Wear and Tear vs Damage Disputes

What is a Dispute

A landlord-tenant dispute is a disagreement between a landlord and the tenant that comes about during or after a tenancy period. This often happens when one or both parties do not uphold their side of the tenancy agreement, or because their interests conflict.  Landlord-tenant disputes can take many forms; from maintenance to property damage to deposit deductions. For most tenants, it may seem to them that their landlords are trying to con them into paying extra fees, but as a landlord, there’s no denying the importance of holding tenants to their contractual obligations as a measure to protect your investment and legal rights. When a dispute between a landlord and tenant regarding rights and obligations arises, it can be mentally exhausting, difficult and time-consuming for both sides. One of the most common ones is a dispute over wear and tear and damage.

You can read our stories related to landlord-tenant disputes here.

Why a Dispute Happens: Wear & Tear vs Damage

When tenants move out of your rental property, it’s expected that the condition at that time is not the same when they first move in. These changes are called wear and tear, which result from deterioration as the property ages, combined with everyday use. As it is the responsibility of a landlord to maintain the unit, it is common to hire a cleaning or service crew to restore the condition of the unit. Damage, however, is a different story and this matter always raises a dispute between tenants and landlords which boils down to whose financial responsibility it is. When confronted with this matter, it often results in a dispute as both the landlord and tenant may have different senses of what are the differences between wear and tear. Consequently, it’s very important to understand what constitutes wear and tear and damage to avoid disputes between both sides.

‘Wear and tear’

It’s normal for a rental property to suffer an inevitable decline in condition, even with the best care. Any object and its components will wear out gradually to a certain extent before actually requiring a replacement eventually. This can be explained by frequent usage by tenants who are living in the property as well as the aging process, both of which will lead to a certain amount of deterioration. The longer the tenancy, the more likely for wear and tear to occur at the end of the period. As it is bound to happen and is not caused by negligence or abuse, tenants are not expected to be accountable for it and it’s fair to have a maintenance service arranged by the landlord in preparation for the next tenant.

Damage

Damage, on the other hand, is not an avoidable matter and often results from negligence, misuse, and even accidents. This also includes unauthorized permanent alterations made without the landlord’s knowledge, such as painting walls or renovating a strata property (which often requires the management’s approval), or failure to repaint.  In fact, some otherwise wear and tear that is aggravated can be considered as damage on the tenant’s part. Other than that, damages that aren’t directly caused by tenants but rather outsiders, such as guests or pets, still fall within their responsibility. In the event of damaged property, the cost of repairs is expected to be forked out by tenants and often, their security deposits are deducted to compensate for these damages.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the examples of wear and tear and damage to the property:

Wear and tear

  1. Sun-faded curtains
  2. Cracked wall paint
  3. Loose door handles
  4. Warped door frame
  5. Loose grout between tiles

Damage

  1. Torn or missing curtains
  2. Drawings / different paint color
  3. Missing door handles
  4. Holed door
  5. Broken enamels on sinks and toilets

At this point, it is obvious which obligation belongs to which side. As the landlord is expected to maintain a property to be rented out to the next tenant, it is also the responsibility of the tenants to look after it and be financially accountable if the damage is done during their stay. Nonetheless, when it comes to handling this matter, there would often be disputes between these two parties.

How to avoid Wear & Tear disputes

Method 1: Security Deposit or Landlord insurance

As a landlord, there are several ways to avoid this; one of them is to the tried and true method of collecting a security deposit upfront, or to get landlord insurance. This is a type of insurance policy that protects a property owner from monetary losses related to rental properties. In case a deposit deduction does not amount to the cost to fix any damages (not ‘wear and tear’) caused by tenants, you can claim your financial loss through the insurance policy. Therefore, it is always advisable for landlords to get their assets and investments insured through insurance coverage.

 Other than landlord insurance, there are other steps you can take to avoid such disputes including profile screening of tenants, having a detailed inventory and performing home inspections

Method 2: Tenant Screening

One of the best ways, and also the earliest step to take into consideration when renting your property, is to find the right tenant. In other words, avoid problematic tenants in the first place by performing background checks. Given the fact that it’s not an easy task for a landlord to do this, some may skip this step without realizing how vital it is. However, a thorough screening of a tenant can filter potential bad tenants from the responsible ones, thus, avoiding the risk of damages caused by tenants.

At Instahome, we perform background checks on our tenants. Not only do we ensure that they fit your tenant profile, but we also assess their credit score to see how responsibly the applicant manages money and their overall financial habits. We partnered with CTOS Data Systems Sdn Bhd (CTOS) to run a credit report on their history including bankruptcy, legal actions and delinquencies; so that our landlords can be certain of the reliability of a tenant before signing an agreement. We bear the responsibility of finding the right tenant so our landlords can protect their properties and make better decisions for their rental business.

Method 3: Detailed Inventory Checklist

In the case of an actual damage, landlords are eligible to make a deduction from the deposits. Unfortunately, this is where many tenant-landlord disputes come into play. While some tenants may find the landlord's expectations of damage to be unreasonable, similarly, some landlords may find a tenant’s claim of wear and tear to be exaggerated, thus unfairly shifting the responsibility onto them. 

For that reason, we have a detailed inventory where we keep track of properties’ conditions at the start of any new tenancy to avoid disputes between tenants and landlords. Our inventory consists of details of the furnishings, interior and utilities in your homes, along with their conditions. Therefore, if our landlords notice any discrepancy at the end of the tenancy, they can rely on us to verify it using our detailed inventory. With everything documented, any missing or damaged content can be confirmed and reimbursed. The best part is, our landlords don’t have to worry about keeping track of it - because that’s our job!
But where do we get all the information? Through Instahome move-in inspections, which is another tedious process for landlords.

Method 4: Move-in Inspections

Doing an inspection prior to renting is important not only for tenants but also for landlords. While tenants would request an inspection in making sure everything is in order, landlords should also walk through the property with them so both parties can be unanimous in the property condition, before signing a tenancy agreement. However, doing an inspection can be time-consuming; and even if a landlord carries it out, when tenants are confronted with visible damages, they may conflict the subject with a claim that it was an existing condition when they moved in. 

Fortunately, Instahome does the inspection for both tenants and landlords, making sure that the tenants get what they see, and at the same time, verifying the condition of the property. Therefore, for any raised dispute concerning the property conditions before and after the tenancy, Instahome has the check-in inspection reported in our detailed inventory to ensure a fair settlement between both parties. In fact, we also provide landlords with a digital tenancy agreement so you would only have to sign it!

All of the above? Use Instahome

All in all, being a landlord is a challenging job. There are several measures to take to ensure you can rent out your home safely without spending too much on fixing damages that aren’t even your responsibility. But that’s why Instahome is here; we want to help you find the perfect tenants, keep track of your properties and carry out inspections on your behalf so you can rent out your properties with little to no issues. With the essential parts taken care of, you can now easily rent your homes without a worry!

For inquiries, please don't hesitate to reach out to us today! Email us at bd@instahome.com