Repairs, Maintenance & Fair Wear & Tear

16 September 2020

Taking care & looking after a rental property is a shared responsibility between tenants, landlords, and the Property Manager if managed by a Real Estate Agency.

The landlord is responsible for ensuring that the property is fit to live in and that repairs and maintenance are completed so that the property is in a reasonable state of repair. The tenant is responsible for keeping the property reasonably clean and undamaged and leave it in the same condition it was in when they moved in (fair wear and tear excepted). If the property is managed through a Real Estate Agency, then the Property Manager will act on behalf of the Landlord and will ensure that the property is fit to live in and is the go-to person, for the tenant to report any repairs or maintenance issues that arise during the tenancy.

What happens when maintenance and repairs are needed?

A tenant should contact their Property Manager or Landlord (if not managed by an Agency) as soon as possible and report the maintenance and/or repairs that are needed.

The Property Manager will need to identify how the maintenance and/or repair came to light. Was it due to damage caused by the tenant or just wear and tear?

If it was damaged caused by the tenant, then the tenant will be responsible for the reasonable cost of repairing, restoration and/or replacement to rectify the damage, however, if it is wear and tear, then the landlord will bear the costs.

What is ‘fair wear & tear’?

Fair wear and tear, is a term for damage that either naturally or inevitably occurs as a result of normal use and/or ageing. Another way to look at it is, fair wear and tear is damage that occurs even when an item is used competently and with care and proper maintenance. This covers property fixtures and items that deteriorate over time due to daily use and/or ageing.

Some of these are:

  • Worn kitchen benchtops
  • Worn handles or hinges
  • Scuffed flooring on the carpet on high traffic foot areas

On the other hand, it is not, wear and tear when the damage to the property is due to an accident, negligence, or even malicious.

Some of these are:

  • Burns on kitchen benchtops
  • Holes in the walls
  • Stains or burn marks on the carpet

As an example, carpet has an expected lifespan of 10 years, and therefore wear and tear consistent with its lifespan is expected, so daily walking on the carpet will result in wear and tear.

However, excessive staining, like from a spilled glass of red wine would not be considered ‘fair wear and tear’.

Somethings aren’t always as clear cut, so your Property Manager will need to apply some common sense and ask the right questions in order to make an informed decision on whether or not the damage is ‘fair wear and tear’.

Saying that fair wear and tear is not always something that requires repair, but simply needs to be taken into account based on the age and economical life of a fixture or fitting. Fair wear and tear always has to be a consideration, for example, at a final inspection at the end of a tenancy.

‘Fair wear and tear’ forms part of a Lease Agreement

The NSW, Residential Tenancy Agreement (Lease Agreement) and the NSW, Tenant Information Statement both reference the term ‘fair wear and tear’. Fair wear and tear is the responsibility of the landlord, and tenants are not responsible for paying for ‘fair wear and tear’, however, tenants need to be aware that it is there obligation to leave the residential premises as nearly as possible in the same condition, fair wear and tear excepted, as at the commencement of the tenancy.

There is though, excessive wear and tear, which takes into account, how long tenants have resided in the property or how long it’s been since things like repainting or flooring have taken place.

Excessive wear and tear, is wear from use that isn’t normal and that can come from a lack of overall care taken or just too many people residing in a property, above what has been agreed, as noted on your Lease Agreement.

Tenants need to be mindful that the cost of repairs, or the restoration of, the premises or goods leased with the premises if it is a result of damage caused by the tenant, other than ‘fair wear and tear’, may be deducted from the bond.

Landlords, what you need is a Property Manager that knows the difference and can step in accordingly, and tenants, you need a Property Manager that’s willing to take the time to Inspect the property and explain what’s what.

Antonio Mesiti is the Principal & Property Manager at The Management Agency, a local Property Management specialist offering a one on one and end to end service for his Property Investor clients. For more information visit; https://themanagementagency.com.au/about/

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