AskTDS: "What is the difference between professional and domestic cleaning?"

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This week, John King, Director of Customer Services at Tenancy Deposit Scheme (TDS), answers a tenant’s question: "What is the difference between professional and domestic cleaning?"


As a general rule, the tenant should return the property at the end of the tenancy, cleaned to the same standard as it was at the start of the tenancy.  The most common issue that arises is the parties’ understanding of the standard of cleaning the tenant needs to meet.

The cleanliness of the property should be clearly set out in the inventory/check-in report and the check-out report. It is also important that tenants are aware that cleaning is not subject to fair wear and tear. How clean is professionally clean?

Cleaning to a professional standard means going beyond the usual day-to-day cleaning tasks. This involves cleaning surfaces that can’t be seen, such as under sofas, behind doors, inside kitchen appliances and cleaning windows.

Some of the tasks you might be expected to complete if cleaning to a professional standard are:

  • Empty all bins and replace binbags
  • Remove cobwebs, dust skirting boards
  • Dust ceiling fans and light fixtures
  • Clean window sills and wipe down doors
  • Dust all furniture, including the underside
  • Clean all glass surfaces, including smudges on windows
  • Clean and disinfect bathrooms
  • Sweep, vacuum and mop all floors
  • Clean kitchen (including inside microwave, top of refrigerator)
  • Defrost fridge/freezer and deep clean the oven, hob and extractor
  • Wipe down kitchen cabinet facings
  • Polish all stainless steel in kitchen

Some tenants will choose to enlist the help of professional cleaning services at the end of a tenancy but if they keep on top of day-to-day cleaning and dedicate time to a thorough clean at the end of the tenancy, this additional cost can be avoided.

What will the landlord do if I clean, but not to a professional standard?

This depends on the standard of the property at the start and end of the tenancy as well as what is outlined in the tenancy agreement. 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. 

For example, if a tenancy agreement states that the property must be cleaned to a professional standard and it was noted as ‘cleaned to a professional standard’ in the check-in/inventory report but noted as ‘clean’ on a check-out report, with areas that haven’t been cleaned to a professional standard - e.g. the oven wasn’t cleaned and the shower had the early signs of mould in the grout - the landlord could make a good case for a compensatory amount to be deducted from the tenant’s deposit.

Therefore, it is important for tenants to be aware of the cleaning standard of the property at the start of the tenancy and ensure this is noted in the check-in/inventory report.

Further information on pre-tenancy documents is available in our guide to check-in/out reports, inventories and schedules of conditions here.   

While a domestic level of cleaning is fine during the tenancy, a deeper, more professional standard of cleaning is usually necessary for the end of a tenancy. The level of cleanliness the property should be left in ought to be detailed in the tenancy agreement.  

About the author:

John King is a former practitioner in the lettings industry with over 25 years’ experience with a keen understanding of the Private Rental Sector. In addition to his work in estate agency, John has worked within tenancy deposit protection since 2009 starting in the adjudication team before moving into customer services and has recently moved from Deputy Director to Director in our key customer facing team. 

John has presented training seminars, forums and industry events and has been involved in the successful TDS Academy training programme offered throughout England and Wales and operates a team of customer service advisors to assist with customer enquiries.

Advocating improvement through education and understanding John appreciates the ups and downs of a tenancy transaction experienced by all the parties. He brings knowledge, consideration and practicality to encourage the stakeholders involved to seek an acceptable solution to tenancy deposit disagreements and access Alternative Dispute Resolution where required.

About TDS

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 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.

Posted by John King on 15 June 2018

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