Tenancy Betterment and Deposit Questions

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    Tenancy Betterment and Deposit Questions


    I have two questions I would like to ask.


    I am about to move out of the rental that we (partner and two young children) have been in for nearly 5 years. The first year was a 1 year contract and then we had 2 six month contracts, after thatn we have been on a monthly rolling contract with inspections every 6 months. We hand the keys back in less than two weeks.

    The main bedroom had fitted floor to ceiling mirror sliding doors which formed part of a built in wardrobe. Judging by the appearance and age of the wardrobe frames, fixtures and moving parts I would guess the fitted wardrobes were fitted in well in excess of 15 years ago (and I am being conservative with that estimate it would not surprise me if it was well above 20 years ago).

    Anyway about a year ago a crack appeared in the mirror from the bottom corner (where the floor runner wheel is located behind it) that ran up and across to the other side about knee height. This was not due to any impact/neglect it just appeared one day.

    What I want to know is how and if betterment would be applied in this situation when it come to replacement? I know about the carpet analogy regarding betterment and carpets are a wear and tear item due to their nature, however does it apply to items that are of a fixed nature and considered longer lasting before replacement.

    My view is that it is a very old wardrobe and I don't know (and nobody can prove) that a defect was already present in the wardrobe door before we moved in and we was just unlucky the crack appeared during our stint at the property.

    I am more than happy to pay some money towards the repair costs, however due to the age of the items I just wanted to see if I am right in that I am not liable for the entire cost.


    I have been going through my emails/records and notice my deposit was unprotected a few years ago (which I missed) I have spoken on the phone to My Deposits and they have confirmed this. I am still going through various email history and so far I cannot see anything regarding deposit protection after that date and I also don't recall anything either.

    The only other documentation I have is when I received a FORM No 4 for Assured Periodic Tenancy when the rent was increased nearly 2 years ago.

    Where do I stand regarding these two questions.


    The issue with damage/betterment is that, while there's a very proper and correct way of doing it, no one follows it (except the deposit dispute processors and courts).
    So the process never starts well.

    The landlord is entitled to compensation for any loss in value of their asset(s) beyond fair wear and tear that occurred during the lease.

    The formula that they should use, and a court (and the protecting company ADR process) will use is:
    (Cost of the original item and any installation/fitting [not the cost of a replacement] / expected lifetime) * (expected lifetime - actual lifetime).
    That is, compensation for the lost value (life of use) of the item.

    That presumes that the item is entirely ruined and the landlord can show that it happened during the lease.
    In your case, it's a part of the wardrobe, but it might make the wardrobe unusable by someone else, or it might be repairable.

    Alternatively, an actual repair cost might be claimed, but again, this should be adjusted to reflect the tenant's share of the lifetime (but sometimes this is just meaningless).

    Fair wear and tear is “reasonable use of the premises by the tenant and the ordinary operation of natural forces”.

    A landlord is not entitled to charge his tenants the full cost for having any part of his property, or any fixture or fitting, “.....put back to the condition it was at the start of the tenancy.” It's not "new for old".

    Taking a made up cost, say £500 for a built in wardrobe quite a long time ago.
    It would be expected to last, say, 25 years.
    It's lasted 15 (just to take your figure) and if it had to be replaced, the landlord has lost 10/25ths of their £500, which is £200.
    The landlord can't base the cost on what it would cost to replace it now, because they haven't lost any of that.

    If it costs £100 to repair, that would be a reasonable claim to make, as they wouldn't have had to pay that if the mirror hadn't broken.
    You could argue that the repair cost should also be apportioned over the whole life, and you'd be - technically - right, but that's getting a bit too clever.

    The problem is that the landlord almost certainly won't know this and will want the cost of a whole replacement wardrobe.
    So everyone starts off on the wrong foot.
    If the landlord is a member of a landlord's association, they might offer helpful advice.

    If your deposit was protected, you could agree with your landlord to disagree - there's no point getting into a daft argument, and refer the issue to the deposit protection company, who have a dispute resolution process.
    It's slow, but reasonably fair (and will use the formula above).

    If your deposit isn't currently protected, this isn't available to you.
    However, in not protecting the deposit, your landlord has made a bit of a stupid mistake, as they are required by law to protect the deposit at all times.
    You might want to have a look at the shelter website which covers off what you could do should you decide to take action against the landlord.
    If nothing else, it will be helpful to point them at the same information should they prove unreasonable in their discussions with you.

    Hopefully, I'm wrong and all will be well, the landlord will either make no claim or a sensible one, and you'll agree and move without an issue.

    When I post, I am expressing an opinion - feel free to disagree, I have been wrong before.
    Please don't act on my suggestions without checking with a grown-up (ideally some kind of expert).


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