Ask TDS: "Can my landlord charge me for cleaning?"

The Tenancy Deposit Scheme (TDS) is a government approved scheme for the protection of tenancy deposits; we offer both insured and custodial protection. We also provide fair adjudication for disputes that arise over the tenancy deposits that we protect. This article has been written in response to a tenant’s query: “Can my landlord charge me for cleaning?”

It can be quite distressing to realise that the repaying of your deposit isn’t going to be straight-forward. When it comes to disputes, both landlord and tenant need to be open regarding their expectations and responsibilities. Many disputes can be resolved without adjudication simply by opening up communications.

Are landlords allowed to claim money from the deposit to cover cleaning costs?

Cleaning costs are the most common reason for deductions from a tenancy deposit, and while cleaning standards can be subjective, it is also the most common dispute claim. It is important to know a few fundamental principles:

  • You should leave the property in the same standard of cleanliness at the end of the tenancy as it was at the start of the tenancy.
  • Cleanliness is not subject to fair wear and tear – while an item can be worn and aged, it should still be clean.
  • Cleaning can be expensive, so the more you can do yourself, the less likely you are to be faced with expensive bills at the end of the tenancy.

What can I do at the start of a tenancy to protect myself from a cleaning charge when I move out?

Simply put, the best way to protect yourself is to clean the property, but there are steps you can take when you move in to the property so that both your and the landlord’s expectations are aligned.

It can be a really exciting time when you get the keys to a new place, and often what you really want to do is unbox the kettle, start planning where you want things to go, and get on with unpacking. We would encourage you to take an hour or so to read the check-in report/inventory and go around the property checking that the description of the items, condition of the décor and standard of cleaning matches what you are seeing. Usually it will be a true representation of the property, but this is your opportunity to set things straight where an item is either missing from the inventory, is missing from the property, or is not in the same condition or standard of cleanliness as stated.

If you find that, for example, the check-in report says that the oven is cleaned to a professional standard but that the grills have hardened carbon residue and is greasy to the touch, make a note on the inventory and report this to the landlord promptly. Often the landlord will ask that you return the inventory within 7 days, and report any cleaning issues within 48 hours and it is important that you stick to any timescales given.

While taking photographs is a good idea, it is really difficult to see how clean something is in a photograph, so while they can be great supporting evidence in some cases (for example the inside of an oven), the written description is key. It impossible to photograph a smell, or something that is sticky to the touch, and taking a photograph of dust on a carpet can be equally tricky, so some clear, concise words describing the item is best.

It can also be a good idea to pay special attention to areas which tend to take the most use, or require the most cleaning, such as:

  • The oven
  • The shower/bath
  • The fridge/freezer (this should also be defrosted)
  • The windows
  • The flooring

What can I do at the end of the tenancy to protect myself from a cleaning charge when I move out?

It is easy to forget how clean a property was at the start of the tenancy, especially if you have lived there for a number of years. This is why you should refer back to the check-in report which was agreed at the start of the tenancy. The check-in report should give you a good idea of how clean the property was when you moved in and therefore how clean the landlord expects the property to be when you move out. If the inventory states that the property was cleaned to a professional standard, then you must clean the property to the same standard as it would be had you hired in a cleaning service. If the inventory states that it is clean and tidy, there may be photographs of or additional descriptions next to items such the oven or hallway carpets, which will give you a better idea of how clean it should be when you move out.



As long as you remember the fundamental principles at the start of this article and engage in the check-in and check-out process, you will not normally face unexpected charges.

If you do think that you have been charged unfairly and wish TDS to resolve the dispute, if the landlord submits evidence which supports their claim, you will need to demonstrate that your findings were communicated to the landlord or agent at the start of the tenancy.

Need some cleaning tips? Why not check out our top 10 tips, on pages 10-11!

Posted by Zoe Knighton on 3 March 2017

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