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What exactly is fair wear and tear?

Tenants are not responsible for costs arising from ‘fair wear and tear’. However, sometimes it can be difficult to agree on what is normal fair wear and tear.

Even if a tenant is clean, tidy, and respectful, the simple actions of daily life can take a toll on a property’s condition. This is what is known as ‘fair wear and tear’.

Neglectful damage (the tenant is liable)

  • Stains or burns from things the tenant dropped or placed on carpets
  • The tenant forgot the key and broke a lock to get in
  • Mould and mildew has formed because the dwelling was not aired properly
  • Pet damages the window furniture such as curtains
  • Cracked window pane from carelessly slamming window shut
  • Paint discolouring through candle smoke
  • Plaster chipped by nails being hammered in
  • Scratches on kitchen benchtops due to cutting food on the surface

Fair wear and tear (the landlord is liable)

  • Carpet wear in corridors or other frequently used areas
  • A lock broke because it was old and had worn out
  • Paint flaking because it is old or was not applied properly
  • Curtains fade from years of sunlight
  • Cracked window pane due to old warped frames

Who is responsible for the damage?

The tenant must not intentionally or negligently damage the rental property. If the tenant causes damage, the tenant must notify the landlord or property manager as soon as possible and is expected to pay for repairs or replacement.

However, if the damage is caused by a third party not directly connected with the tenant, or who the tenant did not invite onto the premises, or by an event outside of the tenant’s control (flood, break-in, traffic accident), the repairs become the property owner’s responsibility.

If the tenant’s possessions are damaged by a problem, such as a ceiling collapsing, then the tenant may be able to claim the costs from the property owner.

If the landlord/property manager damages the tenant’s possessions while they are on the premises, they are liable for the damages.

Contents cover

It is the tenant’s responsibility to take out their own home and contents insurance to cover their personal belongings. Contents insurance also covers damage and loss from various sources such theft, water damage, fire and other natural disasters.

The property owner’s building, if they have it, will not cover the tenant’s possessions.


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