The end of a tenancy can raise several landlords vs tenant disputes
Where an adjudicator in a deposit dispute is satisfied, on the balance of probabilities, that the landlord is entitled to claim for damage or redecoration, an adjudicator will take into account the principle of betterment alongside fair wear and tear.
The basis of the concept of betterment is that a landlord is not entitled to be placed into a better material or financial position as a result of a compensation claim than they would be in any event.
Even where an item is shown to have been damaged beyond fair wear and tear during the course of a tenancy, therefore, an award for the full cost of replacing the damaged item(s) would not be considered reasonable as it would place a landlord into a better material position than they would otherwise have been.
To avoid this situation the law makes an adjustment. The adjustment will take into account the item’s condition, age, quality and value at the start of the tenancy, however, will also take into account the item’s average useful lifespan and the length of the tenancy.
The different dispute resolution schemes (TDS, DPS, and myDeposits) all have guides as to what specific average useful life spans they apply to certain items – the guides are commonly prepared with the input of RICS and ARLA.
The TDS guide, for example, notes that a low-quality carpet has a useful average lifespan of up to four years. If the check-in report shows, for example, that a low-quality carpet was in good condition at the start of a tenancy and approximately two years old then even if the carpet required replacement at the end of a two-year tenancy, no award would usually be considered reasonable (as the carpet would have reached the end of its average lifespan in any event).
Length of the tenancy average lifespan calculation
Another example would be where a medium quality carpet required replacement at the end of a tenancy due to tenant damage and was in good condition and approximately one year old at the start of a one year tenancy. Using the TDS guide and applying an average lifespan of approximately 6 1⁄2 years; an adjudicator would, therefore, make an award for around 4 1⁄2 years of the carpet’s value. (For example, if the cost of a similar replacement carpet is £500, an award of around £346.00 would be considered reasonable, reflecting the reduction in the useful average lifespan of the carpet – £500 / 6.5 x 4.5).
It is important to remember that useful lifespans are also affected by, for example, the number of tenants in a property, whether the tenants have children, and what room or part of the property the item is in.
A carpet in a hallway, therefore, with a heavy average footfall, will have a shorter average useful lifespan than a carpet in a master bedroom. It is further important to note, however, whilst the principle of fair wear and tear and average lifespans do not apply to cleaning, the principle of betterment does apply (see my blog on cleaning for more detail).
John Bolton, Adjudicator