One of the most common causes of disputes at the end of tenancies is the cleanliness of the property. Landlords expect their properties to be returned to them in a clean and presentable state. And if this doesn’t happen, they often withhold a portion of the tenant’s deposit to cover subsequent cleaning costs.
The Tenancy Deposit Scheme helps to build trust between tenants and landlords. It puts a deposit in independent hands during the course of a tenancy agreement. And should the tenant return the property in a reasonable condition, the deposit is returned swiftly.
But what happens if a property is dirty when it’s returned to the landlord? Who should cover the cost of getting that property clean and tidy for the next tenant? If you’re a tenant about to leave your rented property, responsibility for a basic level of cleanliness rests with you. And if you fail to uphold your responsibility in this regard, you might find yourself out of pocket.
The best way to avoid a cleaning dispute at the end of a tenancy is to make prevention your priority from day one. If your rented home is always clean, you won’t have to worry about potential disputes when you leave.
But how clean is clean?
Your idea of what is clean might not align with that of your landlord. How do you know that you’re on the same page when it comes to cleanliness? Through simple communication, of course. And that begins right at the beginning of the tenancy.
As you walk around the property with the landlord, you should take photos and make a list of any cleanliness issues you find. You’re well within your rights to ask for these issues to be addressed before you sign a lease.
Similarly, this is your landlord’s opportunity to communicate their cleanliness expectations. If possible, get them in writing in your lease agreement.
For example, your landlord might have had the property professionally cleaned just before you moved in. They might expect you to do exactly the same — or at least clean it yourself to a professional standard.
Have a conversation about cleanliness standards at the beginning of the tenancy. Things will be a lot more simple in the long run.
Adopt best cleaning practices
There’s nothing wrong with listing specific cleaning jobs your landlord expects during the course of your tenancy. This gets everything out in the open, and leaves you, the tenant, under no illusions about what’s expected of you.
Here are a few of the major jobs landlords expect to be completed before taking back possession of a property:
- Full clean of the oven
- Full clean of the hob
- All kitchen appliances cleaned
- Bathroom deep cleaned
- All bins emptied, cleaned and sanitised
- Windows cleaned
- Carpets and hard flooring cleaned and sanitised
Of course, this list isn’t exhaustive. Get together with your landlord before you take possession of the property. Get these essential cleaning jobs in writing. And take lots of photographs. You shouldn’t be expected to clean messes you don’t make.
Clean little and often
Don’t wait until the day before you leave to start cleaning. That’s a recipe for disaster. Cleaning will be hurried, and the results are likely to leave your landlord unimpressed. Cleaning should be a daily way of life. Clean little and often, and you’ll barely notice any disruption in your life.
Landlords often insert clauses into tenancy agreements that allow them to inspect the property at specific times. If you don’t make cleaning a daily ritual, you might get a nasty surprise when your landlord announces an inspection.
Acquire the necessary tools
You can’t keep your home clean if you don’t have the tools for the job. You’ll probably be expected to provide cleaning agents such as multipurpose cleaners and sanitisers. But what about larger items?
Before you sign a tenancy agreement, clarify what cleaning tools come with the property. And get it all down in writing in the form of a detailed inventory.
For example, is a powerful vacuum cleaner provided? What about sweeping brushes, steam cleaners and carpet cleaners? Most respectable landlords want to give their tenants everything they need to maintain a clean home. But don’t take anything for granted.
Dealing with a cleaning dispute
If your landlord isn’t satisfied with your cleaning efforts upon the final inspection of the property, sit down and try to resolve things amicably. In many cases, re-cleaning or addressing a specific problem with increased determination is enough to satisfy a reasonable landlord.
Make sure you have a full inventory, detailing the condition of items such as walls, bedding, carpeting and appliances. Your deposit is at stake, so cover all your bases. Under the Tenancy Deposit Scheme, an independent adjudicator might decide that you’ve haven’t upheld your cleaning responsibilities. Don’t give your landlord any excuses.
A tenancy cleaning checklist
Cleanliness is an issue that should be addressed from day one. The moment you enter the property for an initial viewing, cleanliness should be one of your priorities. If you fail to take the matter seriously from the outset, all or part of your deposit could be at risk.
To help you protect your interests, we’ve compiled a short tenancy cleaning checklist:
- Ensure detailed cleaning expectations are outlined in the tenancy agreement. Get a signed copy of the agreement, and store it in a safe place.
- Ascertain the consequences of cleanliness disputes in relation to your deposit. Can your landlord withhold some of your deposit? If that’s so, professional cleaners will probably be used — and they’re expensive.
- Make a note of the condition and cleanliness of all items and surfaces in the tenancy agreement and the inventory.
- Take photos of every room, surface and appliance BEFORE you move in. These images might prove that you aren’t responsible for cleanliness issues in the event of a formal dispute.
- Ascertain what the cleaning expectations are during the course of the tenancy.
- Keep records of cleaning jobs and cleaning related purchases. They might prove useful in the event of a formal dispute.
- Ask your landlord for an end of tenancy checklist at least a week before you vacate the property. This gives you time to prepare for the final inspection.
Cleaning isn’t difficult, but it requires organisation, dedication, time and the tools for the job. Don’t risk losing all or part of your security deposit because of a relatively minor cleanliness issue.