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Damage to your rental property: How landlords should deal with damage

Damage to rental property - how landlords deal with damage

Damage to property can occur whether it is owned or rented. However, due to the fact that tenants come and go more frequently than people who own property, you could argue that the risk of damage is higher. But how should a landlord deal with damage? What rights do they have and is there any legislation to guide them? Read our guide to find out, plus learn the difference between damage and wear and tear.

Who is responsible for repairs if a property is damaged?

Ultimately, the tenant is responsible for any damage that they cause to the property they are renting. The damage should be reported as soon as possible, so that it can be repaired or at least assessed by either the landlord or a professional (tradesman etc.) In some cases, a tenant may need to go through the agency that set up the tenancy, who will in turn contact the landlord.

The tenant needs to report the damage they have caused and communicate with the landlord about how best to repair the problem. It may be that the damage requires fixing immediately, or it may be that damage is discovered at the end of a tenancy and the landlord and tenant will discuss how to handle this. Deposits can be deducted from to cover damage.

Some advice for tenants regarding damage:

  • Don’t try to hide damage from your landlord. Keep open and honest lines of communication.
  • Remember that your deposit will be used at the end of the tenancy to fix any damage you have caused to the property.
  • Try to repair any damage before you leave. It will give you more control over the quality and price of the repair work.
  • Make note of any wear and tear and take photos of the property or appliances to track any changes or damage.

For a full guide, check out haart’s landlord responsibilities and obligations.

What’s the difference between wear and tear and damage?

There is obviously a difference between damage and wear and tear. No landlord should deduct money from a tenant’s deposit for natural wear and tear that occurs over the length of a tenancy. Here are some examples of wear and tear and damage to help you see the difference:

Examples of wear and tear

  • Appliances that have broken down or stopped working due to age or daily use (ovens, kettles, boilers etc.)
  • Damage caused to a property due to extreme weather conditions
  • Painting and redecorating
  • Scratches and marks on wooden furniture, door handles, worktops and other used items and surfaces
  • Discoloration of furnishings and upholstery
  • Wear of fabrics such as soft furnishings (pillows, sofa covers, curtains etc.)

Examples of damage

  • Broken windows – caused by a person (extreme weather doesn’t count here)
  • Damage caused during a party
  • Stains or cigarette burns on soft furnishings including carpets
  • Pets damaging property, furniture or appliances
  • Broken chairs, tables, bed frames, etc.
  • Damaged electrical appliances from incorrect use (using incorrect plugs or overloading a socket)

What if the damage isn't a tenant's fault?

Accidental damage caused by guests, neighbours, or even visiting workmen can occur during a tenancy. In these cases, it is typically a landlord's responsibility to repair damage.

Examples of this could include:

  • Leaks from a neighbouring property
  • Damage to the roof, windows or exterior of the building caused by a neighbour's building works
  • Accidental damage caused by tools used by a workman (scratches etc.)

Landlord’s often take out specialist insurance that covers accidental damage, however, even without it they can take action to recover the cost of any work from the neighbour or person responsible for the damage. Tenant’s should be aware that their personal belongings are often not covered by insurance, nor are a landlord’s responsibility to replace due to accidental damage.

Damage due to crime

It's a landlord's responsibility to repair damage caused by a crime. It’s also in their best interest to make sure the property is secure again after any crime, to protect their tenant’s and property.

Examples of damage due to crime include:

  • Windows or doors broken during a burglary
  • Vandalism in a shared area such as a garden or hallway

Although it is not a landlord's responsibility to replace any tenant’s belongings that are stolen or damaged through crime, they are responsible for fixing damage and making sure the property is secure again. Tenant’s should contact the police to report the crime.

Is a deposit affected by damage?

Landlord’s are legally obligated to secure tenant’s deposits in a protection scheme (see haart’s full guide here). At the end of a tenancy, any damage that will cost a landlord money to repair can be taken from the deposit. This is why it is vital for tenants and landlords to communicate as soon as any damage occurs, to make sure it is paid for fairly and that each party is happy.

Shelter England, cover the topic of damage and deposits, stating: “Your landlord may use your deposit to cover damage you caused in the property. They should only charge you a reasonable amount on a ‘like for like’ basis. For example, if you caused damage to a cheap old bed you shouldn’t be asked to pay for the cost of a high quality or brand new replacement.”

Be aware that the guide is provided for tenants. Landlords can seek further advice from the NLA (National Landlord’s Association)

What is an inventory report?

As part of haart’s tips for landlords, we recommend taking an inventory report at the beginning of any tenancy. This will detail not only what the property contains (items of furniture, appliances etc.), but also the condition of the property. An inventory report will make It far easier for both landlord and tenant to track damage or wear and tear, avoiding disputes further down the line.

Renting with haart

At haart, we can help you find the perfect place to live with our perfect mix of technology and expert local knowledge. We’re up to date on all the latest legislation, too. See our piece on the Tenant Fee Ban, or brush up on the obligations for a tenant. We’re also here for landlords. If you have questions about managing a tenant, or need to find your next home, get in touch today and let haart help.