What’s your first thought after an end of tenancy? Probably how to get another paying tenant in place ASAP! And while this is important, you first need to make sure the old tenant is exited correctly, properly clean the property and prepare it for the next occupant.
But you may be wondering if this is your responsibility or the responsibility of your former tenant? Furthermore, if you’re forking out on letting agent fees, what’s the agents role in handing over the property in an acceptable state.
The lines often get blurred here in terms of what constitutes a clean property. This is also where a security deposit comes into play and knowing the difference between damage, dirty, and normal wear and tear.
Here we’ll cover how to clean your property at the end of tenancy and what exactly you’re responsible for.
You should receive ample notice that your tenant is moving out. Whether the end of the tenancy is approaching or you have a 60- or 90-day minimum requirement, you’ll know in plenty of time that your current tenant is moving out and moving on. This is when you plan the final inspection.
If you plan to show the property to a prospective tenant before the current tenant has vacated, perform a walkthrough first. Make sure that the property is presentable. It’s ideal to show the property after the former tenant has moved out and the cleaning process is finished. Keep in mind, though, that if the new tenant moves in before the old tenant leaves (because the previous tenant vacated early), you must return the difference of that tenant’s rent. It’s illegal to collect rent from two different parties for the same property. Some contracts contain early termination fees. If yours does, you should be able to deduct this amount from what is owed to the previous tenant.
The final move-out inspection is just as important as the initial walkthrough. If not, more important. This is your opportunity to uncover any issues with the property that might affect the return of the security deposit. Oftentimes, previous tenants will leave behind furniture and other items they no longer want or are too difficult to move.
If they do, you’re now on the hook for paying to remove these items. If you’re interested in keeping any pieces of furniture, have a conversation with your former tenant about a trade-off or agreement that includes them leaving certain items behind. Some tenants leave these items to cover up for damage including holes in the wall, scratched flooring, or damaged carpets.
Schedule a final inspection with the tenant before they move out. Having them present is crucial for pointing out specific instances of damage. You can also tell them exactly what items they’re responsible for removing. If you already have a tumultuous relationship with the tenant or anticipate confrontation, don’t require their presence but instead, document the walkthrough using videos or detailed photos with time and date stamps as proof.
Create a check-list so that you can move through the property in an organized fashion. Avoid jumping from room to room, which can cause confusion and increase the chances that you’ll overlook important issues.
ARE TENANTS RESPONSIBLE FOR DAILY CLEANLINESS?
Before we discuss what happens at the end of tenancy, let’s first discuss the day-to-day responsibilities of your tenant to maintain a clean property. A few factors come into play here. First, there’s no law that states your tenant has to keep the property at a certain level of cleanliness from day-to-day.
When you let your property out, it’s essentially the tenant’s property for the duration of the lease. And that means they can choose to live however they want. While this may not meet your own cleanliness standards, it’s not really up to you! If your tenant wants to leave dirty dishes in the sink, choose not to dust for weeks, or leave laundry scattered around the living space, that’s their choice.
At the end of tenancy it’ll be their responsibility to prove there’s no serious damage to the property if they want their security deposit back.
On the other hand, when you perform your routine checks and inspections on the home (and you should), look for excessive filth. This includes overflowing trash bins that are collecting rodents or insects, faeces or urine anywhere other than the bathroom, or unsanitary living conditions.
These are grounds for eviction depending on what’s listed in your agreement and contract. If you don’t live close to your property, invest in a property manager. This way, someone is regularly checking on your property to ensure things are up to snuff.
Lastly, you chose this tenant! That means you should have performed an extensive background check and references. Your good judgement should result in a tenant who shares your same values and idea of what a clean living space looks like. Avoid letting to anyone who doesn’t appear neat or clean themselves upon first meeting.
You can also check with their current and past landlords to find out more about their cleanliness. Paying a letting agent can also help the burden of the vetting process. They might see warning signs about the potential tenant that you’ve overlooked due to their level of experience.
WHAT IS THE TENANT’S RESPONSIBILITY AT THE END OF TENANCY?
When the lease comes to an end, there is a certain level of expectation that the tenant will leave the property in the same condition they found it in — minus wear and tear. Wear and tear includes things like gently worn carpets of floors, minimal peeling or chipping paint, and worn bathroom fixtures.
Wear and tear does not include broken items, holes in the wall, or major damage. These repairs are paid for out of the tenant’s security deposit — if you took one — which you should have! Remember, there’s a difference between wear and tear and filth. Even older, aged items can still be clean.
UNDERSTANDING THE PROFESSIONAL CLEANING CLAUSE
There’s often confusion over whether or not the tenant is responsible for hiring a professional cleaning service at the end of tenancy. To clarify, the Tenant Fees Act of 2019 which was enacted in June of 2019, states that it’s illegal for landlords or letting agents in England to charge tenants for a professional cleaning service at end of tenancy. Violating this act could cost you £5,000.
Now, here’s where things get a little tricky. A lot of landlords want to know if they can use the tenant’s security deposit for cleaning. The short answer is, yes! While you can’t charge your tenant for professional cleaning, you can use part of their security deposit to clean any excess dirt or return the property to its original state prior to tenancy.
If you happen to hire a professional cleaning service, then you can deduct this amount from their deposit.
It’s recommended that before you tap into the security deposit, you bring any issues to the tenant’s attention and give them the opportunity to address them. At the end of tenancy, you’ll perform a final inspection. It’s during this time that you should mention anything you’re unhappy with.
Until the property meets your expectations, you can withhold the deposit. In order to legally keep the security deposit, you also need to prove the original condition of your property. This is why an initial viewing is recommended. If possible, take photos both before and after. In the event that the tenant disputes your claims, the tenancy deposit scheme will assess the case and decide how much of the deposit you’re entitled to
TYPES OF CLEANING SERVICES TO CONSIDER
It’s not uncommon for both tenants and landlords to utilize professional cleaning services. Sometimes tenants hire professionals on their own to avoid being charged later on. Others hire professionals out of the kindness of their heart. They want to return the property at the end of tenancy in the same way they received it. This is how it should be, but isn’t always the case.
When letting HMO properties (house in multiple occupations), landlords sometimes hire regular professional cleaning services to routinely clean and maintain the common areas. These cleaners generally come in several times a week and the cost is rolled into the monthly rent. Hiring a professional cleaning service for HMO properties also helps keep the peace between multiple tenants, which means fewer headaches for you!
A common point of contention at the end of tenancy between landlords and their tenants is carpet cleaning. Most cleaning companies don’t include carpets in their price, which means it’s an added expense you need to account for. It does, however, make a big impact on the appearance of your property.
Whether or not the tenant left a mess or stains, investing in a carpet cleaning service at the end of tenancy will remove unwanted smells and give the entire space a facelift. In situations where you’ve had long-term tenants, it might make more financial sense to replace the carpets completely.
TIPS FOR TRANSITIONING YOUR RENTAL PROPERTY
So your former tenants are gone and you’re prepping for your next renters. Cleaning the apartment is a given. But what other projects and steps can you take to smoothly transition from one renter to the next? Here are a few things to keep you busy and put you in the best position for your upcoming letting arrangement.
Give It a Paint Job
Chances are, your property will need a fresh coat of paint between tenants. Chipping and peeling are completely normal, so don’t get overwhelmed. You also can’t charge your former tenants for a new paint job, but applying a fresh coat of paint is actually an investment. Not only is it relatively inexpensive but it completely transforms the living space. You also want to choose a neutral colour that is appealing to most people. Be sure to add a clause in your agreement that doesn’t permit tenants to change the paint colours. The last thing you want is to discover your previous tenants painted the rooms black or another obnoxious colour that’ll turn into a costly fix for you.
Perform Routine Repairs
This is the perfect time to perform routine repairs and maintenance. This might include necessary repairs due to the previous tenants or long-term wear and tear that’s been in need of repair for some time. Do a walkthrough and look for dripping faucets, uneven floorboards, or loose cabinets. Update anything that might pose a danger or look unkempt to the next tenants.
Changing the locks is an important step between tenants. Not only does it protect your property but it ensures the safety of the next tenants. Even if your previous tenants were trustworthy people, it’s not appropriate for them to have continued access to the property. This also protects you from future liabilities.
Check and Change Smoke Detector Batteries
As the landlord, it’s your responsibility to ensure tenant safety. This means checking and changing the batteries in all of the property’s smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Some new building codes require these devices to be hardwired, which is safer and less maintenance for you in the long run. Be sure to check the detector’s expiration dates — they generally expire after 10 years. If your devices still require batteries, don’t take the previous tenant’s word for it that they’ve been changed recently. Double-check them yourself to avoid legal complications.
BE PREPARED TO PUT IN SOME WORK AT THE END OF TENANCY
Cleaning up after tenants is all part of being a landlord. That’s why some renters choose to pay property manager fees to share some of the responsibilities.
Either way, be prepared for tenants whose idea and standard of cleaning may not be the same as yours. Before you keep their security deposit to cover cleaning services, perform a walkthrough and final inspection. While it’s illegal to charge them for a professional cleaning service, if the property requires a lot of work, you can deduct it from their security deposit.
Cleanliness is another important reason to properly vet prospective tenants. It’s also the reason many landlords hire letting agents and property managers to help oversee their property.