How Much Can A Landlord Charge For Damages?

Woman looking through a broken window of a rental property

Damages to rental property and contents are part and parcel of landlord life. Over an extended tenancy agreement, the damages to a property caused by a tenant, or guests of tenants, can add up. But how much can a landlord charge for damages?

The amount a landlord can charge for damages will be relative to the amount of damage caused. For example, if the tenant has caused damage to an internal door that costs £120 to have a new one supplied and fitted, the tenant would be charged £120. This is because landlords cannot make a profit from damages.

It is essential to tell the difference between tenant damage caused by the normal wear and tear of everyday life, such as reasonable wear to carpets or minor scuffs and scrapes, and accidental or even intentional damage for which the tenant may be charged.

If the lease agreement is coming to an end or the current tenant has just reported damage to the property or its contents, this article will provide you with the general information you need.

When charging the tenant for actual damages on a like-for-like basis, the amount to be charged will also depend on:

  • Original cost
  • The age of the item
  • It’s expected life
  • How long the tenant has lived in the property

For example, if a tenant has lived in a property for more than 15 years without the carpet being changed, the carpet would have reached the end of its expected lifespan. As such, a tenant should not have to pay for carpet repairs as the carpet would likely need replacing anyway.

The Tenant Fees Act, which commenced in June 2019, introduced stricter rules on what fees landlords can legally charge their tenants.

Betterment is a term used for describing the process of improving the condition of a rented property.

For example, suppose a landlord uses a small stain on an old carpet as a reason for replacing the carpet. In that case, this is classed as betterment as the old carpet is being replaced with a new one.

The courts and deposit protection scheme adjudicators generally rule against landlords using damages to gain betterment.

When making a claim for damages, the burden of proof lies with the landlord to provide sufficient evidence that they have suffered financial losses as a result of the actions of the tenant.

How Much Can Landlords Charge For Fixing Holes In A Wall?

The reasonable cost of fixing holes in a wall will largely depend on the extent of the damage caused to the wall. A small number of nail holes (e.g. for hanging up pictures) in walls can be classified as ordinary wear and tear. Landlords cannot charge tenants for everyday wear and tear.

Therefore if there are only a small number of nail holes, tenants shouldn’t be charged a fee by landlords. I have written a more in-depth article about whether landlords can charge tenants for nail holes, how to fix them and other elated questions.

However, if the holes in a wall are larger and have clearly been damaged by the tenant’s actions, the landlord can charge for the amount of damages.

The repair costs will vary depending on the number of walls affected. The size and depth of the large holes (for example, does it require a full re-plastering service or just a patch up) and even the property’s location (labour costs can be higher in London and the South East).

In addition to any plastering charges, the tenant will also be liable for having the affected area repainted. However, tenants should not be charged for redecorating the entire room if only one spot is damaged. This would be classified as betterment.

It is also important to remember that a landlord cannot charge a tenant more than the cost of repairs and should keep receipts.

Can A Landlord Charge More Than The Deposit For Damages?

If the total cost of damages is greater than the deposit, a landlord can charge the tenant more than the value of the deposit. The tenant would lose their initial deposit, and the landlord would need to claim the extra cost of damages through the courts if the tenant refused to pay.

Submitting a claim through the small claims court would incur extra legal fees, so a landlord would need to know that it is financially viable to chase the funds. It is unlikely to be worth it if the costs are only marginally more than the deposit as court costs can be expensive.

When a tenant first rents a property, they will likely be required to pay a deposit to the landlord, usually between one and five weeks worth of rent. All landlords must put these deposits in government-backed deposit schemes, called the Tenancy Deposit Protection (TDP).

As part of the TDP, if tenants meet the term of their rental agreement and maintain the property in good order, they will receive their deposit back in full.

Suppose a landlord has enough evidence that the type of damage caused to the property or its contents were more than wear and tear. In that case, the landlord can claim deductions from the original deposit.

It is also worth noting that the deposit level can only be set at the start of the tenancy; it cannot be changed part-way through the tenancy or a the end of the tenancy.

If the landlord’s claim is less than the value of the deposit, any remaining amount of money in the TDP scheme will be paid back to the tenant, even if there is a dispute over the property damage claim.

For example, if a tenant has a deposit of £1,500, and the landlord makes a claim for £500, the remaining £1,000 will be paid to the tenant before the outcome of any adjudication.

How Long Does A Landlord Have To Claim For Damages?

Landlords have 10 days to make a claim for damages to the Tenancy Deposit Protection (TDP) scheme once the tenancy agreement has ended. If landlords do not make a claim during the 10 day period after the tenancy ends, then claiming for damages becomes a longer and more challenging process.

If the landlord notifies the TDP that all rent is paid and the rental unit and contents are in good condition, tenants will receive their deposit back within 10 days of the tenancy ending.

If a landlord feels they have grounds for a claim for significant damages, a cleaning fee, or even unpaid rent, they will first need to provide notice to their tenants before submitting a claim to the TDP.

However, where there are disputes, the claim process can be delayed. For example, suppose there is a dispute between the landlord and tenant over the amount charged for damages. In that case, the TDP scheme will have a dispute resolution service.

For custodial deposits, both parties have 14 days from the start of the adjudication process to submit their evidence.

For property owners, the evidence could be a check-out, or move-out inspection report, showing the damage to the property. The tenants could argue that the damages were caused by normal wear and tear, and therefore, they shouldn’t be charged for damages.

Once the adjudicator has received the information from both sides, they typically aim to reach a decision within 28 days. This means that the process will take six weeks at most, but it is often decided much earlier.

The vast majority of tenancies end with agreements between the landlord and tenant. Still, in a small number of cases, there is a disagreement between both parties on the fees to be paid for damages to rental properties. If you find yourself in the latter situation, it will be a good idea to speak to the TDP scheme or seek legal advice.

Andy Walker

Andy Walker is a property investor and landlord with 20 years of experience, providing free education to help others start or improve their Buy-To-Let business.

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