Careless or intentional damage by tenants, who is responsible?
(updated on Wednesday, April 11th 2007)
Our Experts Answer:
If a tenant is looking at hanging a clothes dryer or installing a security system it is a requirement under the Residential Tenancies Act 1986 that a tenant must not ‘affix any fixture to the premises, or make any alteration; or addition of or to the premises except in accordance with the tenancy agreement or with the prior written consent of the landlord’. There is also a requirement that if any damage is caused by the removal of such a fixture that the tenant is required to inform the landlord immediately and at the option of the landlord, either repair the damage or compensate the landlord for any reasonable expenses incurred by the landlord in repairing the damage.
There is however, no requirement for the tenant to put the premises into a better condition for the landlord and as such, a tenant is only liable for the area they have caused damage to. So if the landlord decides to repaint the entire wall, especially when there is pre-existing damage, the tenant would only be liable for the relevant portion of the painting. In regards to the scratches on the wooden floor, whilst the extent of liability would be again only the area that has been damaged, it does pay to bear in mind that the Residential Tenancies Act 1986 requires that a tenant does not ‘Intentionally or carelessly damage, or permit any other person to damage, the premises’. Whilst intentional damage may be easy to identify, there is no definition of careless under the Residential Tenancies Act 1986. Generally careless actions may be identified through testing them against whether a reasonable person should be able to foresee damage occurring. To talk to someone about this or other renting problems call 0800 TENANCY (0800 83 62 62).
The Department of Building and Housing provides information and guidance on building law and compliance, services including weathertight homes, and advice for tenants and landlords.
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