Host: Belinda Heit – Communication and Education – RTA
Guest: Marc Fidler – Customer Experience – RTA
Host: Welcome to the Talking Tenancies podcast, brought to you by the Residential Tenancies Authority. I’m your host, Belinda Heit. Join me as we explore everything you need to know about renting in Queensland, with experts from the RTA and industry. We're here to help make renting work for everyone.
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. In this episode, we aim to help clarify exactly what it is and how it applies to a tenancy. Today's expert from the RTA is Marc Fidler. Welcome Marc.
Guest: Thanks very much, Belinda.
Host: Now, can you tell us about your role at the RTA and what you're responsible for?
Guest: Yeah, I've been with the RTA for about 17 years, predominantly in the customer experience division. I started in the contact centre and have spent the last few years in our support team dealing with escalations from the contact centre and also responding to customer inquiries via other channels. I've answered plenty of inquiries about fair wear and tear over the years.
Host: I bet you have. And today we're talking about fair wear and tear in a rental property. So, let's start with how this relates to the legislation.
Guest: Yeah, so with all aspects of renting in Queensland, fair wear and tear is covered under the Residential Tenancies and Rooming Accommodation Act 2008. Section 188 of that Act outlines the tenants general obligations, which include three key points: the tenant must keep premises and inclusions clean having regard to their condition at the start of the tenancy; they must not maliciously damage or allow someone else to maliciously damage the premises or inclusions, and then at the end of the tenancy, the tenant must leave the premises and inclusions as far as possible in the same condition they were at the start of the tenancy, fair wear and tear excepted.
So, in summary, this means that the tenants are required by legislation to keep the premises clean throughout the tenancy, not cause any damage and then ensure that when it comes time to vacate, the property is in the same condition it was at the start, fair wear and tear aside.
Host: So, if we get down to it, what is the definition of fair wear and tear?
Guest: So, the Act itself doesn't provide a definition, but the general tenancy agreement, and this is the standard agreement that is used mainly otherwise known as the form 18a, provides the following examples: wear that happens during normal use or changes that happen with ageing. So, these would be things like scuff marks on lower walls, carpet pile that's flattening from furniture or heavy traffic, or even paint or curtains that have faded due to environmental exposure like sunlight.
Host: Well, that seems to make sense. But what is the difference between fair wear and tear and negligent damage by tenant? Can you give us some real examples here?
Guest: Yeah, this is an excellent question and it's really important for both tenants and property managers or owners to be aware of the difference. As you know, this can lead to disputes and whether a tenant may get their bond back or not at the end of the tenancy. Most of the time it depends on context. Let's look at, for example, a cracked window pane. Now if the crack was due to frames that were old or warped, this may be considered changes that have happened with ageing and therefore the property manager or the owner would likely be responsible. However, if the cracks in the window emerged from the tenant slamming the window shut or not taking care with it, then it's more considered to be negligent, and the tenant would be held responsible. Similarly with walls, if there's cracks in the plaster from building movement, then again, we could look at that as changes that happen with ageing and the property manager or owner held responsible. But if there are cracks or holes or chips from nails being hammered in the wall to hang pictures and that sort of thing, then this would be considered negligent, and the tenant will be responsible. So that's in regard to the changes with ageing. So, if we look at wear during normal use, things like polished floorboards that are worn from traffic or carpet pile that's flattened, again, we'd consider that this is wear that happens during normal use and property owners or managers will be responsible. But if there are gouge marks or scratches from pets on floorboards, or coffee, or red wine stains on carpets, that's damage and the tenant should be responsible.
Host: Yeah exactly. I mean again, very straightforward. Now, entry condition reports are critical when it comes to this, so let's breakdown why. Can you give us some tips on completing an entry condition report and how to do it well?
Guest: Yeah, look definitely. An entry condition report is really your proof for what the property was like at the start of the tenancy, so if disputes do arise at the end, then you've got something firm to use as evidence in your case. There's three steps required with regards to the entry condition report. Firstly, the property manager or owner must prepare the report outlining if anything is unclean, damaged or not working. They must sign the report and give it to the tenant at the start of the tenancy. The tenant must then complete the report within three days, and this is the tenants’ opportunity to agree or disagree with what's been outlined in the report by adding their own comments and evidence to the report. They have three days to complete it, as I mentioned, and then return it to the property manager or owner. Once it's returned, the property manager or owner then has 14 days to send a copy back, so both parties have got a record of how the property was at the start. It's really important and a really solid recommendation that you take photos and be incredibly thorough with that report so it can be used as evidence by QCAT in the event of a dispute. So important to take your time, don't rush the process. Have a good look and if you get the chance, complete it before you put your furniture or put any belongings in.
Also, take as many photos of the property as possible, including gardens and grounds, especially in the areas that you mark on the report that might have existing damage, such as marks, stains, chipped paint, that sort of thing.
Host: Yeah, that's some really good advice. Now, what happens if you take over a tenancy and you don't agree with what's on the entry condition report or if the property has been damaged since the last exit?
Guest: So yeah, so I'm guessing you're talking here where a tenancy has been existing for a period of time and you move in as an approved occupant or something. It's always a good idea, and it's something that does get missed, that you request a copy of the entry condition report and compare it to the current state of the property. So, this will give you an idea and help you identify any issues right from the get-go, which you can then discuss with the exiting tenant. So, the other important thing here is to complete the online change of bond contributor form and transfer the agreed amount of bonds to the exiting tenant, taking into consideration any issues that you found with that entry condition report. The RTA isn't responsible for any exchange of money between tenants in that situation, but it's something that you should be conscious of when you're moving in, in that circumstance.
Host: Yeah, exactly. So, when we look at leaving the property, the exit condition report is also really critical, so these are essential in the bond refund process. So how can we really get this right and avoid a dispute or loss of bond?
Guest: Yeah, that's right, and a part of the process that sometimes gets missed. The entry condition report and the exit condition report go hand in hand. It's the last step of ending a tenancy before decisions are made and the bond is released. So, completing the report is a legislative requirement and once the tenant has submitted it to their property manager, the property manager or owner then has three days to review the report and conduct an exit inspection of the property.
Completing the exit condition report acts as a safety net for the tenants, especially in markets where high turnover is occurring and there are only a few days between the end of one tenancy and the beginning of the other. So, when it comes to this process, we really recommend that both parties work together and communicate. Tenants and property managers should discuss a vacate date and try and book in an exit date as well, for them to go through together, the final date for the tenants to address any outstanding issues and the date that the next tenancy is due to commence. Tenants should complete a thorough exit report, including as many photos as possible, so that way you've got images on the way in and images on the way out. We also recommend both parties, as I mentioned before, attend the exit together so any concerns can be discussed and resolved quickly.
It's important to remember that disputes do happen though, so if you are a tenant and you disagree with property managers, exit report or the amount, then that conversation needs to be had.
Host: Yeah exactly, and the RTA’s free dispute resolution service is available to tenants and residents and property owners and managers to help resolve disputes quickly without the need for legal intervention.
Guest: Yeah, that's correct. Our conciliators are impartial, and they will help you and the other party make informed decisions and reach the outcome that is acceptable to all involved.
Host: Yes, and you can find out more about that particular process on our website, and there's also another episode where you can learn all about dispute resolution so check that one out.
Well Marc, there's so much to remember when it comes to fair wear and tear, but thank you so much for helping us to get a greater understanding on what we need to know about fair wear and tear in a rental property.
Guest: Thanks Belinda, thanks for having me today, cheers.
Host: Thank you for listening to the Talking Tenancies podcast. For more information about the Residential Tenancies Authority, visit rta.qld.gov.au.