What is Wear and Tear, and when is it Damage?
It is not unusual for a repair to be picked up during the outgoing inspection that the tenant and owner disagree as to who is responsible.
The tenant might say it is ‘wear and tear’, while the owner might believe that since it was ok at the commencement of tenancy, it must be damage and therefore the tenant should pay.
What qualifies as ‘wear and tear’ and what are damages have practical definitions that help guide how we look at things and who should pay.
Wear is what happens to anything that regularly moves or heats up and cools down. Over time the friction and stresses deteriorate the strength of the components. The item may still do what it was designed to do, but maybe needs a bit more care to make it work. That is Wear.
Tear is when wear in something has weakened it to the point it breaks through normal usage.
Damage is when something is used incorrectly and breaks. That’s not ‘wear and tear’; it is damage.
For example, a residential property may be used as a home office, and that’s okay. However, the chair used 8 hours a day is a typical office chair with rollers, and there is no chair mat. The constant action damages the residential carpet because it is not of commercial quality.
Damage can also be when an item is used excessively. For example, a stove is used to cook commercial quantities of food. The stove elements burn out faster because of constant usage. The stove wasn’t being misused so much as being overused.
In cases of unreasonable wear and tear, the tenant is responsible for the cost of repair or replacement, while for reasonable ‘wear and tear’ the owner is responsible.
Breakage, Damage and False Reporting
The law makes tenants responsible for damage to the property, be it accidental, intentional, or negligent. Tenants are also responsible for any damage done by their visitors or co-tenants.
Tenants can also be required to cover the cost of tradespeople, if they report something as broken when in fact, it wasn’t. For example, if the oven won’t turn on and a tradesman is sent only to find that the timer has been set accidently by the tenant. Another would be a tradesman was sent out because the power is out, and it turns out to be one of the tenant’s appliances had shorted the power out. These events are classed as accidental or negligent. A tenant does not have to intentionally broken something to be responsible.