#AskTDS: "Can my landlord charge me for cleaning?"

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| 13 June 2019

In this week’s #AskTDS we answer a tenant’s question: “Can my landlord charge me for cleaning?”

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

Landlords can claim money for cleaning from the tenancy deposit under certain circumstances. In fact, whilst cleaning standards can be subjective, it is the most common claim made by a landlord for a deduction from the deposit.  It is important to know a few fundamental principles:

  • You should leave a 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 into the property so that both yours and the landlord’s expectations are aligned.

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 difficult to establish cleanliness from 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 is 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 clear, concise wording describing the item is most useful.

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 several years. Therefore, you should refer 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 as the oven or hallway carpets, which will give you a better idea of how clean it should be when you move out. 

If 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.

Need some cleaning tips? Why not check out our top 10 tips, on pages 10-11 of Letterbox Issue 1 Autumn 2016!

For more tenant tips please view our tenant FAQ page.

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 Northern Ireland: TDS is Northern Ireland's leading and only not for profit tenancy deposit protection scheme.

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.

ARLA|Propertymark: For agents who would like to stay up to date, you can contact Propertymark | ARLA at: join@propertymark.com. By being a member of Propertymark | ARLA you will be eligible for TDS Insured best headline rates.

RLA: If you are a landlord and would like to keep up to date with any changes that may affect you or your responsibilities, you can contact the RLA at: info@rla.org.uk and quote reference: dg715 to receive 25% off your first year's membership.

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