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Fair wear and tear or tenant-inflicted damage: What’s the difference? - featured image

Fair wear and tear or tenant-inflicted damage: What’s the difference?

I once knew of a young tenant who was the epitome of an A-grade tenant.

He paid his rent on time, rarely asked for any repairs or maintenance, kept the house in good condition, and was overall very pleasant to deal with. rent lease property tenant keys hand over man woman buy sell unhappy

Things continued in this manner for several years, until one day, it slowly began to change.

First, he was a week late with the rent; the following month, he was two weeks late.

Then he wasn’t home as pre-arranged for an inspection, and when the property manager entered the premises, she discovered the place was a tip.

Not only were there dirty dishes, rubbish, and clothes strewn all over the place, but the actual property was in pretty rough condition as well, with marks on the walls, stains on the carpet, and even a door hanging off its frame in one bedroom.

What had happened?

The tenant had gone through a relationship breakdown; his long-term girlfriend had moved on and moved out, and he wasn’t coping very well in her absence. 

The landlord was compassionate at first, even paying for a cleaner to give the property a robust once-over to help his tenant get back on his feet; it took two cleaners an entire day and half a dozen garbage bags to restore order!

Eventually, a few months later, the tenant moved on and this landlord was left with a slight dilemma.

When he walked through the property after the tenant had moved out, he wasn’t very impressed – it was in much worse condition than it had been when his former resident had moved in.

But, five years had passed.

How much of the damage and spills on the carpets, to the benchtops, and on the walls could be considered wear and tear, and how much could be considered malicious damage on behalf of the tenant?

Now, just to make things clear, this was not a property that was being managed by our team at Metropole.

He came to me for advice:

Should he attempt to keep his tenants’ entire bond to help with the repairs? Or should he accept that he’d had a star tenant for 4 and a half out of 5 years, and chalk the expenses up to wear and tear upgrades?

Legislation in most states indicates that a rental property must be vacated in ‘reasonably clean’ condition, which is fairly open to interpretation: your version of reasonably clean could be very different to mine.

So what is a landlord to do?

This was my advice to my client:

1. Ask your property manager for advice

They are involved in these types of situations every day and will be able to offer their professional advice as to whether the repairs actually wear and tear, or worth pursuing recovery costs for.

2. Consider the age of the fixtures and fittings

Let’s say the damage in question relates to stains and marks on the carpet.  renovate house repair

Was the carpet brand new when the tenant moved in five years ago?

If so, then it’s probably quite reasonable to make a claim to have them repaired.

However, if the carpets were already aged when your tenant moved in, you may want to consider replacing them as part of your responsibilities as a landlord anyway.

The ATO deems the life of a carpet to be 10 years, so this is a good gauge to use as a guideline.

3. Liaise with your landlord insurer

If some of the repairs are deemed to have been caused by tenancy negligence, you may be able to make a claim on your insurance policy.

If you’re unsure, call them for advice to find out what your options are.o-WORST-LANDLORDS-facebook

This is truly one of the areas of property management that causes the biggest divides between tenants and landlords because people have very different opinions about what constitutes fair wear and tear, and what is claimable against the tenant’s bond.

Ultimately, there is no clear-cut ‘right’ and ‘wrong’, but my advice is to keep solid records, including photos taken at the beginning and end of every tenancy.

My motto is always to plan for the worst but expects the best, and this falls right into that category.

With a solid paper trail and photographic support in your pocket, if you ever do decide to go down the path of seeking recovery costs, at least you’ll have enough evidence to back up your claim.

Now is the time to take advantage of the opportunities the current property markets are offering.

Metropole Team

Sure the markets are moving on, but not all properties are going to increase in value. Now, more than ever, correct property selection will be critical.

You can trust the team at Metropole to provide you with direction, guidance, and results.

Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced investor, at times like we are currently experiencing you need an advisor who takes a holistic approach to your wealth creation and that's exactly what you get from the multi-award-winning team at Metropole.

We help our clients grow, protect and pass on their wealth through a range of services including:

  1. Strategic property advice. – Allow us to build a Strategic Property Plan for you and your family.  Planning is bringing the future into the present so you can do something about it now! Click here to learn more
  2. Buyer’s agency – As Australia’s most trusted buyers’ agents we’ve been involved in over $4Billion worth of transactions creating wealth for our clients and we can do the same for you. Our on the ground teams in Melbourne, Sydney, and Brisbane bring you years of experience and perspective – that’s something money just can’t buy. We’ll help you find your next home or an investment-grade property.  Click here to learn how we can help you.
  3. Wealth Advisory – We can provide you with strategic tailored financial planning and wealth advice. Click here to learn more about we can help you.
  4. Property Management – Our stress-free property management services help you maximise your property returns. Click here to find out why our clients enjoy a vacancy rate considerably below the market average, our tenants stay an average of 3 years, and our properties lease 10 days faster than the market average.

About Leanne is National Director of Property Management at Metropole and a Property Professional in every sense of the word. With 20 years' experience in real estate, Leanne brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to maximise returns and minimise stress for their clients. Visit: Metropole Property Management
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