If there’s one big down side to renting then it’s the arguments that can occur over damage caused by tenants. Unfortunately, when you’re living in a property accidents can happen and damage ends up being the result, whether it’s a broken window thanks to a stray football or carpets repeatedly stained with red wine. ‘Wear and tear’ is not something that you should have to worry about when renting and this should never be taken from your damage deposit. However, there is often something of a grey area between damage and wear and tear and this is where confusion may arise.
The law not only sets out the responsibilities of landlords but also of tenants, requiring that tenants make “good any damage to the property caused by the behaviour or negligence of the tenant, members of his/her household or any other person lawfully visiting or living in the property” (Landlord and Tenant Act 1985). This should be the basis of any questions about whether or not there is a responsibility to deal with damage that you cause – if something that you have done has resulted in damage to the property that isn’t wear and tear then there’s no escaping the fact that you need to pay for it. As well as paying for damage that you’ve caused by something you did do, there’s also a requirement to pay for damage you may have caused by something that you didn’t do i.e. where neglect has caused damage. For example, if the property has a garden and you don’t maintain it or you have allowed an animal to sharpen its claws on the landlord’s furniture. If you want to know what your responsibilities are then simply take a look in the tenancy agreement – they’re all listed pretty clearly in there.
You’ll also be responsible for any damage that your actions cause to other properties – so for example if you don’t turn the water off when you go away and the pipes burst then you’ll find yourself with a bill for the damage to any neighbouring properties too. Remember that the landlord isn’t responsible for the way you act so you can’t rely on them to pick up the tab for problems that may have arisen with neighbours or communal areas – for example if you’ve thrown a lit cigarette into a bin and started a fire.
Damage is a sore point for both landlords and tenants so it pays to try and deal with issues like this as politely and professionally as possible. Take photos of the damage if it’s your fault and then let the landlord know what has happened as soon as you can. Make sure you date these kinds of records and set out the steps that you’re planning to take in order to fix the problem so that the landlord knows what’s going on. Try and reassure the landlord so that you can remain on good terms – if you take responsibility for any damage then the landlord will most likely appreciate it and the relationship can continue as it was.
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