What constitutes "fair wear and tear" at a rental property?

The concept of “fair wear and tear” on rental properties is one topic that many landlords and tenants find confusing.

Generally speaking, at the end of a tenancy, the tenant is responsible for leaving the premises and its chattels as close to the same condition in which they were found as possible. Consumer Affairs Victoria suggests that:

“At the end of a tenancy, the tenant must leave the premises and inclusions, as far as possible, in the same condition they were in at the start of the tenancy, fair wear and tear excepted.”

It is expected that over time a property will have “Fair wear and tear”. In Australia, tenants are not responsible for paying for fair wear and tear to a property. It’s only when the tenant has been irresponsible, negligent or has intentionally caused damage to premises that they will be liable to pay for repairs.

‘Fair’ is relating to the cause of the damage. For damage to be reasonable, it must have occurred in the course of fair use of the property.

It’s in the best interests of all parties (tenants, landlords, and their managing agency), to ensure that extensive Condition Reports are completed prior to the tenancy and signed.

These reports outline the condition of the property in detail and may also include photos and/or video of any items mentioned within the report.

Tenants have an opportunity to add their own comments to the Condition Report, so long as it is signed returned to the managing agency within 3 business days of starting their lease.

With care, consideration and proper documentation, you can avoid crossing the line from fair wear and tear to damage and facing a potential bond dispute.

Condition Reports help to avoid and settle any potential disputes over fair wear and tear at the end of a tenancy.

Understanding ‘fair wear and tear’

‘Fair wear and tear’ is the ordinary deterioration of property from everyday use. Such as wear that happens during normal use; for example, carpet in a hallway would (generally) be more worn than carpet in less used areas of the house. Although tenancy laws vary across each state, the real estate industry broadly accepts this definition of ‘fair wear and tear’.

Examples of ‘fair wear and tear’:

  • Carpet deterioration in high traffic areas would be reasonable. On the other hand, it would be hard to argue that large motor oil stains in the bedroom are the product of fair use.
  • Faded curtains or frayed cords from natural causes.
  • Minor scuff mark.
  • Sun fading and small stains.
  • Scuffed wooden floors.
  • Faded, chipped or cracked paint.
  • Worn kitchen benchtop.
  • Door handles or hinges that are loose from use.
  • Cracks in the walls from movement.
  • Watermarks on flooring resulting from a roof leak, or bad plumbing.
  • Worn paint near light switches.

Examples that would be considered ‘Damage’ and not ‘fair wear and tear’.

  • Curtains or blinds that are missing, or torn by the tenant or their pets.
  • Stains or burn marks on the carpet.
  • Extensively broken tiles or torn carpet.
  • Badly scratched or gouged wooden floors.
  • An unapproved or poor-quality paint job or wallpaper.
  • Burns or cuts in benchtops.
  • Broken panes in windows.
  • Holes in walls.
  • Water stain on carpet or flooring, as a result of indoor pot plants or overflowing bath.
  • Paint damage from removing sticky tape, Blu-Tack, nails or wall fixtures.

Barry Plant Property Managers will conduct periodic property inspections to ensure rental properties are being maintained at a good standard and that any issues, either from the landlord or tenant, can be addressed.

Tip for landlords: Having the right Landlords’ Insurance cover will give peace-of-mind, as you will be protected against any potential major damage or malicious damage that goes beyond the boundaries of fair wear and tear.

Disclaimer: The contents of this article are believed to be accurate at the time of posting. Any advice here is of a general nature only and has not been tailored to your personal circumstances. Please seek professional advice prior to acting on this information.