A new report from the Tenancy Deposit Scheme has found that redecoration issues make up 32% of all disputes, ahead of rent arrears (19%) but still behind cleaning (57%) and damage to fixtures and fittings features (51%).
According to Imfuna, developer and provider of digital inventory app Imfuna Let, interior décor is a growing concern, causing the most confusion for agents, landlords and tenants at the end of a tenancy.
The fundamental issue driving redecoration issues is a difference of opinion between agents and landlords and their tenants. Agents and landlords frequently assume tenants will repaint a property at the tenant's cost following a three or four-year tenancy, despite lacking a contractual obligation in the lease terms to do so.
A few light scuffs after six months is definitely classed as wear and tear. However, heavy markings, scrapes and several additional screw holes during the same length of time are undoubtedly tenant damage. The longer the tenancy, the more allowance must be made for wear and tear.
Jax Kneppers, founder and CEO of Imfuna explains: “Landlords and agents should recognise that there will be inevitable wear and tear to a property’s décor during a tenancy. However, clearly if there is damage to anything within the property, including damage to walls and ceilings, this is chargeable to the tenant.
A thorough and professional inventory will capture the condition and décor at the start and end of the tenancy, and this should be used as evidence in the event of a dispute. Clear photographs and commentary detailing damage to anything within the property are vital if a dispute is to be resolved.
When looking specifically at walls and ceilings, the quality of emulsion paint will have an impact on how well walls will wear. For example, a new build will generally only be painted with a thin coat, which will wear much faster. A landlord may choose to cut corners and water down emulsion to make it go further; a landlord may also choose to use a good quality paint for the rented property in the knowledge that the interior décor will be slower to show wear and tear.
If a tenant has redecorated without prior consent of the landlord or letting agent in a non-neutral colour, then the cost of repainting can be charged to the tenant as long as this is stipulated within the terms of the lease. The same is applicable if a tenant has allowed a sofa or other piece of furniture to continually rub against the wall, causing chipping and heavy rub lines.
Other items not classed as wear and tear are nail holes, screw holes, blue tack marks, Sellotape, and additional cabling fitted either with cable clips or from a drilled hole through the wall. Grease marks and excessively grubby areas are not wear and tear.
When it comes to wallpaper, some discolouration will happen over time and glued seams will slowly become loose and need re-fixing occasionally. Cheap wallpaper will tear and rub more easily than expensive wallpaper. With daily use, a few minor nicks to the surface of the paper are inevitable, as are a few light scuffs, especially in a heavy-use area such as halls and stairways. Tears to seams or any other part of the wallpaper are classed as damage, as are heavy rubs which remove areas of paper.
To clear up any confusion between landlords, agents and tenants, the property’s condition should be fully recorded through a comprehensive inventory at the start of any new tenancy, supported by a thorough check-in and check-out report.”