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'Wear and Tear' or 'Accidental Damage'?

I’ve been a landlord for 2 years, first rental property and coming to the end of the first tenancy this weekend. Can anyone advise on how to distinguish between wear and tear and accidental damage?
The flat is a ‘new build’ 2 years old, when all fittings and furnishings were brand new, including a bedroom carpet. The tenant has clearly left some curling tongs on this carpet, leaving 2 or 3 scorch marks each about 5cms long, slight discolouration and hard to the touch, indicating burning). I want to know whether this would be counted as fair wear and tear or accidental damage by the DPS dispute resolution service, should it come to that.
The carpet cannot be repaired, so I feel some money should be deducted from the deposit for the damage; however, the carpet is otherwise in good condition, and so to claim for the cost of replacing the whole thing seems unreasonable to me. Can anyone give any guidance as to what would be a fair deduction for this kind of thing? I had a quote of £610 to supply and fit a replacement carpet, but I want to be reasonable. Any help welcome!

Many thanks,
Simon

Hi Simon, Yes happy to help and I’m sure other experienced landlords will want to give their views, too :slight_smile:

Regarding the example of the carpet, this is a great case to illustrate how deposit deductions work.

In general, you can ask to deduct any costs for damage if you feel able to evidence the damage and its costs. There may be some negotiation/discussion with the tenant (which should be written, or if oral, then summarised in an email after and confirmed by the other party), but if the tenant agrees, then that’s the deduction you can make.

If the tenant disagrees (which they may if you tried to ask for the whole cost of re-carpeting), then they can dispute the deduction with the deposit protection scheme. At that point, you be using the scheme’s Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) service and an adjudicator will apply the guidelines for what counts as wear and tear and how damage, like that to your carpet, is treated.

In cases like the carpet, there is some damage caused during the tenancy, but not enough to warrant the replacement of the whole carpet. The way they are likely to judge it therefore is like this.

They will, perhaps using evidence you submit (e.g. a receipt from when you had the carpet laid), find the cost of re-carpeting the room. They will judge how many years they expect a carpet to be in good condition before needing to be replaced, and how much the damage has accelerated that deterioration. They will then charge the full amount for replacing the carpet multiplied by percentage of life that the damage has accelerated.

E.g.

  • cost of carpeting = £250
  • average life span of a carpet before re-carpeting = 10 years
  • amount of lifespan cut by the burns = 2 years
  • Therefore, the deduction = £250 * (2/10) = £50

This is just an example of costs and lifespans, but this is the general logic that will be applied. The logic will only be applied in this manner if you end up using ADR, but the fact that this is how ADR works should be a material consideration during the fair treatment of a tenant when discussing deposit deductions.

Let me know any more Qs. I want to write up a detailed guide on this kind of thing soon, so knowing any outstanding questions would be very helpful!

Sam

Hi Sam and Simon,

In response to your request for questions I have posted on here regarding mould in the bathroom. I would really appreciate your view point on this please.

Regarding Simon’s problem with the carpet I found it interesting to know to how it would (hopefully) be assessed and your explanation makes good sense.

Just hope the DPS see it like that. I had a very bad experience with the DPS. Despite extensive evidence of a lot of damage and much work to remedy, they still found in the tenants favour. Would never use them again. Although if the courts are any better is questionable. The law appears heavily biased against landlords.

I would explain fair wear and tear usually as something you cannot see or visibly measure on a day to day basis. It’s like a carpet gradually wearing down after a number of years of being walked on or the wall paint gradually becoming a bit faded or grubby. But to turn it into a mathematical equation based on how long something is expected to last and then divide is really helpful, and would hopefully cut out the arguments.Thank you.

Hi Sam and Mr T,
many thanks for your replies, which are really helpful. If this is the way the ADR operates then I agree that applying this formula should cut out arguments, and will justify my deductions as fair and reasonable. The tricky thing in this case is working out by how much the damage has accelerated the deterioration of the carpet, but I think a 20% acceleration is a fair estimate, and since it’s hard to estimate from photos, I hope ADR would concur. I have a supply and fit quote for the carpet, so can do the calculations.
One factor the ADR probably won’t accept is the reality that if new tenants move in to find an already damaged carpet, they will subconsciously be less careful of it than if the carpet was in pristine condition (that’s true I think for all of us, it’s just human nature). That in turn then is likely to increase the rate of deterioration, since future tenants may be less careful going forward as the carpet gets older. But I’m not sure you could ever work out a financial formula to account for human nature!

I think writing up a guide on this kind of thing is a brilliant idea Sam, as it’s exactly the kind of dilemma landlords face on a day to day basis if they are making every effort to be fair, but don’t know what that will look like in financial terms. Such a guide could save a lot of stress and hopefully encourage better landlording.

On that basis, one more question: our tenants have put up a mirror without permission, saying that it’s put up with a ‘safe’ adhesive that doesn’t cause damage when removed. That remains to be seen of course, but if there is damage when they remove it this weekend, would it be fair to tell them we can’t give a sum for deduction up front, as we will need to get it repaired and will deduct the cost of the repair invoice when we have it? Or if it’s minor damage we could repair ourselves, what is the fairest thing to do in that case?

By the way Mr T, I think your definition of wear and tear is a really good one. If only DPS and other bodies could come up with this kind of helpful guidance!

Many thanks,
Simon

Hi Simon,
Like you say a relatively new carpet is now damaged and all these little bits and pieces add up to making a property look shabby quite quickly. Our house was recently refurbished and asked for no nails in wall etc. but tenants still did it and also put up what I would assume to be banners, (maybe birthday etc) and blue tack still took paint off the wall. House has become run down far sooner than expected, but that’s the nature of the beast I guess and all a learning curve.
Would be interesting to hear of others experiences with the DPS disputes resolution service.

@Mr_T just wanted to reply to this point you made.

What I said in reply to Simon, above, does not relate to wear and tear. You cannot deduct any money for wear and tear. What I explained above only applies to damage.

Sam

Hi Sam,
Yes I fully understand that ‘fair wear and tear’ is not something that can be deducted from a tenants deposit. I was merely stating my perception of what ‘wear and tear’ is as per his question.
‘Based on how long something is expected to last and the mathematical equation’ was indeed, referring to the damage to his carpet.

Ah my apologies! Yes quite right.

Hi Sam,
could you perhaps clarify one thing on the issue of the carpet damage we’ve discussed? Using your ‘mathematical equation’, would the ‘cost of carpeting’ include the cost of fitting, or just the replacement value of the carpet itself? The quote I had for supply/fitting/labour was £350 but the purchase price of the actual carpet is £260…
Any thoughts also on the issue of potential damage to the wall via hanging a mirror?

Many thanks,
Simon