How To Reduce Disputes About Normal Wear And Tear In Rented Properties
Disputes about wear and tear in rented properties are fairly common but quite stressful. Here are a few tips for reducing them.
If you’ve been involved in managing rented property for any period of time, you already know that you must leave allowance for wear and tear during the move-out inspection. However, determining what is “normal” has always been a source of disagreement in real estate transactions. The immediate effect of this gray area is landlords wanting to hold on to the tenants caution deposit or at least a significant part of it to restore the property to its state before tenancy.
Below we’ll take a look at what normal wear and tear is and what it’s not and how to resolve this common dispute.
Normal Wear And Tear
There is a certain amount of deterioration that you can expect on a building as time passes. The landlord has no control over this neither does the tenant. This deterioration is the expected result of normal use of the property. Examples would include; holes on the walls for hanging paintings, sunlight faded carpets, small scratches on woodwork, loose door handles, mouldy or loose bathroom tile grouting, etc.
Damage Or Abnormal Wear And Tear
Abnormal wear and tear is a completely different story. It’s the direct result of neglect or intentional abuse of the property and will seriously affect the value of the building if not repaired. Examples of abnormal wear and tear include; broken or missing bathroom fittings, damaged cabinets and shelves, a hole in the floor, etc.
Abnormal wear and tear can be anything from an obvious hole that your tenant kicked in the wall, broken windows, broken fixtures, oil stains on the carpets, cigarette burns, or broken window coverings.
Why It’s Important To Understand Normal Wear And Tear
All this may not sound like that much of a big deal to the untrained person. But, someone renting for the first time or even a first-time landlord could find themselves in a very unpleasant situation over the issue of wear and tear. Especially when the tenancy is over and the occupant is moving out.
It’s a recurring problem that can sour previously pleasant landlord-tenant relationship if not handled professionally and fairly. The issues start when the tenant is moving out and is looking to get their caution deposit back.
The landlord takes a look around the building and says ‘damage.’ He wants to keep the property in the best state possible, preserve its value, and rent it out to the next person quickly.
The tenant looks round the same property and says ‘normal wear and tear.’ He’s been paying rent on time and keeping to all the terms of the lease. He wants his full caution deposit back.
Landlords cannot make deductions from the caution deposit for normal wear and tear on a property, but they can for abnormal wear and tear or damage.
How Landlords And Tenants Can Protect Themselves
Walk Through Inspection
Take a proactive stance to prevent future problems by conducting a joint inspection of the unit before the tenant moves in. The landlord may provide a checklist of everything in the property and their condition for the tenant to tick off. Another option is to take pictures as they can better capture any potential problems. Existing defects, if any, should be noted and acknowledged by both parties or their representatives. This creates a solid reference point that will minimize arguments about the condition of the property later on.
Repeat the inspection before moving out and compare the documents/pictures so it’s clear if there’s any major changes during the course of the tenancy that are beyond normal wear and tear. At this time, the landlord can point out any issues he or she has with the current condition of the property and explain if they will be taking deductions from the security deposit to cover any damages.
Also, this is the ideal time for the tenant to agree with or dispute the landlord’s findings.
Prompt Property Maintenance is Key.
Both landlord and tenant have their part to play in keeping the house in tip-top shape. But people tend to focus on the “big” maintenance issues rather than the “small.” The eventual effect of this approach is that the small things pile up and lead to big problems that will cost quite some money to fix. A loose or dripping tap here, a shaky window pane there, a leaky pipe that’s left unattended can quickly turn into a bigger problem for both occupant and property owner.
Procastinating on “little” repairs can quickly lead to big problems.
Communicate And Be Reasonable
The issue of prompt maintenance brings up another angle that causes disputes. By the laws of almost every country you can imagine, the landlord has a specific responsibility to maintain the building. The scope of his responsibility will vary from one country to the other but it will generally cover things like roof repair, maintaining external walls, replacing major plumbing fittings and fixtures, etc. So, if the landlord fails to do his part and it causes damages inside the unit, he can’t expect to hold the tenant liable for that.
On the other hand, it’s important that tenant notifies the landlord quickly when they notice a maintenance issue.
By working together this way, the moving out period can remain as amicable as possible and allow both parties reach common ground.
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