Fair wear and tear of a rental property

We often talk about the ‘fair wear and tear’ of a rental property, but the term is broad and open for interpretation. So, what is ‘fair wear and tear’? Where is the line drawn between this and outright damage?

At the end of every tenancy, a final inspection is done to determine the condition of the property and whether the bond can be refunded. If there is damage to the property, it can either be ‘malicious damage’ or ‘accidental damage’ – both of which come under the responsibility of the tenant. The third possible cause of damage is ‘fair wear and tear’, meaning that the damage has been caused by normal use or changes as a result of the advancing age of a property. In the case of ‘fair wear and tear’ the damage and any subsequent repairs are the property owner’s responsibility.

To determine what caused the damage, whether the tenant or landlord is responsible for its repair, and whether the bond should be refunded to the tenant, a tenancy tribunal will often get involved. They’ll consider the following in their decision making:

  • How long have the current tenants resided in the property, and how many tenants have been in the property previously?
  • How old is the property itself, as well as the fixtures and fittings?
  • When was the last maintenance done? (i.e. how long since the carpet was replaced or the walls were painted?)
  • What is the current depreciation status of the item/s in dispute?
  • Are there any marks on walls, carpets or curtains and are there any holes in windows or door screens?
  • How clean is the property and how well has it been looked after by the current tenant? (they’ll look at the oven, windows, light fittings, skirting boards etc.)

Perhaps most importantly, the tribunal will inspect the state of the property at the beginning of the tenancy in question. To do this, they’ll have a read of the move in inspection report that both the tenant and landlord signed in the tenancy agreement. This will help the tribunal know what has happened to the property during the tenancy and figure out whether the damage is malicious, accidental or fair wear and tear.

To ensure this process goes smoothly, we recommend making sure the original move in report is thorough and leaves nothing open to interpretation. Supporting photographs are a good idea so that direct comparisons can be made easily. To find out more about the move in inspection report and the tenancy agreement, have a look at our knowledge centre.

Being prepared towards the end of a tenancy can help you determine the best outcome and, if possible, avoid the involvement of the tenancy tribunal. We recommend sending the tenant a final inspection cleaning guide that highlights important areas of the property that need addressing. This will ensure that you and your tenant have the same expectations about what needs to be cleaned or repaired and whose responsibility this is to organise.

Having these precautions in place and a thorough understanding of the different types of damage that can occur will mean you’re aware of anything that may arise at the end of a tenancy. If you’re confused about any of the property inspection process, it’s important to get your questions answered by your property manager. Some forward planning helps to ensure that everything is in order by the time your tenant vacates your property.