When tenants leave a rental property at the end of a tenancy, they have an obligation to leave the property reasonably clean, and tidy, and to remove all rubbish or arrange for its removal.

If a tenant fails to meet these obligations and damage occurs to a rental property, the landlord must prove that the damage occurred during the tenancy and that the damage is more than fair wear and tear.

If damage that is more than fair wear and tear has occurred during the tenancy, the tenant must prove that they did not carelessly or intentionally cause the damage or allow the damage to occur.

Tenants will be liable for the damage if it was intentional or resulted from an imprisonable offence occurring at the premises. If the damage was caused by a person that the tenant is responsible for (for example a friend staying over for a night), the tenants will still be liable for the damage if it was caused intentionally.

Damage will be considered to be intentional when:

  • a tenant intends to cause the damage and takes steps required to cause damage; or
  • a person does something to allow a situation to continue, knowing that damage occurring is a certainty.

If damage does occur, the landlord should be returned to their original position so they are not better or worse off than they would have been if the tenant had met their obligations.

A recent Tenancy Tribunal decision provides an example of a tenant causing damage and having to pay damages as a result.

The tenant vandalised the property, causing extensive damage. The damage included holes in every wall (some through to the exterior cladding), holes in the solid wood flooring, broken doors and windows, cut and torn curtains, and damage to the plumbing and electrical wiring. The tenant had also destroyed the stove and left it outside.

The Tribunal held that the damage occurred during the tenancy, was more than fair wear and tear, and was intentional. The landlord was awarded $44,850 for building and plumbing repairs and $1,275 for other minor damage.

The Tenancy Tribunal accounted for the age and condition of the items when reaching its decision. It considered the award to be reasonable because the landlord was only claiming what was necessary to repair the damage caused by the tenant and was substituting some items for more cost-efficient repairs, like replacing the wooden floors with cheaper particle board.

If you own a property that is rented out, it is important to understand your rights in the event that it is damaged, and where the difference lies between wear and tear, and intentional damage.

If you have concerns about damage to a rental property it pays to speak with and expert in the area to assist you in determining your rights and responsibilities.

Leading law firms committed to helping clients cost-effectively will have a range of fixed-price Initial Consultations to suit most people’s needs in quickly learning what their options are.  At Rainey Collins we have an experienced team who can answer your questions and put you on the right track.