The law defines fair wear and tear as "reasonable use of the premises by the tenant and the ordinary operation of natural forces." This refers to the twin forces of time and normal daily habits. Walking across a carpet from door to dining table, for example, will exert a wearing effect during the length of a year, which is perfectly natural.

A landlord cannot ask the tenant to pay for repairs or replacement at the end of the tenancy for changes caused by such fair wear and tear.


It is a legal tenet that a landlord cannot expect to have old replaced with new at a tenant's expense. An allowance for fair wear and tear must be made when considering compensation for damage.

The lay also prevents a landlord from replacing old items with new and charging the tenant for the privilege. This is called betterment.


A professional inventory clerk uses experience and common sense to assess the many factors present before deciding what is attributable to fair wear and tear. Some of the things a clerk will consider:

• The quality of the supplied item (and that varies greatly)

• The age of the item

• The condition at the start of the tenancy

• The condition at the end of the tenancy

• The usual life expectancy of the item

• The number of tenants - and how many are adults and how many are children, when appropriate

• The length of the tenancy

• Any extenuating circumstances

A tenant has a duty of care to leave the property at the end of a tenancy in the same condition recorded on the inventory, with fair wear and tear taken into account.

To avoid the appearance of betterment, the allocation of costs or compensation must take into account these three elements:

1. Fair wear and tear (as described above)

2. The most appropriate remedy for repair or replacement (see below)

3. That the landlord is neither financially nor materially better off at the end of the tenancy, having taken into account


Landlords are expected to redecorate a property on a regular basis. How often will depend on a number of factors, but usually approximately every 3 to 5 years.

Expert advice should be sought when specialist wall covering, such as silk panels or linen/silk finished wallpaper are involved. These will need expert treatment to clean and repair any damage.

The life expectancy of decorations will depend on:

• The quality of paint/paper and preparation of surfaces.

• The location: heavy traffic areas will require more frequent redecoration.

• Whether the tenant has young children, pets, or there have been many persons occupying the property.

• Whether the lease allowed smoking in the property. Permitted smoking will usually be considered a cleaning issue to remove the greasy residue left by nicotine.

• If the property is prone to condensation or damp.

Normally, excessive wear and tear will require compensation, e.g. numerous nail or screw holes, torn wallpaper, gouges in woodwork, soiling, etc.

However, it must be accepted that there is likely to be some degree of marking to walls at the end of a tenancy.

Follow with part 2

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