The rental provider applies for the full replacement cost of brand new, high quality carpets throughout the entire house because there is a small stain on the carpet in one of the rooms, which was caused during the tenancy. The rental provider is trying to justify their claim by saying if they have to replace the carpet in the one room where the stain is, then the new carpet in that room won’t match the carpet in the rest of the house, so the entire house needs to be re-carpeted.
At the time the renters moved in:
- the property was about 20 years old
- the carpets were the original carpets from the time the property was built
- the carpets did not appear to be of a very high quality as they showed signs of wear in high traffic areas and were worn through in some places
- there were several small pre-existing stains on the carpets throughout the house
- the condition report makes reference to the stains and marks due to wear that were there before the renters moved in
- photos taken by the renters and the agent also show the stains and marks were there before the renters moved in
At the time of the rental provider’s application:
- the original carpet is still in the property – nothing has been replaced
- the property has been relet at the same price
To prepare their case, the renters need to answer these questions:
- has the rental provider suffered property damage? Or is the state of the carpets due to fair wear and tear?
- has the rental provider suffered financial loss?
- if they did, is it because the renters breached their lease or the law?
- is the amount reasonable?
- has depreciation been included to get the true current value?
The small stain caused during the tenancy could be considered property damage if it is not wear and tear from normal use. For example, it might be wear and tear if it is not a stain, but rather a mark visible due to the carpet wearing through from normal use.
- Even if there is property damage, the renters can argue the rental provider has not suffered any financial loss as a result of the stain because:
- they have not spent any money changing the carpets
- they have been able to relet the property for the same price, and
- the carpets have no financial value due to their age as they have fully depreciated – The Australian Taxation Office guide lists carpets as having a 10-year life. Go to the ATO website for a copy of the current ‘Rental properties’ guide.
Is the amount reasonable?
The renters can also argue that the rental provider’s claim is not reasonable because:
- the claim is not in proportion to the damage caused and that it is unreasonable to ask for the carpets to be replaced throughout the entire property because of a small stain in one room
- there are methods other than replacing the carpet that could be taken to deal with the stain, such as cleaning or repairing the quality of the existing carpet is less than
- the quality of the carpet the rental provider is claiming for
- the carpets were old, stained and worn before they moved in, and should be replaced as part of the rental provider’s duty to maintain the property in good repair, regardless of any stain left during their tenancy
Collect evidence for VCAT
The renters should collect evidence to support their defence, such as the condition report, entry and exit photos, and quotes for cleaning or repairing the carpet. They can even include quotes for new carpets of a similar quality to the existing carpets to show what the rental provider is asking for is excessive and not reasonable.
It will be up to VCAT to decide if any of the bond should be paid to the rental provider. Even if VCAT decides that the renters have some liability for property damage, a well-prepared defence can help reduce the amount the rental provider is claiming down to an amount that is reasonable.