So what’s the difference between Fair Wear and Tear & Damage?

So whether you’re the owner or the tenant, it can be confusing.

So let’s try to clear up some of the differences between what’s Fair Wear and Tear and what’s Damage to the Property!

More often than not the owner and the tenant may not agree as what is damage and to what is considered to be wear and tear.

When it comes to the Residential Tenancy Act “fair wear and tear” is somewhat vague and open to interpretation hence, it’s understandable that disagreements arise.

Defining “Fair Wear & Tear” vs “Damage”
Fair wear and tear generally means the deterioration that happens through day-today use (e.g. carpet gets worn from people walking on it). Or the ordinary exposure to natural elements (e.g. sunlight, rain). Because wear and tear is expected and considered normal depreciation, it is not covered by landlord insurance.
Damage, whether it be accidental or not, is injury to real or personal property through another’s negligence, wilful destruction or carelessness. Insurers generally recognise three types of tenant damage:

1. Accidental – the result of sudden, unexpected or unforeseen events (such as wine spilled on carpets).
2. Malicious – caused on purpose with intent to do harm, motivated by vindictiveness or spite with the aim of damaging the property (such as punching a hole through a door).
3. Intentional – the result of an act carried out without permission but without malice, and with the full knowledge the action will alter the current state of the property (putting picture hooks in walls or painting a wall a different colour).

Cover for these three types of damage varies between insurers, with most excluding at least one type. EBM RentCover provides cover for all three types of damage.

Here are some examples of what is normal wear and tear (and the landlord’s responsibility) and what is damage (and the tenant’s responsibility):


(Landlords Responsibility) 
(Tenants Responsibility)
Faded curtains/blinds or frayed cored
Curtains/Blinds that are stained or torn
Traffic marks on carpet or floorboards from walking
Stains on carpet or scratches in floorboards
Faded or cracking paint
Holes in walls or damaged paint from hooks in walls
Worn kitchen benchtops
Burns, cuts or stains on benchtops
Minor scuff marks on walls or ceiling
Paint damage resulting from removing Blu-Tack, sticky tape or adhesive hooks
Exterior decking discolouring from exposure to weather
Dents in walls from tenants moving furniture


Who is responsible?

Fair wear and tear is a cost of doing business that landlords should expect. Repairing or replacing worn fittings and fixtures is the responsibility of the owner.

Unless a contract states otherwise, tenants are not responsible for paying for fair wear and tear to a property. It’s only when the tenant has been irresponsible, and accidentally or intentionally caused damage to a home, that they are liable to pay for repairs (either directly or have the expense deducted from their bond).

The bottom line

Disagreements about wear and tear vs. damage frequently occur between landlords/agents and tenants, so it’s important to make sure the condition of the premises is well documented and updated at the time of moving in, during inspections and upon moving out.

When determining the amount of the charge to the tenant, it is a requirement to take into account depreciation of the item.  The best example of this would be carpet damage.  If the tenant ruins your 5-year-old carpet, your are not allowed to charge the tenant 100% of the cost of the new carpet as the existing carpet was 5 years old.
The life of carpet generally speaking is usually 10 years so if a tenant moved in to a property with 4-year-old carpet that was in good condition, moved out at the end of the year and ruined the carpet with stains while they were there, we would only be able to defend a charge of 1/2 of the cost of the new carpet (the carpet is 5 years old when the tenant vacates so there should have been 5 year of life left in the carpet).

Note: Interior Painting sometimes falls under a similar life span.

The best way to avoid disputes at the end of the tenancy is to ensure a detailed condition report with photos is undertaken at the start of the tenancy and routine inspections carried out during the tenancy so if any issues arise they can be identified quickly.

As always if you have any queries please feel free to contact our property management team and we would be happy to assist.

Fair wear and tear is not covered by landlord insurance, but accidental and malicious damage is some policies ie EBM RentCover.

Wear and tear vs. damage is a ‘grey’ area for many people so hopefully this makes things clearer.
Not all Insurance policies are the same so be sure you check the fine print of your insurance policy, as this is your responsiblity.

If you found this article helpful, you may also be interested in Do depreciation deductions apply to you?

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Paul Basso

Author Paul Basso

Established in 2000, First National Basso is a business based on transparency, honesty, personal service and trust. With a commitment to innovation, First National Basso has continually evolved and grown to become one of the longest running and most trusted real estate teams on the Mornington Peninsula.

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