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‘Cleaning’ – deposit disputes

Cleaning Deposit Disputes between a Landlord & Tenant

One of the most regular and most difficult disputes between a landlord and their tenants is over cleaning costs at the end of a tenancy.

One person’s ‘clean enough‘ is anothers – ‘sh…hole!

This differing of opinion/perspective underlines the importance of taking time when preparing an inventory and the statement of condition. The document needs to be a thorough and comprehensive record of the rental property at the start of the tenancy. This means documentation of whether items were new, old in good condition.

However, in my experience landlords rarely mention the state of cleanliness. Not only is the topic of cleanliness subjective, it’s also very difficult to accurately document. ( this returns to the ‘one person’s clean is anothers sh…..!’

Though photos will help highlight elements of damage, they aren not always great at illustrating the level of cleanliness. Many greasy marks, grime, dust and smudges are largely invisible to even the best camera lenses particularly in a poorly lit room and they rarely stand out in the same way as they do in the flesh.

A dirty property may not constitute a big deal to the outgoing tenant, it will make the property far less appealing to any potential new let.

Sure-fire way of establishing cleanliness

My sure-fire way of ensuring that documentation detailing that a property has been properly cleaned is by getting a professional clean prior to handover and retaining proof of this- invoice/receipt of payment.

The very fact that the property has been cleaned by a reputable company will be seen by the Deposit Protection Schemes as evidence of the property being let in a clean state. It also gives the landlord grounds for implementing a professional clean following the vacating of the rental premises and then the charging of the tenant the full costs.

Is this fair and enforceable?

What do the deposit protect schemes say about cleaning costs?

It’s useful to have a look at what the Deposit Protection Schemes (DPS) say on the subject of cleaning a rental property. Afterall, it will be the adjudicators that they employ who will ultimately decide on the outcomes of any disputes between tenants and landlords.

Here is what one of the protection schemes My Deposits has to say about the subject of cleaning and cleaning costs in a rental property:

‘Deductions made by landlords in relation to cleaning charges are regularly disputed by tenants. Many claim that the cleanliness of the property at the start of the tenancy was not clear, or that the tenancy agreement did not make clear what was expected of them. Where landlords wish to make deductions for cleaning costs, they will need to be careful to record the cleanliness of the property in sufficient detail, at the start and end of the tenancy. They will also need to ensure any charges they claim are a fair reflection of the property’s condition at the start of the tenancy.’

The type and size of the property is an important factor when deciding whether cleaning costs are reasonable. For example, a 5 bedroom house would take longer to clean than a 1 bedroom flat.
Similarly, the cleaning of a bathroom mirror would not require an equal amount of cleaning as a bath or shower. For this reason ‘Standard Charges’ are often considered unreasonable by an adjudicator, unless these are specifically explained to the tenant in writing at the start of the tenancy and agreed to by the tenant in writing. A landlord can also support their claim by producing invoices or receipts for work carried out by a professional cleaning contractor, as costs are usually balanced against market rates and geographical location. Where landlords charge an hourly rate to clean the property themselves, this can be more problematic for adjudicators because it is harder to justify the rate against the time spent cleaning. Tenants also complain that regardless of their efforts to clean the property themselves deductions are made no matter what the state of the property at the end of the tenancy. It is important to remember that the tenant is only obliged to return the property in the same state of cleanliness as at the start of the tenancy, after allowing for fair wear and tear.

It can be left tenants stuff as well as cleanliness

When it comes to cleanliness often disputes arise between landlord over what has not been done in terms of the level of cleaning or cleanliness. However, this topic is often wrapped up with what the tenants leave or fail to take away from a rental property. Any landlord who has had the unpleasant task of having to clean out a buy-to-let will know that cleaning out a fridge freezer, cellar, or loft of discarded trainers, food is both time consuming and not pleasant. If the items amount to a crappy sofa, mange bed or set of drawers these are not only difficult to dispose of but can be expensive. The hire of a van or a man with a van is not an insignificant amount of money so on left tenants stuff, where do I stand?

Clearly, the costs of removing unwanted items from a rental property at the end of a tenancy are legitimate deduction from a tenant deposit. The essential thing is that the landlord can evidence the fact that the items were not there at the start of the tenancy. For more tips on how to win a Tenancy Deposit Dispute including an arbitrators view.

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