Aussie tenant's $1000 battle over 'minimal' scratch on floor

A damaged floorboard is at the centre of a bitter dispute.

An Aussie tenant's feud with her landlord over a "minimal scratch on a panel of a timber floor" has come to a head, after the real estate agent demanded the renter foot the expensive bill. In an email shared online, the NSW agent quoted the repair job at "around $1,000", which the renter claims is "ridiculous".

"Her plan is to remove and redo the whole flooring because I've unintentionally made a scratch on a panel," she said. "I repeat, a minimal, almost invisible scratch on one of the panels."

Wooden floorboards with scratch
A real estate agent wanted to charge a small fortune to repair this floor scratch. Source: Facebook

After asking for advice on Facebook, the renter was inundated with encouragement from users to appeal to the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT). "Small scratches are to be expected, it's called wear and tear!" one user responded. Others suggested the landlord in question was trying to use the tenant's cash to fund a new floor.

Tenant fights back

Emboldened by hundreds who'd replied to the post, the tenant told her real estate agent she "didn't agree with paying $1,000" and was going to take the matter to NCAT.

"The real estate agent came back to us and told us they had a heavy discussion with the owner and the owner decided to lower the charge to $500," the renter revealed, adding that although she still didn't want to pay the lower amount, her partner convinced her to "because he doesn't wanna waste his time".

The couple paid the fee and closed the case with the property manager. "I hope she spends the $500 well, because if I wasn't with my partner, I would've gone to court," the woman said.

Reasonable wear and tear?

While it can depend on how big the damage is and where it's located, reasonable wear and tear is expected in rental properties.

Speaking to Yahoo News Australia, property solicitor Monica Rouvellas urged anyone who's been hit with a repair request they think is "unreasonable" to write to their real estate agent if they believe it to be be "reasonable wear and tear". If that doesn't work, tenants are advised to negotiate to reduce or waive the cost.

And if these negotiations don't go as planned, Ms Rouvellas recommends escalating the matter. "I would then tell the tenant to apply to the tribunal to dispute that particular cost," she said. "Tribunals tend to refer to the Australian Taxation Office's depreciation schedule for particular things like carpet or features of a house, and they use that to guide how long things should reasonably last."

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