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Can Landlords Charge Tenants For Carpet Damage?

Can landlords charge tenants for carpet damage?

It doesn't seem as though it should become a bone of contention. But it's surprising how often disputes can arise over the carpets in a rental property.


Not because of differences of opinion over colour or shag pile I hasten to add. But because carpets, or damage caused to them, are often the reason for a landlord seeking to make a deduction from a tenant’s security deposit. And more often than not the tenant will disagree with the claim. This could then lead to a lengthy arbitration process before either party can move on. But why are carpets such a source of friction between landlord and tenant?


The issue with carpets


The problem, of course, is that carpets are heavily used. You can't really avoid them. So naturally, they're going to suffer. If only from wear and tear. But it's almost inevitable accidents will happen.  In years past cigarette burns were common but nowadays spilt wine, digging pets and disruptive children are more likely to cause damage. So, carpets can take a hammering.


But just because a carpet is past its best doesn't mean a tenant is liable to pay for repairs or a completely new carpet. Nor can a landlord automatically assume they're able to make a deduction from the security deposit. 


What deductions can a landlord make?


Its the tenant's responsibility to return the property in the same condition it was at the start of the lease. This includes carpets. If the carpet is damaged the landlord can make a deduction from the security deposit. But the landlord must be able to prove the damage is down to the tenant and not a result of wear and tear.


What's the difference between damage and wear and tear?


This can be a grey area. Wear and tear will occur through normal use. The tenant isn't liable for this. Nor for damage caused by defects in the property such as damp or mould.


And the onus is on the landlord to prove any claims of damage. With regards to carpeting, obvious damage includes stains, rips and tears. Those examples are pretty clear. But sometimes what appears to be damage is actually wear and tear. What's important to remember is the landlord has to prove their case. This is when the inventory becomes so important.


At the start of every tenancy, the landlord should draw up an inventory. This document includes written descriptions and photographs of the property and all its fixtures and fittings. Including the carpets. This establishes the condition of the property at the start of the tenancy.


At the end of the tenancy, a check out report is compiled which is compared to the original inventory. This is how the landlord can prove damage has occurred. But the inventory also protects the tenant against unfounded claims by the landlord. Tenants should only sign the original inventory document if they agree it presents an accurate picture of the property at the time.


What happens when the landlord and tenant can't agree?


When a tenant pays a security deposit the landlord must lodge it with a deposit protection scheme. Essentially the scheme holds the tenant's money. The scheme returns the deposit at the end of the lease. Unless that is the landlord wants to withhold some or all of the deposit to pay for damages. In our example for damage to a carpet.


The tenant could, of course, agree to the deduction. In this case, the landlord is reimbursed for the cost of repair or replacement. The balance of the deposit is then returned to the tenant. But if the tenant doesn't agree with the deduction the deposit scheme will appoint an independent adjudicator to decide the issue. The adjudicator's decision is binding.  


As we've seen then Landlords can charge tenants for carpet damage. But crucially they do have to prove the tenant is responsible for any damage caused to the carpets in their rental property.


The rules have changed. How much can a landlord ask a tenant to pay as a security deposit? Use our free calculator to find out.

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