Whether you’re a landlord or a tenant in a rental property, one of the most contested terms is ‘fair wear and tear’. But what does ‘fair wear and tear’ actually mean?

Every specific instance of deterioration or damage to a property is different – there are no blanket definitions of what is definitely ‘in or out’ when it comes to claiming fair wear and tear. However, it is helpful to revisit the following definition from NSW Fair Trading:

“Fair wear and tear means the deterioration that occurs over time with the use of the premises even though the premises receive reasonable care and maintenance. Such deterioration could be caused by exposure, time or just by ordinary use. You (the tenant) are only liable for negligent, irresponsible or intentional actions that cause damage to the premises.”

Let’s break this down into 3 simple chunks.

  1. Length of time – Fair wear and tear occurs over time. A tenant generally cannot claim fair wear and tear when damage is due to a sudden event or one-off occurrence.
  2. Reasonable care – Fair wear and tear occurs even if there has been reasonable care taken to look after the property. A tenant cannot claim fair wear and tear when they have been negligent or irresponsible in their actions, or when damage was caused by something done intentionally.
  3. Ordinary use – Fair wear and tear can only be claimed where there has been ordinary use of the property. e.g. broken hinges on an oven door used as a commercial bakery in the home would not be considered ordinary use.

A tenant is not responsible for providing compensation for fair wear and tear. However, they must provide compensation for damage. This is usually taken as a deduction from the rental bond.

Examples of fair wear and tear versus damage in a rental property

NSW Fair Trading has summarised some typical examples of fair wear and tear (where the tenant is not liable for the deterioration to the property) and damage (where the tenant is liable). These are common points of contention and a very handy reference for landlords and tenants alike.

Fair wear and tear:
Tenant is not liable

Damage:
Tenant is liable

Faded curtains or frayed cords Missing curtains or torn by the tenant’s cat
Furniture indentations and traffic marks on the carpet Stains or burn marks on the carpet
Scuffed up wooden floors Badly scratched or gouged wooden floors
Faded, chipped or cracked paint Unapproved paint job
Worn kitchen bench top Burns or cuts in bench top
Loose hinges or handles on doors or windows and worn sliding tracks Broken glass from one of your children hitting a ball through the window
Cracks in the walls from movement Holes in walls left by tenant removing picture hooks or shelves they had installed
Water stain on carpet from rain through leaking roof or bad plumbing Water stain on carpet caused by overflowing bath or indoor pot plants

If you’re a property investor and unsure of your liability, the team at Carnelian Property Management are always happy to help.

Carnelian Property Management is a family-owned business offering expert rental property management across Newcastle and Lake Macquarie. Their highly accessible & personal approach has delighted Newcastle and Lake Macquarie property investors since 2011.