Wear & Tear Vs Damage


Wear & Tear Vs Damage in a Rental Property.

It can be quite confusing for both Owners and Tenants to understand exactly what is considered to be general living wear & tear in a home, or what is actual damage – and even malicious damage.

At times, Landlords and Tenants can find themselves in a disagreement about who is responsible to pay for the damages made to the rented premises, if this does occur, it is usually at or towards the end of the tenancy agreement or during a routine inspection.

There can be quite a fine line between wear & tear and damage sometimes; so we are going to try and dispel some of the confusion and discuss these matters to clear things up for you.

What is “fair wear and tear”?

Fair wear and tear can be defined as reasonable wear that has happened in a property due to the ordinary day-to-day use of a residence by a tenant. This can be things such as carpet getting worn or flattened in high traffic areas from people walking on it; and the ordinary operation of natural forces – such as rusting of gutters time from rain, or timber window frames fading in the sun, etc.

It is something that just happens over time with normal use of a property – something that has not been caused intentionally, or by misuse of an item.


What is Damage?

In short, damage is something that is done to break, harm or destruct an item or parts of a property. An example of this would be wearing high heels or rough soled shoes inside, knowing they will cause damage to timber floorboards - and doing it anyway.

In a rental property, it can also potentially be deemed damage if a Tenant does not report a maintenance matter, and the initial problem goes on to cause further extensive damage to the home (that would otherwise have not occurred if the initial matter was reported and resolved swiftly).

There is accidental damage, and there is malicious damage - they are both causing harm to the property - but malicious damage is done intentially to deliberately break or harm something.


What is considered to be deliberate or malicious Damage?

Deliberate or Malicious damage can be defined as any damage committed on a property motivated by spite, malice or vindictiveness with the intention of damaging the property.

Deliberate damage means an act carried out without the owner's consent and with the full knowledge that the action will alter the current state of the property; this is without the intention of spite, malice or vindictiveness.

Some common forms of malicious damage include:

  • removing, obliterating, defacing or altering the unique identifier of the property e.g. removing numbers from a mailbox
  • Intentionally lighting or causing a fire on or within the property
  • Graffiting the property

At times, you can experience trouble with insurance companies, particularly if there is a need to make a claim relating to what you and your landlord may consider to be malicious damage.

For example, an insurance company can easily claim  that the damage is 'accidental' and unless you can prove otherwise, it may be hard to make a claim, regardless of how long the landlord has been a client and how little claims they have made.

Therefore, if you are a property manager or landlord wanting to make a claim due to malicious damage, ensure you have as much evidence and relevant documentation as possible, to assist you in making a claim.


What are the responsibilities of a Tenant?

As a Tenant, it is stated within the Residential Tenancies Act that it is their responsibility;

  • To keep the premises reasonably clean
  • Notify the landlord or landlords agent as soon as possible of any known damage
  • Ensure their guests do not intentionally or carelessly cause damage.

If the tenant/s ensure they are meeting the above responsibilities, then the tenant can argue that the landlord or landlords agent are responsible to tend to any other damage. The tenant should always report any damage; whether they are at fault or not, it is best they do so in writing so both you and the tenants are able to keep a copy of the letter if a problem is to arise.

Generally the tenant is not responsible to fix or repair for fair wear and tear. However, ensure that you first check your states Residential Tenancy Act. At times, it can be quite hard for the tenant to prove the damage was caused by fair wear and tear. Some examples of what would be considered fair wear and tear and what wouldn’t be are:


Cracked window panes due to old warped frames

Landlord’s Responsibility

Faded drapes/curtains

Landlord’s Responsibility

Hole in the wall due to wind blowing door handle into the wall with lack of door stop

Landlord’s Responsibility

Plaster on walls chipped due to nails being hammered in

Tenant’s Responsibility

Scratches/indents on kitchen bench tops due to cutting or preparing food on the surface without the use of a chopping board

Tenant’s Responsibility

Hole in the wall due to physical force

Tenant’s Responsibility

Life of Fixtures/Appliances within a Rental Property

The tenant is responsible to ensure that all fixtures and appliances belonging to the property are cleaned and maintained to the way they were at the start of their Tenancy Agreement or reported as faulty/broken to the landlord or landlord’s agent as soon as a fault is discovered.

On the other hand, it is landlord or landlord’s agent’s responsibility to ensure that all repairs that have been reported by the tenant and tended to as soon as possible in order to avoid any inconvenience, conflict or possible danger to the tenant/s.

Both you and the landlord should assess all fixtures and appliances before the commencement of a new tenancy to decide whether or not the fixture/appliance needs to be replaced. The age of the appliance, how much use it gets and how long it has been affixed to the property are all factors that should influence the decision on whether the fixture or appliance should be removed and replaced, or repaired.


In Conclusion

A very brief way to look at wear & tear Vs Damage, is to determine if it is something that can happen gradually over time, with the normal daily use of a residential home; OR something that has been misused, used for a purpose other than its intended for; or purposefully damaged.

If you are ever concerned if you may be unintentionally causing damage to an item in your rental home, we urge you to speak with your Property Portfolio Manager about it. Its always better to be safe than sorry!

We hope these tips have been helpful. If you have any further questions or comments regarding the info above, please do not hesitate to contact our Property Management Specialists at Raine & Horne Hobart & Kingborough Rentals on 6231 0000 & 6229 6633.