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Do landlords have unrealistic expectations at the end of tenancies?

Date online: 21/10/2014

Whilst the tenant has a duty of care to return the property in the same condition at the end of the tenancy, as found at the start and listed on the inventory report – with allowance for wear and tear, the law does not allow landlords to claim ‘betterment’ or ‘new for old’ from the tenant deposit.

Many agents and landlords are seemingly unaware of the ‘betterment’ principle which means that if an item was old at check-in, and after a two year tenancy there is some additional damage, the law will not allow a landlord to simply replace this item with a new one.  Instead, some sort of compensation is allowable towards future development.

The betterment principle applies to cleaning issues as well.  If a carpet was badly stained at the time of check-in, a landlord can’t expect the tenant to pay for cleaning at the check-out, no matter how long the tenancy has been.

Pat Barber, Chair of the AIIC comments: 

“We have seen many cases where the landlord or letting agent has not bothered to read the check-in inventory, so when it comes to the check-out, they are unrealistic over issues, which they believe should be included in the check-out and charged to the tenant.

In one case, we had a property where the landlord demanded that the tenants pay for repainting several rooms following a one year tenancy. The check-in inventory clearly stated that the walls were already well marked and the few additional scuffs and rubs were clearly a normal wear & tear issue, due to the length of the tenancy. 

The key underlying problem is that landlords, agents and tenants have different expectations when it comes to fair wear and tear issues.  Obviously, there is a distinct difference between fair wear and tear and actual damage – for example carpet tread will flatten over time, where there has been foot traffic, but cigarette burns, stains or soiling will require a charge.

Normal wear and tear is a fact of life with rental properties, just as it would be at home. The best way to landlords and agents can ensure that the property’s condition is fully recorded, is by having a comprehensive inventory in place at the start of any new tenancy, and that a thorough check-in and check-out report is completed. 

Members of the AIIC are experts in assessing fair wear and tear and have the knowledge and experience to take into account all factors, and make a reasonable judgement as to whether something is fair wear and tear or not.”

The AIIC is committed to excellence and professionalism in the property inventory process and works hard to ensure that all landlords, tenants and letting agents understand the importance and benefits of professionally completed property inventories.

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