Do I owe our landlady for cats’ damage to chairs?

Property clinic: Our landlady permitted us to keep cats – must we replace chairs they scratched?

Despite the clause in your lease agreement as a tenant you could be liable to compensate the landlady for this damage that could be viewed as excessive wear and tear.

Despite the clause in your lease agreement as a tenant you could be liable to compensate the landlady for this damage that could be viewed as excessive wear and tear.

 

I rent with my husband a two-bedroom house and when we first signed the lease, our landlady gave us permission to keep two cats. This agreement has also been signed by her in the lease. We have very much taken care of the property and the cats are trained to go outside. However, despite our best efforts, they have scratched the leather chairs in the kitchen. When we hand our notice to terminate the lease, the contract states that we are obliged to replace anything that has been damaged. Is this still the case if the landlady agreed to us keeping cats and is aware her property would be at risk of receiving some damage?

First of all, the good news is that you were up-front and honest with your landlady about having two cats at the start of your occupation of the house in question. Matters around accommodation and the introduction of pets during the course of tenancies when the lease does not allow for it can cause, in some cases, major problems for both the tenants and the landlords. Going back to your own situation, another characteristic of this agreement is that it is present in the lease. It is probably covered in the “Special Conditions” section of the lease.

When you have a lease with your landlady or landlord this is a contractual agreement, and if it is a good agreement it will more than likely be in parallel with the statutory obligations placed on both landlords and tenants in relation to the Residential Tenancies Act 2014 amended by the 2015 and 2016 Acts. This contractual and statutory relationship also covers excessive wear and tear or damage.

Although your landlady agreed to have two cats in the house (presumably based on the fact the cats are trained to go outside), this does not insulate you as tenants from a claim by the landlady of excessive wear and tear or damage to the fixtures and fittings in the property and/or furniture. Any good lease will have a specific “tenants obligations” clause to cover this very subject and if it does not it is a very poor agreement.

Laws in place

Even if the lease does not cover this aspect, the laws in place in Ireland already mentioned and currently in place do, so the landlady is covered anyway. Therefore, if the chairs in the kitchen (which sound expensive if they are real leather) were damaged by the cats, despite the clause in your lease agreement, as a tenant you could be liable to compensate the landlady for this damage that could be viewed as excessive wear and tear.

In saying all that, common sense needs to prevail when working that out. If the chairs in question were brand new when you moved into the house and your landlady can provide you evidence of same (copy of a receipt from furniture shop when it was purchased) she could argue strongly for the chairs to be replaced with like for like or ones that are of equal value and/or quality.

From your side, you could make the point that if the cats were not there during the course of your tenancy some natural wear and tear would have occurred anyway hence you could offer 80 to 90per cent of the value. If that is not the case then the calculation of the value of the chairs from the point in time your tenancy started should be worked out and then an agreement between what you should pay (or have deducted from your deposit) can be sorted out between yourself and your landlady.

In summary, although damage has taken place the actual value of the chairs needs to be calculated from the start date of your tenancy as if they were not new, it would be unreasonable for your landlady to try and deduct the full value of a purchase of new chairs from your deposit and that would more than likely be the view of an adjudicator if the case went through the Residential Tenancies Board.

Marcus O’Connor is a chartered surveyor estate agent and property manager and member of the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland; scsi.ie

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