:

(Tenant’s responsibility)

  • Burn marks or stains on the carpets
  • Severely scarred wooden floors
  • Damage on the benchtop like burns or cuts
  • Water stains on carpet due to indoor pot plants or overflowing bath
  • Damaged paint caused by taking down decorations fastened with sticky tape
  • Holes in walls caused by tenant pounding in nails or from taking out picture hooks or shelves
  • Paint job not approved by landlord or of bad quality
  • Shattered windows caused by the tenant’s child
  • Missing or torn curtains caused by the tenant’s child or pet

Fair wear and tear under the RTA

Though it is not defined under the Residential Tenancies Act of 1987, Section 38 describes the tenant’s duties with regards to general cleanliness and repairs.

It is the tenant’s responsibility to keep the premises reasonably clean. In case of damage, notify the landlord within three days. Tenant must also ensure not to cause or allow damage to be caused, either on purpose or by being careless.

A rule that all tenants must remember is to report any damage whether it was caused by them or not. Do this in writing and keep a copy of the letter.

Generally, a tenant is not responsible for fair wear and tear. However, you must carefully read your tenancy agreement because a landlord can easily dodge their responsibilities through a written agreement.

When does fair wear and tear become an issue?

Fair wear and tear notwithstanding, the tenant, at the end of the lease, must return the property to the condition it was at the start of the tenancy.

Fair wear and tear is taken into account when evaluating the condition of a rental property at the end of tenancy. The Entry Condition Report accomplished by the tenant at the start of the tenancy and the Exit Condition Report accomplished by the tenant at the end of the tenancy are compared to determine the condition of the property.

A dispute arises when there are inconsistencies between the two reports.

It is best to accompany these reports with detailed photos or even videos. These can be very helpful for avoiding or even settling disputes. And add care and consideration to proper documentation, disputes and a possible trip to the bond court can be avoided.