A Brisbane family who have escaped a rental property full of problems are now angry they have been slugged with a $350 damage fee when exiting the lease.
Nicole Waterston said she could only enjoy her new home with her partner and two young children for two weeks before being met with a seemingly endless number of issues at the rental home.
"The list goes on and on and on!" she told Yahoo News Australia when asked what problems she faced.
The family were confronted with a leaking toilet, pigeons in the roof and a broken garage door during their tenancy. Ms Waterston looked for another home but competition for properties during Queensland's rental crisis left her feeling "miserable" and led to her search taking 18 months.
After finally securing a new rental property she was slapped with a $350 charge when leaving the first property due to the sink being "scratched and damaged". But Ms Waterston questioned whether the damage was just wear and tear.
"Why is this allowed? Enough is enough," she wrote online, sharing images of the sink in question, leaving people wondering what the issue was.
"It makes me angry and sad and it's affecting my sleep and my mental wellbeing ... It's taking a toll on my family too."
Fair wear and tear is 'incredibly subjective', expert says
In Australia tenants are not to blame for reasonable wear and tear of a rental property as changes are expected to occur with ageing. Reasonable wear and tear is considered to be the normal deterioration of a rental property from ordinary, every day use.
Property Solicitor Monica Rouvellas said the issue of liability frequently rears it head at the end of leases since reasonable wear is "incredibly subjective", and different state laws only make things more complicated.
Ms Waterston is discussing the $350 charge with the landlord to avoid taking the matter to the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal.
"Generally speaking most tribunal members will base reasonable wear and tear on what the Australian Tax Office believes is reasonable of how long the object is expected to last," Ms Monica told Yahoo News. "In the case of a sink, one would expect it to last from five to 10 years."
What is considered reasonable wear is determined on a case by case basis, with tenants often left to sort through a list of examples and attempt to apply them to their specific issue. How long the tenant has resided in the property, how old the property or item is, and how frequently it has been used are all factors which should be considered before a result is determined.
"It's definitely concerning that they [landlord] are trying to pass that on to the tenant," Monica said of Ms Waterston's situation, explaining she was unsure why that specific amount was being charged for the sink.
How can tenants protect themselves?
Ms Rouvellas said completing an incoming conditions report is "valuable" as it acts as evidence if any dispute does occur down the line, helping to protect tenants. However if tenants are being charged for something they deem unreasonable at the end of tenancy, there are several things she recommends.
"First of all the tenant themselves should get someone to quote, whether it's a repair or a clean, for the issue. Get at least three," she said. "Work out whether you [the tenant] are doing the wrong thing or a combination between the tenant and the landlord not up keeping the property. And then try to negotiate."
Ms Rouvellas explains most landlords are open to negotiations since the tribunal process can be expensive with "agents being paid to go to tribunal on their behalf" which is often an hourly rate.
"In this day and age considering that we're facing a rental crisis... tenants really do need to protect themselves," she said.
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