In this week’s #AskTDS, Sandy Bastin , our Head of Adjudication Services, answers a tenant’s question, “Do I need to professionally clean the property at the end of the tenancy?”
At TDS, we have observed that cleaning is the primary cause of deposit disputes in the cases we handle. It currently accounts for a significant 56% of all our cases across the UK.
Whilst there are varying issues in cleaning disputes, they all have one thing in common; a misunderstanding between the tenant and the landlord about the standard of cleaning required 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 it 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.
The landlord cannot request that tenants must use a professional cleaning company, or a cleaning service at all. The landlord can only request the same level of cleanliness and hygiene as it was documented at the start of the tenancy, detailed in the inventory report. How that is achieved is up to the tenant.
Although our deposit disputes adjudicators will take account of the terms of the agreement and detail within the inventory, 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.
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 chances of deposit disputes.
To avoid cleaning disputes, it’s important to be well-prepared. Ensure that the check-in and check-out reports are detailed and that the tenancy agreement clearly outlines the tenants’ cleaning responsibilities.
About the Author
Sandy joined TDS in 2008 and is now Head of TDS Adjudication Services. A qualified solicitor with many years’ experience practising and specialising in Real Estate, Sandy is responsible for the management of Adjudicators, to include recruiting and training TDS Adjudicators. She provides continued support and mentoring to the team, which includes quality assurance activity to ensure the high standards expected from TDS Adjudication decisions are met. Sandy is also a complaints handler for TDS England and Wales and is involved with the final decisions following reviews for SafeDeposits Scotland and TDS Northern Ireland. Sandy delivers TDS Adjudication Workshops and provides Adjudication training – the TDS Way. She also plays a role in ensuring TDS provides an excellent Customer Service experience.
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