Each week, we answer a reader’s rental property question, from first-time landlords to experienced owners. Agony Agent, is here to help!
This week’s question is one I have heard more often than not:
Q: Why will the deposit not cover the full cost of my sofa that my tenants damaged, and what is betterment?
A: Whilst the tenant has a duty of care to return the property in the same condition at the end of the tenancy in accordance with the inventory report, with exceptions made for wear and tear, the law does not allow landlords to claim ‘betterment’ or ‘new for old’ from the tenant deposit.
Many landlords seem to be unaware of ‘betterment’, 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 replace this item with a new one. Instead compensation is given towards its replacement or repair.
Betterment applies to cleaning 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. 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 and tear issue due to the length of the tenancy.
The problem is that landlords and tenants have different expectations when it comes to fair wear and tear issues. 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 and stains 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 landlords and agents can ensure that the property’s condition is fully recorded, is by having an inventory in place at the start of any new tenancy, and that a thorough check-in and check-out report is completed.
My Top Tips:
1] Take photographs at check-in to accurately record the condition of the property. This could help settling any later disputes. I would recommend an independent company to carry this out.
2] Be aware of any issues recorded at the check-in inventory. Remember tenants cannot be charged to fully rectify these issues even if they make them worse during their tenancy.
3] Remember that goods depreciate during their lifetime and, therefore, any damages can only be claimed as proportion of the original cost of the item unless it was brand new at the start of the tenancy.
4] Try to look at it like your car insurance, if you have a bump the insurance will not pay out for a brand new car, but only to cover the cost of the repair.