Cleaning after tenants leave
End of tenancy cleaning causes more disputes between landlords and tenants than any other issue.
So it pays to make sure everyone knows their rights. These include what their landlords obligations and responsibilities are, what level of cleaning is required, what constitutes fair wear and tear, and who should pay for what.
While landlords need to get their property spic and span for new tenants, those departing must leave the property as clean as they found it to avoid losing part of their deposit.
Here, in our guide to end of tenancy cleaning, we’ll take you through the process from start to finish, with everything both landlords and tenants need to know.
During the tenancy
In an ideal world, tenants would always keep the property clean and tidy during their stay. However, there is actually no legal duty on tenants to keep the property clean while they live there, no legislation on weekly hoovering, daily dusting or monthly window cleaning.
There’s nothing to stop a landlord politely pointing out issues spotted during regular inspections, such as rubbish piled up or filthy ovens, but there’s no legal recourse until the tenancy has ended.
Tenants do have a responsibility to maintain a safe environment, however, and action can be taken where there is a serious health and safety risk – though this largely falls outside the definition of cleaning.
The end of the tenancy
Tenant cleaning responsibilities
At the end of a tenancy, there is a responsibility on the tenant to leave the property as clean as it was when they moved in. For both tenants and landlords, it’s advisable to take plenty of photographs of the property at the start of the tenancy, which provide evidence of its cleanliness, or otherwise, at the time.
The landlord should also have provided a written inventory of everything provided for the tenant, describing the condition of each item. So if the carpets are described as “clean throughout”, that’s exactly how they should be left. Failure to do so is likely to result in a landlord retaining a portion of the deposit to pay for cleaning.
Fair wear and tear
Don’t confuse cleanliness with the gradual deterioration you would expect to see in a property over time.
So what is fair wear and tear?
Most tenancy agreements define it as “reasonable use of the premises by the tenant and the ordinary operation of natural forces.”
For example, carpets naturally wear over time, so if you let your property with a brand new one, don’t expect it to remain in pristine condition after even a year of use. And the longer your tenant has been in the property, the more wear there will clearly be – but it can still be clean.
If there are stains, or unnatural rips or burns, that’s a different matter and the landlord can make fair and reasonable deductions from the tenant’s deposit.
The same is true of malicious damage, which is any damage caused intentionally by troublesome tenant(s) or their guests. This could include smashed windows, doors or furniture, arson, or graffiti on walls and, again, your inventory and start of tenancy photographs or video will be key to resolving any disputes, and potentially making insurance claims.
Is professional cleaning required at the end of tenancy?
Many tenancy agreements have historically included a “professional cleaning clause”, which states that the tenant must pay to have the property professionally cleaned at the end of the tenancy. However, the Tenant Fees Act 2019 made such clauses illegal in England from June 1, 2019, so a landlord cannot require a tenant to pay for cleaning from a professional company.
Further, tenants with Covid-19, or Covid-19 symptoms, who ensure the property is returned in the condition they found it cannot be forced to pay for an additional deep clean of a property. Charging a tenant for a professional clean can be penalised with fines starting at £5,000. Landlords can, however, ask that the tenant cleans the property to a professional standard.
Tenants: should you pay for a professional clean anyway?
For tenants, there are two key reasons for making sure the property is as clean as possible before you leave.
- Avoiding disputes and ensuring there are no cleaning-related deductions from your deposit
- Ensuring a good reference from your landlord if you are planning on renting another property
So is it worth biting the bullet and paying for a professional clean, or should you do it yourself?
Clearly, a DIY approach will be cheaper, but you may need to put in many hours of cleaning to make sure the property is as clean as it was when you moved in.
And are you confident your own cleaning will come up to professional standards?
A professional clean offers a stress-free route to a top-quality cleaning job if you don’t have the time or inclination to do it yourself.
You may also be able to find a cleaning company that would be cheaper than one chosen by the landlord, and subsequently deducted from your deposit, if your DIY cleaning is not up to scratch.
If you’ve been living in a shared house, and everyone is prepared to chip in, it may be worth it.
Landlords: Can I use my tenant’s deposit to pay for cleaning services?
Landlords are well within their legal rights to use the tenant’s deposit to pay for professional cleaning services, if certain conditions are met.
While they can no longer insert professional cleaning clauses demanding tenants routinely pay for a clean, they can recoup costs if the tenant has left the property in an unsatisfactory condition – allowing for fair wear and tear.
Again, the inventory – or check-in report – and any photographs are key in determining the cleanliness of a property both before the tenant moves in and after they have left.
So how much can you charge for move out cleaning?
The amount a landlord can deduct can often depend on the accuracy and detail in the report.
For example, if the inventory notes that the carpets were hoovered, but not professionally steam cleaned, then a landlord would be unlikely to be successful in a claim to charge for such a deep clean. But they could claim for the cost of hoovering.
Essentially, the landlord cannot deduct money from a deposit to make the property cleaner than it was before the tenant moved in.
End of tenancy inspection and deposit claims
The end of tenancy inspection is crunch time for tenant and landlord. Is the property in the same state of cleanliness as it was at the start of tenancy?
Some landlords use an independent inventory clerk to complete the pre and post tenancy inspection, which can alleviate any allegations of unfairness or bias. Alternatively, date-stamped photographs can be used to help prove a case for extra cleaning.
It may be worth landlords assessing the property a day or two before the tenant is due to vacate, to give them time to address any clear areas that may not be up to standard, followed by a final inspection on leaving day.
If the property has been left in an unacceptable state, and clearly not as clean as when the tenant moved in, the landlord can claim via the deposit protection scheme that holds the deposit.
Landlords may choose to take each case on its merits, depending on the level of cleaning required to get the property ready for the next tenant.
The decision to claim may depend on their relationship with the tenant, how they’ve generally looked after the property, just how bad a mess they’ve left…and if they’ve got enough evidence for the claim to be successful.
How much does an end of tenancy cleaning cost?
The cost of an end of tenancy clean depends on the size of a property, and how far you want, or need, to go. Even if the property has been left in a generally clean state, some landlords routinely pay for a deep clean before welcoming new tenants. As mentioned previously, landlords may be able to claim back some, or all, of the costs of such a clean from the previous tenant, depending on the evidence you have.
To give an idea of how much an end of tenancy clean should cost, we looked at a cross section of cleaning companies quoting prices online. As a ballpark figure, a three-bedroom home with one bathroom should cost from £180 to £240 for a standard clean, with many companies charging around £20 per room on top for steam carpet cleaning.
A single oven could cost up to £50 to clean, while there may also be extra charges to clean upholstery, mattresses, and steam cleaning of kitchens and bathrooms.
How long does a landlord have to return a deposit?
The tenancy has ended and the final inspection is complete. The only thing left to do is return the deposit.
Since April 6, 2007, landlords must put the deposit in a government-approved tenancy deposit scheme (TDP) for homes rented on an assured shorthold tenancy.
In England and Wales your deposit can be registered with:
The scheme is there to protect the tenancy deposit, and provides a free adjudication service in the event of disputes. Where there is a dispute, whether it’s over cleaning, rent arrears, or other damage, the deposit will be protected in the TDP scheme until it is resolved.
The deposit must be returned to the tenant within 10 days of both parties agreeing the final sum.
End of tenancy cleaning checklist
Cleaning after tenants leave can be a time-consuming process but, if you have time on your hands, it can be cheaper to do it yourself than hire a cleaning company.
Our end of tenancy cleaning checklist can be used by both landlords and tenants to make sure no stone is left unturned in returning the property to tip top condition.
Before you start
Tenants should have their inventory, or check-in report, to hand to make sure they cover every detail listed. For landlords, it’s more a question of getting the property in the type of condition that will help attract renters who visit for viewings.
The first thing to do is gather all the equipment you’ll need to clean every room, including cleaning fluid for kitchens, bathrooms and windows, plenty of cloths and scourers, spray bottles, a mop and bucket, and a good quality vacuum cleaner.
You’ll need to use the kitchen throughout your clean, so it’s best to leave (probably the worst) until last. Similarly, in every room, hoover or clean the floor last…obviously.
Walls, doors and ceilings
A few things to check off when cleaning walls, doors and ceilings:
- Check for scuff marks on walls, and either clean them off or touch up with paint as required
- Wipe and polish light switches and electrical sockets
- Use a long-handled duster to remove cobwebs from ceilings, getting right into the corners
- Wipe down door surfaces and handles – don’t forget the tops of doors and doorframes, which gather dust at an extraordinary rate
- Wipe down skirting boards
- Clean the inside of windows (and mirrors) – screwed up newspaper ensures a smear-free finish
- Dust and clean window sills and frames
Fixtures, fittings and furnishings
The last thing you want is a wannabe Aggie MacKenzie running their finger over the tops of your wardrobes and finding a smudge of dust and dirt.
So pay attention to fixtures, fittings and furnishings:
- Dust and fully clean, if necessary, the tops of wardrobes, shelving and cupboards
- Clean the tops of mirror, picture frames and curtain rails
- Dust light fittings, lampshades, and even bulbs
- Dust and polish the surfaces of tables, desks and sideboards etc
- Take sofa cushions outside and give them a good beating
- Clear out and vacuum the sofa without its cushions
- Check inside drawers and cupboards and clear out / clean as necessary
A bathroom deep clean is essential. Whether you’re a tenant cleaning for an inspection, or a landlord preparing for new tenants, it needs to be spotless.
Here’s what to focus on:
- Clean and polish the basin, taps and fittings. Vinegar or lemon juice will leave a sparkling shine.
- Give the bathtub the same treatment, paying particular attention to any limescale or hard water stains.
- The toilet. It’s not fun, but it’s got to be done… You’ll need a toilet brush, disinfectant, and rubber gloves. Soak the toilet from the rim down with cleaner, leave for 10 minutes, then scrub before cleaning the outside areas.
- Clean all the tiles, removing any mould from the grout with an old toothbrush.
- Clean any shower tray and shower doors, and bring the shower head back to a shine, removing any limescale.
- Clean radiators or shower rails.
- If the water is draining slowly from the bath or basin, use a proprietary unblocker to remove obstructions.
- Wipe clean extractor fans, often a trap for dust.
The kitchen is likely to be the most-used room in the house, and probably the most dirty. Along with the bathroom, it’s the most important to clean thoroughly.
Here’s our checklist:
- Thoroughly clean the hob, removing any parts you can and cleaning them individually. You will probably need to soak the hob surface before using a proprietary cleaner and lots of elbow grease
- Clean and degrease the oven
- Wipe down all worktops and countertops
- Thoroughly clean the kitchen sink, taking care not to scratch stainless steel units, and remove limescale from taps etc
- Empty the fridge / freezer and clean inside and out, including the rubber seal
- Empty, clean and disinfect bins and bin areas
- Clean grease and dirt from the extractor fan, including the filter
- Make sure all cupboards and drawers are empty, and clean them inside and out
- Clean wall tiles, again using an old toothbrush for any dirty grout
- Clean the floor
- Clean the microwave inside and out, and other small appliances like toasters and kettles
- Ensure all cutlery, and any supplied mugs, plates etc, are clean and in drawers
- Clean all larger appliances, such as the dishwasher, washing machine, tumble dryer, inside and out.
Carpets are one of the most visible parts of any room, and are often the focus of disputes. The most comprehensive way to clean a carpet is with a steam cleaning machine, which can either be hired, or you could leave it to a professional. Even if you are using a machine, vacuum first, moving all furniture so you can clean the entire carpet.
A good steam clean will remove many types of stain, but the carpet will take several hours to fully dry. It should be the last thing you do – and make sure to work backwards towards the exit door!
Don’t neglect the first thing any prospective tenant will see – the outside of the property. Make sure there’s no rubbish lying around, wheelie bins are empty and clean, and any lawns are mowed and flower beds weeded. Sweep away leaves and other debris from any patios or decking areas, and use a jet wash to remove ingrained dirt or mould.
With your property completely clean inside and out, you’re now in the best position to get great new tenants and maximise the rent you can charge.
Read more: A guide to moving house insurance.