Moving on fairly

For a term bandied around a lot the term wear and tear claims a fair share of the debate over damage to rented properties.

When you put fair in front of the wear and tear part the interpretation becomes even more complex.

The term is not specifically defined in the Residential Tenancies and Rooming Accommodation Act 2008, or the tenancy agreement.

However fair wear and tear is considered to be:

  • Wear that happens during normal use; for example carpet in a hallway would (generally) be more worn than carpet in less used areas of the house.
  • Changes that happen with ageing; for example curtains that are exposed to direct sunlight will fade over time.

Rulings from the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) on fair wear and tear

In a case presented before QCAT, Griffin v Gini in December 2011 (QCATA 325), damage to walls and a kitchen bench resulted in a ruling that the damage went beyond fair wear and tear. It can be useful to consider this and other rulings from QCAT in order to understand how the phrase wear and tear is defined.

In general the ordinary meaning of the phrase is concerned with the consequences of ordinary, not extraordinary damage.

In the case of tear, this might refer to disrepair caused by a tenant through unintentional action or through the normal incident of a tenant’s occupation.

Depending on the specifics of the obligations outlined in a tenancy agreement, this might include the accidental ripping of an aged, worn flyscreen.

In summary, fair wear and tear, in the context of a residential tenancy refers to damage or disrepair caused or resulting from ordinary use.

This is no substitute for legal advice but the table below provides a general guide only as what may be considered fair wear and tear in contrast to what may be seen as careless or negligent damage.

Fair wear and tear
(property manager/owner responsible)
Careless or negligent damage
(tenant responsible)
Cracked window pane due to old warped frames. Cracked window pane from carelessly slamming window shut.
Garden mulch breaking down over time. Tenant's dog digging up garden mulch.
Paint fading and discolouring over time. Paint discolouring through candle smoke.
Plaster cracks as building settles. Plaster chipped by nails being hammered in.
Worn carpets due to day-to-day use. Scratches on kitchen benchtops due to cutting food on the surface.
Original publication on 24 Jul 2018
Last updated on 24 Aug 2021

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