Flooring – A Quick Overview

By their very nature, floors receive a lot of punishment on a daily basis. Landlords should always consider carefully the quality and appropriateness of any flooring when considering renting their property. For instance, low quality wood laminate is rarely a good idea as it simply cannot handle regular traffic. Also, putting laminate flooring that is not waterproofed in a kitchen or bathroom is asking for trouble.

The same goes for carpets. Light coloured carpets in areas that will receive heavy traffic – like hallways – or where spills and stains are more than likely – such as in bathrooms, can be considered not fit for purpose. And, if a carpet cannot be cleaned at the end of a tenancy for fear that it will shrink, then it must be deemed to be not fit for purpose. These are not simply a matter of taste: many judgements by adjudication panels will consider colour, quality, and suitability when deciding compensation for damage.

One of the inventory clerk’s hardest tasks is to decide what passes as fair wear and tear on different types of flooring. Cleaning and/or replacement costs – and how they should be split between landlord and the tenant – can also be an area of contention. As is the case with other parts of the property, there can be no ‘betterment’, such that the landlord ends up with a better floor than at the start of the tenancy at the tenant’s expense.

This overview looks at some of the most common flooring issues faced by clerks.

Types of Flooring Damage

Many of the issues faced by inventory clerks can be dealt with by a combination of common sense and experience. In most cases, the usual notions of fair wear and tear and ‘no betterment’ will apply. In other instances, however, some further guidance may be required. Here are some of the issues that will arise and which may not always appear so straightforward.

Stiletto Heels

You might think that a landlord should be able to specify the types of shoes a tenant can wear. This is not the case. What isn’t in doubt is that stiletto heels can cause significant damage on certain types of flooring. What can be described as fair wear and tear becomes a question of where the damage may be and how much of it there is.

It is reasonable to assume that the heels will be worn into the house, so the hallway is likely to experience daily traffic. It is probably not reasonable to wear the heels throughout the house on a regular basis. If the bathroom, kitchen, and bedrooms in a house with wooden floors show the same amount of damage as the hall, it is safe to assume that the tenant has not exercised due care and will be liable for a proportion of the repair or replacement costs.

Tenant carries out own repair

Occasionally, a tenant will repair damage to a carpet (resulting from a spillage or a burn, say) by cutting out a section and replacing it. Unfortunately, unless the tenant is an expert and has access to the original carpet, the repair is unlikely to be effective and can often make things look worse. In the vast majority of cases, repair work by the tenant will result in payment of compensation for further professional repair.


The range of pet damage can be quite wide, from soiling of carpets through to scratched paintwork and gnawed curtains. It is obviously necessary to take into account whether the pets were present with the landlord’s permission but it’s usually clear whether the tenant has taken any sensible precautions to prevent damage by the pets.

A thorough professional clean is essential to remove all evidence of the pets at the end of a tenancy, not only from the point of hygiene but also because a subsequent tenant may suffer pet allergies. If cleaning is not sufficient – where real damage has occurred, such as severe staining – then it is necessary to calculate the age of the floor covering and decide what percentage of the replacement costs are attributable to the tenant.

Shading caused by covering rugs or furniture

Carpets can only maintain an even colour if they are exposed to light in a perfectly symmetrical way. Sometimes, a carpet will have a second rug placed on top or a tenant will move a piece of furniture to a new location in a room. Over time, both of these events will cause the carpet under the rug or furniture to fade at a slower rate than the exposed carpet. At the end of a long tenancy, this will become more obvious. A landlord may not agree but this really is a case of fair wear and tear: no tenant can be expected to shift possessions around in an effort to keep a carpet’s colour even.

Spot stains

Spot stains caused by carelessness or inappropriate action, such as repairing a bike in the bedroom, will obviously mean the tenant should pay for the additional cleaning that may be required over and above the normal professional clean at the end of the tenancy. If this is insufficient and repair or replacement is needed, compensation can be calculated using the normal method, based on the age and expected lifespan of the flooring.

Victorian coloured tiles in hallway

Some houses have patterned or coloured tiles in the hallway. If they have been cleaned prior to a tenancy using methods such as acid clean to heighten their colour and bring them back to the original look, this can be termed a maintenance project rather than a simple clean. In other words, at the end of the tenancy, any slight fading of colour that remains after a normal professional clean may be regarded as fair wear and tear.

Calculating Costs

When in doubt regarding what repairs can be made to flooring or carpets, consulting the manufacturer or an impartial expert should always be the first step. With professional advice to hand, it is then easier to calculate compensation.

Calculating compensation for stained or damaged flooring requires most, if not all, of the following information:

  • The age of the flooring;
  • Its quality;
  • The manufacturer’s stated life expectancy of the item;
  • The suitability of the item for its purpose;
  • Its condition at check-in;
  • Number of tenants (i.e. expected traffic);
  • Its condition at check-out;
  • Any circumstances that may have led to extra damage.

All this information must be gathered and taken into account before a final recommendation is made.

One simple way to calculate the tenant’s contribution (with all other things being equal) to replacement is to divide the number of years remaining of the item’s life by the total life expectancy of the item and then multiplying this by the replacement cost. As an equation, this can be expressed as:
e/t * c
where e = expected life remaining, t = total life expectancy, and c = cost of replacement

Here’s an example:

Cost of replacing the carpet = £450
Life expectancy = 10 years
Carpet is 4 years old so expected life remaining = 6 years

e/t * c = 6/10 * 450 = £270 contribution to replacement.