What is fair wear and tear?

Spring 2017

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.

Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal definition of fair wear and tear

Griffin v Gini (2011) QCATA 325

The phrase wear and tear has been common in leases and tenancy agreements for centuries. In general the ordinary meaning of the phrase is concerned with the consequences of ordinary, not extraordinary damage.

In the case of wear, this might mean, for example, fading paint work on internal and external walls caused by sunlight over time.

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.

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.

(This is no substitute for legal advice and is intended for general guidance only)