This page is part of our guide to renting in the UK and was updated in 2022 – Check out more of our awesome content here.
When landlords hand over the keys to a tenant, there is an assumption that the tenant will look after the property and pay the rent on time.
Damages, even minor ones, happen all the time and are quite normal, we all drop things or knock against walls from time to time. Over a long period, these damages can add up and be costly to repair.
But what happens at the end of a tenancy when there is damage that wasn’t there at the start of the rental period?
Who is liable for this and how much should they pay?
This guide will help both landlords and tenants understand how much a tenant should pay towards the cost of repairs to a rented property.
First, one must understand the difference between damage and “fair wear and tear”.
Tenants are not obliged to pay anything towards the repair or replacement of items that have been subject to fair wear and tear.
Here are a few examples:
Fair Wear and Tear
- Carpet tears and indents caused by furniture pressing down onto it.
- Carpet fraying due to tenants walking on it.
- Doormat wearing out.
- Sofa marks on walls.
- Sunlight fading items such as sofas or wooden flooring.
- Minor scuffs and scrapes to areas where there is a high level of use; kitchen worktops, entrance halls and doorways etc.
- Stained grouting that won’t clean off.
- External paint flaking due to weathering.
- Internal paint discolouring due to age and sunlight etc.
- Door handles coming loose.
In general, fair wear and tear is caused by the normal use of the property by the tenants and by natural forces. The number of tenants occupying the property should also be considered; for example, a family of six will cause more wear and tear than a single occupant.
- Red wine stains on the carpet that can’t be cleaned.
- Burn marks on carpets, perhaps by a tenant ironing on the floor.
- Holes in the walls, wooden flooring and doors.
- Flooding or water damage due to the tenants allowing a bath to overflow.
- Cracked bath or shower tray due to the tenant dropping something heavy.
- Broken glass in windows or mirrors etc.
- Screw or nail holes where the tenant has hung something on the walls without permission.
- Cigarette burns to carpets.
- Pet damage; chew marks and scratches etc.
Damage is often caused by one-off events that could have been avoided by being more careful; carpets, kitchens, and bathrooms are common areas of dispute between landlords and their tenant. This shouldn’t be a surprise as replacing an oven, worktop, carpet or bathtub is both expensive and disruptive.
In What Condition Should the Property be Returned to the Landlord?
Landlords should expect the property to be returned to them at the end of the tenancy in the same condition as it was at the start, allowing for fair wear and tear.
The level of cleanliness should also be the same.
However, should there be damage, landlords should not use the tenant’s deposit to gain “betterment”.
What is Betterment?
Betterment is a term used to describe the process of improving the condition or contents of a rented property.
For example; if a landlord used a small stain on a ten-year-old carpet as an excuse to replace the whole carpet with a new one entirely at the tenant’s expense, this would be considered betterment as the landlord is replacing old with new.
The same applies to items such as door mats, appliances, curtains and pretty much anything else in the home.
Both small claims courts and deposit protection scheme adjudicators typically rule against landlords trying to gain betterment.
Betterment also applies to cleaning; landlords cannot demand professional cleaning if the property wasn’t professionally cleaned prior to the tenant moving in. The only requirement is for the property to be left as clean as it was at the start of the property.
There is a fair way to evaluate how much tenants should pay towards damage to old and new items, so keep reading.
How Much Should Tenants Pay For Damage to a Rented Property?
As a general rule of thumb, the amount a tenant must pay towards the replacement of a damaged item depends on:
- The age of the item.
- It’s expected life.
- How long the tenant lived in the property.
Here are some example calculations with explanations:
Example 1 – Old Damaged Carpets
The carpets in the property are nine years old and the tenant has damaged them by spilling red wine and not mopping it up in a timely manner. The carpet stain is so obvious that it’s likely to deter anyone from wanting to rent the property in the future.
Here is how to calculate how much the tenant should pay towards the cost of a new carpet:
The expected lifespan of a typical carpet in a rented property with two occupants is ten years.
As the carpet is already nine years old, the landlord has lost 1/10th of the expected lifespan.
The tenant should expect to pay 1/10th of the cost of a new comparable carpet to the affected room.
Caveat – the new carpet should be the same quality as the old carpet. If the landlord chooses a higher-quality, more expensive carpet, the fee charged to the tenant should be reduced accordingly.
Example 2 – New Damaged Carpets
In this example, the carpets are nearly new – 6 months old.
Assuming the damage is the same as in the first example, i.e it’s severe and is likely to deter someone from renting the property in the future, here is how to calculate how much a tenant should pay towards the cost of a new carpet:
As the expected lifespan of a typical carpet in a typical tenancy with two occupants is around 10 years, the landlord has lost 9.5 years.
In this example, the tenant should expect to pay 95% of the cost to replace the carpet in the affected room.
Caveat – The tenant should only be charged a proportion of the cost of a comparable carpet. The landlord cannot swap a cheap low-quality carpet for an expensive high-quality one. If they do, they should reduce the amount charged to the tenant accordingly.
Example 3 – Hole in the Wall
Whilst moving furniture, the tenant damaged a wall and a large hole is now visible and is in a prominent location.
Any new tenants are likely to ask the landlord to repair the damage.
The departing tenant should expect to pay for the cost of filling the hole and painting the wall with matching paint.
Caveat – The tenant should not be charged for redecorating the entire room or for gloss work, unless any glossed surfaces were damaged, this would be treated as betterment.
Example 4 – Broken Window
The tenant has damaged a window by breaking a pane of glass.
The tenant should expect to pay the entire cost of replacing the pane.
Caveat – The landlord should not charge the tenant the cost for replacing the entire window frame, this would be considered betterment.
Example 5 – Missing or Broken Items
The tenant has damaged or disposed of an item that was included in the inventory.
The landlord wants to charge the tenant the entire cost of a new item.
The rules state that landlords should not replace items on a “new-for-old” basis as this would be considered betterment.
Should the landlord purchase a new item, they should only charge the tenant a proportion of the cost.
The calculation should be based on:
- The age of the item at the start of the tenancy.
- Depreciation in value due to fair wear and tear during the tenancy.
- The expected lifespan of the item.
- The cost of a comparable new item.
Example – A tenant vacating a property after 5 years wouldn’t be expected to replace an old doormat they threw away as doormats have a short life expectancy.
How to Prove the Value of an Item
The value of an item can be proven by showing original receipts or quotations from professional companies.
The age of an item can be calculated from original receipts. If they are not available, dated photographs taken at check-in or an assessment from an independent clerk can be used as a guide.
How Long Do Items Last in a Tenanted Property?
As you can see in the examples provided above, the landlord should apportion costs based on the age of the item, how long it’s expected to last and the cost of a new item.
Below you also find a table displaying a very rough guide to how long items will last in a typical tenanted property with two occupants.
You should also consider:
- Large homes with large families will experience more wear and tear and therefore shorter life expectancies of items within.
- Single occupant homes, such as one-bed properties typically experience less wear and tear and items such as carpets should last longer.
- The quality of the item should also be taken into account. A cheap carpet won’t last as long as a premium top-of-the-range one.
- The location of the item should also be considered; a cheap low-quality laminate floor located by the front door in a six-bed property with 8 occupants isn’t going to last very long while a solid oak floor in the bedroom of one-bed home with a single tenant will last much longer.
|Carpets - High Quality||8 - 15 years||Source|
|Carpets - Average Quality||5 - 8 years||Source|
|Double Glazing||20 - 30 years||Source|
|Solid Oak Flooring||15 - 50 Years||Source|
|Laminate Flooring||5 - 10 Years||Source|
|Wall Paint||3 - 5 years||Source|
|Curtains - Average Quality||10 Years||Source|
|Curtains - High Quality||20 Years||Source|
|Blinds - Average Quality||8 Years||Source|
|Blinds - High Quality||15 Years||Source|
|White Goods - Average Quality||8 - 10 Years||Source|
|White Goods - High Quality||10 - 15 Years||Source|
Don’t forget; the more tenants there are in the property, the shorter the expected lifespan of items contained within it. This is due to wear and tear which is not something the tenant should pay for.
Who Makes the Final Decision?
In the UK, all tenant’s deposits must be held in a registered deposit scheme.
At the end of the tenancy, the landlord can make a claim to cover any losses as a result of damages and if the tenant disagrees, the scheme operator will act as an arbitrator.
One key point to note: Once the landlord has put in a claim, any remaining money in the scheme will be paid out to the tenant. For example, if the tenant has £1000 in a deposit scheme and the landlord makes a claim for £200 that the tenant disputes, the remaining £800 will be paid out while the £200 is being disputed. The scheme operator will not make the tenant wait for the entire £1000 if only a portion is disputed.
Contrary to what many people think, the deposit belongs to the tenant, even if it’s being held in a deposit protection scheme.
When making a claim for damages, the onus is very much on the landlord to prove that they have suffered a financial loss.
For example, if the landlord wants compensation for a damaged carpet, they must show that the carpet still had some value; i.e. it’s not so old that it’s worthless. Merely showing damage isn’t enough, they must prove a financial loss. This is when the tenant can put forward an argument that the carpet is old and of low value and they should only pay for a portion of the cost of its replacement.
Our guide has covered the replacement of damaged items and how much the tenant should expect to pay towards the cost of a new item.
There are occasions when a landlord or even a tenant, may decide it’s more affordable to repair rather than replace an item. A tenant can always dispute the cost of a repair, perhaps by proving that the item was so old and of so little value that a repair led to betterment.
How much tenants pay towards the cost of repairs and replacements should take into account the value and age of the item at the end of the tenancy. In almost all cases, the tenant should only pay a portion of the cost of a new item to avoid betterment.