When a tenant who pays on time and in full vacates the property they’ve been renting at the end of the lease period they expect to receive their security deposit back from the landlord, especially if they have left the property in good, clean condition. However, the tenant and landlord may have differing opinions on what good and clean is, and this often leads to disputes over what the landlord can reasonably charge the tenant for in terms of cleaning and repairs.
What costs is the Tenant liable for?
Landlords may deduct the cost of cleaning from a tenant’s deposit to adequately and reasonably prepare the property for a new tenant. The amount of cleaning deemed necessary should aim to meet the reasonable living requirements of a new tenant and an acceptable standard of hygiene and cleanliness.
According to the Rental Housing Act a landlord may use the deposit and any interest accrued over the lease period to repair damage to the property for which the tenant is liable, excluding wear and tear. This means that if the tenant damages an item at the property or substantially shortens the item’s lifespan the landlord is free to claim compensation from the rental deposit, taking into account the age of the item, its expected lifespan and the cost of replacement.
This generally refers to items that become defective or broken due to tenant neglect and/or abuse - for example; new marks, chips and nail holes that need to be filled, patched and painted; fused globes; indelible stains and marks to curtains, carpets and other flooring; a broken or faulty extractor fan due to tenant neglect; broken glass and window panes; mould caused by a lack of ventilation, broken cupboard doors etc.
What constitutes Fair Wear & Tear?
Wear and tear refers to the wearing of items at the property because of normal, everyday use, aging or exposure to the elements (sunlight, rain or wind). The landlord is responsible for the repair and replacement of items damaged because of ordinary wear and tear and may not claim compensation from the tenant if so deemed.
This includes minor dirt, spotting, nicks and scuff marks to walls and flooring, and carpets worn in from ordinary use. If a tenant regularly cleans and maintains the property throughout the lease period and returns it to the landlord in the condition that they received it in when they took occupation, they are less likely to lose their security deposit to repairs and cleaning costs. The tenant can repair minor issues to the property himself, leaving the specialised electrical and plumbing work to the professionals.
This is often cheaper and less of a hassle than having the landlord hire contractors to do the job. Carpets, tiles, windows, cupboards and ovens are notable items that require regular cleaning. Tenants who take personal responsibility for the condition of the property during their lease period facilitate a good landlord-tenant relationship. A good reference from a previous landlord will strengthen the tenant’s rental application for the property they hope to rent next.
To avoid dispute it’s absolutely crucial that both landlord and tenant are present at a joint entry and exit inspection to determine who is liable for the damages when the property is vacated. Tenants and landlords should document any defaults or damage on the inspection report and if possible include photographs.