According to the TDS, over half of all disputes at the end of a tenancy relate to issues with cleaning. A slightly lower proportion relate to damage followed by the upkeep of the garden. A tenant cannot be held responsible for changes in a property’s condition caused by what the House of Lords has called “reasonable use of the premises by the tenant and the ordinary operation of natural forces” (i.e., passage of time). Defining just what constitutes “fair wear and tear” is often cause for dispute. The law does not allow for “betterment”, meaning landlords cannot expect to have old items replaced for new at the tenant’s expense. It may be the case that a tenant has melted an area of an acrylic sink with a hot pan, but if the sink was already 10 years old with a recommended life expectancy of 12 years, the tenant should not be expected to bear the entire cost of a brand new one.
However, the cleanliness of a property at the end of the tenancy is very much the tenant’s responsibility. Corporate lets are usually professionally cleaned before the start of a tenancy and it is expected that they will be returned in the same condition. Outgoing tenants are often surprised that their own cleaning does not meet the same high standard of a professional cleaning company.
Here are some of the most common cleaning problems at departure which can cost tenants a hefty portion of their deposit:
- Smell of smoke: If the tenancy agreement has specified that the property is for non-smokers, a lingering smell of smoke can be costly to tenants, including the deduction of a professional clean to carpets, soft furnishings, and curtains. A recent YouGov survey has revealed that smokers are the least popular type of tenants and 64% of landlords would not want to let to smokers.
- Ovens: A spotless oven at move-in must be left in the same condition. Not only should the interior, shelves, and glass door be immaculate, there should be no burn marks and the extractor fan should have all traces of grease and sticky residue removed. Professional oven cleaning usually takes several hours and costs upwards of £100.
- Washing machines and dishwashers: These should be thoroughly cleaned inside and out, not forgetting the drawer that washing powder or liquid is dispensed into, as well as the filters.
- Carpets: If no marks or stains were reported at move-in, any stains should be removed before the tenancy ends. Professional inventory clerks will ensure that stains are not hidden by rugs or furniture.
- Lime scale: In areas of hard water like London, heavy lime scale markings to kitchen and bathroom fittings need to be removed. The cost of professional cleaning can be deducted if this is not taken care of.