The most common reason for a dispute over the cleanliness of a property at the end of a tenancy is miscommunication – your version of clean may be different to that of the tenant. The best way to avoid these arguments is, at the beginning of a tenancy, to lay down your expectations of how the property should be presented when the tenant moves out. This can help financially, as there will be no dispute over how much of the deposit is returned to the tenant and who is responsible for the cleaning charges.
There are many ways of highlighting your expectations. To begin with, the way you present a property to a tenant when uninhabited can emphasise and highlight how you expect it to look when the tenant leaves. You can also clarify your viewpoint by providing a detailed description of your expectations in the inventory and the tenancy agreement. It is worth telling the tenant if you had it professionally cleaned before they moved in – it is better to iterate your expectations in different forms rather than assuming, as this could lead to misunderstandings and unforeseen financial disputes between you and the tenant. For example, rather than saying ‘please leave the kitchen clean’, highlight where and how exactly you would like the tenant to clean the kitchen:
‘clean and degrease oven’ and ‘defrost and ‘clean out freezer’. If there are areas usually overlooked or particularly subjective that need to be cleaned, then these should be highlighted to the tenant.
You will need to prepare for a dispute with your tenant if you have provided this direct information and they have still not cleaned the property as per your request. The best time to prepare for a dispute is before the tenancy begins, as afterwards could be too late, because you will be lacking the evidence needed. This can be done by including every part of the property that you feel could be affected by bad treatment or neglect on the part of the tenant in the inventory. Areas such as these may include the carpet, the curtains, the windows, and so on. Details should be provided of their condition before the tenancy begins, so in the case that the condition has changed at the end of the tenancy, then you would be able to show a deterioration in the condition clearly. For example, describing the curtains as ‘freshly laundered lined curtains, blue and beige checked material. 2 years old – no frays, tears or stains’ would ensure that if a change does occur, then you would be able to show the extent of the damage.
There are other ways of ensuring that your standard of cleanliness is adhered to, for example, in the tenancy agreement note that if the property is not cleaned to a high enough standard, then you can use the tenant’s deposit to cover professional cleaning costs. If wished, you can also include pictures of the parts of the property that may need to be cleaned after a tenancy to accompany the written description of the features. To make your expectations clear, you also could send out a pre-checkout checklist to tenants when you receive their notice.
If you have any questions regarding the content in this post, or if you have experienced this kind of dispute, then please do not hesitate to get in contact with the team here at Taylor-Clarke.