The only way to be sure whether damage or stains are new is to have a detailed Property Inspection Report at the start of a tenancy and agreed by both parties. This can negate any future disputes which may occur in this area of the tenancy and possibly save you expense.
Property Inspection Reports can save you expense
The difference between ‘damage’ and ‘fair wear and tear’ can cause disputes. Whereas wear and tear is a natural state which is a cost to be borne by the property owner actual damage is the responsibility of the tenant. Of course fixtures and fittings will wear out with constant use by tenants and the rental they pay should cover replacement costs over time but damage to the property is a different matter.
If your Property Inspection Report is not detailed enough then it is much easier for the tenant to claim that they did not cause the damage. However, if the report proves that the damage was not there at the start of the tenancy then the tenant can be made to pay for the repairs.
The classic – red wine stain on light coloured carpet
To have the carpet described just as ‘worn’ in the report is no actual indication as to whether there are stains or other damage on it. Unless the original report details stains etc. which are on the carpet (preferably with photos) then the tenant need only stick to their guns and say they didn’t do it. For instance, if such a case went to the Tenancy Tribunal then the ruling would more than likely favour the tenant.
Damage or stains are one of the most common types of disputes but can be avoided if the original report is detailed and backed up with photographic evidence. Notes should also be added to the report during subsequent inspections and any work carried out immediately by either the property owner or tenant, whoever is responsible, to maintain the condition of the property to it’s original standard.
Repairs needed – don’t wait, get them done
With regular inspections of the property during a tenancy (not just the start and end of a tenancy) it should be possible to keep the property in good order and up to standard.
Once it’s decided who foots the repair bill, be it tenant or owner, the work should be done as quickly as possible. Some tenants may ask if the repairs can be left and the money deducted from their bond at the end of the tenancy – the answer should be NO. If the tenant is responsible for the damage ask them for payment straight away – then make sure the repairs are also done straight away. This approach has a twofold effect, firstly the tenant will see that you will not tolerate damage, secondly you will get the money for the repairs and be able to restore the property back to the status quo.
The other plus to this scenario is that some damage, once done, is much cheaper to repair straight away than if it is left to possibly worsen over time, such as a leak, which can cause extensive damage if not repaired immediately. Another example is wallpaper peeling away from the wall which can be fixed with a quick dab of glue but may escalate if little hands get the idea that pulling on the loose paper could be fun!
The importance of a detailed Property Inspection Report cannot be over emphasised – it can save you money – it can also avoid arguments with tenants when you can prove in black and white that you are not being unreasonable.
Barry Bridgman has been managing his own investment property portfolio for 25 years. During this time, there has never been any occurrence of rent defaults or property damage and Barry’s goal is to achieve the same for your property. Bridgman Property Management is based in Auckland Central, where Barry has lived for more than 18 years.