In this week’s #AskTDS, Alison MacDougall, our Director of Dispute Operations, answers a tenant’s question, “Do I need to professionally clean the property at the end of the tenancy?”
Cleaning continues to be the most common area of dispute in the cases we deal with. The issues vary, but one of the most common factors is the parties’ understanding of the standard of cleaning the tenant needs to meet at the end of the tenancy.
As a general rule, the tenant should return the property at the end of the tenancy, cleaned to the same standard as at the outset. In terms of disputes, this means that the adjudicator will be looking for information about how clean the property was when the tenant moved into it, and then compare to evidence of its level of cleanliness when they moved out.
The cleanliness of the property should be clearly set out in the inventory/check-in report and the check-out report.
To back-up claims for cleaning, other useful documentation should be included where possible, including receipts for any cleaning carried out. It is also useful to include any correspondence between the parties, at the start of the tenancy, noting cleaning issues. Photographs tend to be less useful in cleaning claims because it can be difficult to show sufficient detail of the issues however they can provide good supporting evidence to the written claim
If the evidence shows that the property was less clean when the tenant left, the tenant will be responsible for the cost of restoring the property to an equivalent standard. This may mean minor additional cleaning or a more significant, professional deep clean.
Landlords will often argue that the tenancy agreement contains a clause requiring the tenant to have the property professionally cleaned at the end of the tenancy. Although the adjudicator will take account of the terms of the agreement, they will also have to avoid the risk of betterment. Further information on betterment is available in our guide to check-in/out reports, inventories and schedules of conditions here.
A clause requiring professional cleaning will work well if the landlord has evidence that the property was cleaned to that standard when the tenant moved in. The landlord is likely to find that their claim is not met in full if the tenant is being asked to return the property cleaned to a higher standard.
As well as having clear information about the standard of cleaning at the start of the tenancy, it can be useful to remind the tenants towards the end of the tenancy of what is needed in terms of cleaning when they move out. It may be worth offering a pre-inspection prior to the tenancy ending, giving the tenant an opportunity to make good any areas of concern before the tenants move out. Some agents and landlords also keep a list of reliable contractors they can give to tenants to help minimise issues with the deposit.
It pays to be prepared for protecting yourself against cleaning disputes by ensuring that the check-in and check-out reports are detailed and the tenancy agreement is clear about the tenants’ cleaning responsibilities.
About the author:
Alison has been involved in dispute resolution for over 12 years, including senior positions at the Police Complaints Authority and the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education. Alison joined TDS in 2007 as an adjudicator and is now responsible for the operational management of the dispute resolution team.
She has also been Managing Director of TDS Northern Ireland since 2013 when the scheme was first launched. Since then, she has guided it to being a market-leader and to multiple awards wins.
Tenancy Deposit Scheme (TDS) is a government-approved scheme for the protection of tenancy deposits; TDS offers both Insured and Custodial protection and also provides fair adjudication for disputes that arise over the tenancy deposits that we protect.
We provide invaluable training in tenancy deposit protection and disputes for agents and landlords through the TDS Academy as well as joining with MOL to provide the Technical Award in Residential Tenancy Deposits.
TDS Insured Scheme: where a TDS member can hold the tenancy deposits as a stakeholder during the term of the tenancy.
TDS Custodial Scheme: where TDS hold the deposit for the duration of the tenancy.
TDS Academy: TDS provides property professionals with invaluable training in tenancy deposit protection and tenancy deposit disputes.
TDS can only comment on the process for our scheme, other deposit protection schemes may have a different process/require different steps. Content is correct at the time of writing.
These views are those of the author alone and do not necessarily reflect the view of TDS, its officers and employees.