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What is general wear and tear in a rental property and how is it different from damages? Anyone who is planning to rent a property, must first be familiar with the difference between the two, to safeguard their interests as tenants.
Who is liable for property maintenance in a rented house?
Unless the tenancy agreement clearly states the property maintenance rules, the chances of disputes between the landlord and the tenant are quite high. So much so that either party may decide to take the other to court, over monetary damages suffered on account of one party’s failure to maintain the property. Rental property maintenance is a grey area, as Indian rental laws do not clearly specify who is responsible for what task and both parties tend to assume that it is the responsibility of the other.
The real problem arises when the landlord assumes that the tenant is responsible for any damages to the property and deducts the cost of undoing these damages from the tenant’s security deposit. In the absence of any clearly-stated terms regarding this in the tenancy agreement, the tenant is often forced to pay for the assumed damages that he may actually not be responsible for. Hence, one must have a clear understanding of the difference between damages to the rented property and normal wear and tear to the rented property.
See also: Everything you need to know about rent agreements
What is general wear and tear in case of rented properties?
The changes that a rental property would undergo during the course of the tenancy without any intention of either the landlord or the tenant to affect those alterations, qualify as the general wear and tear. For example, the paint on the wall will lose its sheen over some years and could start peeling off, or grout lines may appear on the floor, despite the regular cleaning. If the property has wooden flooring, it would develop small dents with the passage of time. Wooden furniture would start to show normal wear and tear signs by losing its colour and integrity.
“General wear and tear are those which occur owing to normal daily usage by the tenant. Fading of wall paints, discoloration of kitchen and bathroom tiles, residue marks on floors owing to limited mopping, etc., are examples,” says Abodekraftz founder Abhineet Seth. All deteriorations that occur owing to usage and are not accidental or due to mishandling, account for general wear and tear, he explains.
The same is true of the several fittings in the bathroom and kitchen. In cities like Noida, for instance, a pet peeve of all property owners is that all metal fittings become prey to rust in less than a year of being in use.
A crucial distinction between damage and wear and tear is the expected changes in the property after regular use. Dirty switchboards and stained kitchen sinks could be a result of the tenant’s neglect of the property. It is, however, not inconceivable. The same is, however, not true of faulty switchboards and a broken kitchen sink.
What qualifies as damages to the property?
All unwelcome changes in the property that have been used with a certain degree of intention on the tenant’s part, would amount to damages to the property. Big or small holes in the wall, broken floor tiles and wall mirrors, dysfunctional bathroom or kitchen fittings, torn carpets and permanent stains on the upholstery, are not the sort of changes the property would undergo without abuse or neglect. For all such damages that undermine the property’s value and do not qualify as the normal wear and tear, the tenant will have to pay the landlord for the repair work.
Tile breakage may not account for general wear and tear, but discoloration will, points out Sanoj Kumar, a Delhi-based realty broker.
Precautions that landlords should take
Due attention should be paid while drafting the rent agreement clauses, especially on the subject of maintenance of the property. As this has the capacity to greatly affect the future worth of the asset, the landlord should insert clauses that fix the respective responsibilities of both the parties. Leaving any sort of grey area in this regard would not only lead to disagreements with your tenant in future but also cause monetary damages.
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“In the rental markets of Delhi-NCR, tenants typically pay two months’ rent as security deposit. In case large scale damages are caused to the property during the course of the tenancy, the landlord will not be able to recover the expenses incurred on repairs by forfeiting the deposit. He would have to ask the tenants for more money and this situation can turn unpleasant. Not many tenants would be willing to pay for the damages unless they are legally obliged to,” says Brajesh Mishra, a Gurgaon-based lawyer, who specialises in property laws.
Precautions that tenants should take
It is common courtesy to hand over the property to your landlord in the same state as you took it at the start of the tenancy period. Rental laws in India, including the Draft Model Tenancy Act, 2019, make it incumbent upon the tenant to safeguard the premises and that no obvious damages are caused to the landlord’s immovable asset. Even though no law across the world makes the tenant responsible to pay for the property’s normal wear and tear, they are still expected to get the house deep cleaned, to return the rented property in the same shape and form as it was at the start of the tenancy.
“Most of the wear and tear caused to the property over the tenancy period could be made invalid through a thorough cleaning of the premises, once the tenant has moved his belongings from his former home. Since there are many online services for cleaning at reasonable costs, it makes perfect sense for the tenant to employ an operator that would do the job for you and redeem the house to its old glory,” adds Kumar. In case the tenant fails to do this, the landlord has the right to deduct from the security deposit, the cost invested in getting the cleaning done, Kumar says.
In properties for rent in Bengaluru and Mumbai, where tenants are asked to pay advances to the tune of one year’s rent as security deposit, it is important for the renter to ensure that the terms pertaining to property maintenance are drawn in a clear manner, to avoid any conflicts in future.
“In case a dispute arises between the landlord and the tenant over the security deposit, it would be a long-drawn tussle between the two parties in the absence of a clearly-defined rent agreement,” says Mishra. The end result of such a situation would be monetary losses for both the parties, adds Kumar.
To ensure that the landlord does not overcharge you for the actual repair works, insist on getting receipts for all the expenses made in the process. Be mindful of the fact that the landlord can only replace the damaged goods with goods of the same quality.
What is general wear and tear in rented property?
The change a property undergoes during the tenancy period, because of regular use, is known as the general wear and tear.
Is the tenant responsible to pay for the general wear and tear in the rental property?
While tenants are responsible to pay for repair of damages, they cannot be held responsible for the wear and tear arising out of regular use.
Can the landlord deduct the entire security deposit to claim damage costs?
A landlord is legally right in deducting the amount spent in repairing the damages from the security deposit.