What is clean?
One of the biggest contributing factors when it comes to getting your deposit back is cleanliness. Your responsibility as a tenant is to return the property in as similar condition as possible to that in which it was provided when you moved in, with the exception of fair wear and tear of course (something we’ll cover another time).
Aside from wear and tear vs. damages, cleanliness is often an area where people “drop the ball”. Inventory clerks are used as an impartial opinion, their job is to say what they see. There is no judgement on our part, it’s unnecessary as the report should tell the story of your tenancy. If your property was recorded as unclean when you moved in you would not be expected to pay for a professional clean when you move out. If you moved into a brand new apartment or a home that had received a full professional clean, you would be expected to organise a professional clean at the end of your tenancy without fail.
There are a few areas which seem to cause issue. The first is the term “domestically cleaned”. Many landlords will give the property a good clean themselves prior to a new tenancy starting. They may even pay a professional domestic cleaner to come in for a few hours. Cleaning such as this is unlikely to include deep or detailed cleaning, your oven would be free of debris but may still have some burnt in marks, your sink would be cleaned but your taps may not gleam. Most domestic cleans vary in quality throughout the property, the kitchen may look great but the bathrooms could do with another wipe over etc. These things will be specified in a good check in report. If you have moved into a domestically cleaned property then that is how it should be returned, it is not license to pass judgement that the clean was not good enough and decide to not clean for the 2 months of your notice period as punishment and expect this to be seen as reasonable (trust me, it no longer surprises me how many people are happy to admit to this). If your check in report says domestically clean, give it a really good clean yourself before leaving no matter what the circumstances of your departure. You may not be liable for the full cost of a professional clean, but if you leave an unclean property it may be deemed fair to deduct a percentage cost towards a professional clean from your deposit.
What’s a professional domestic cleaner? This is a pitfall which many tenants fall into. There are some fantastic cleaners out there who work for an hourly rate and specialise in tenanted cleans. They will come into your place for a few hours and clean up so that you can have a break and it’ll probably look far better than it would if you did it yourself. Their product is designed to save you time at a reasonable cost and be just good enough for you to prefer it over your own skills so that you’ll go back to them next time. Paying a professional domestic cleaner an hourly rate to complete your end of tenancy clean is going to cost you less of course, but the product that you will get at the end will be exactly the same as they always provide, a really good domestic clean. That isn’t their fault, they are only doing the job that they always do. Would you hire your favourite street food vendor to cater a 5 course awards evening dinner for 100? Unlikely, but a chef is a chef right! (If they made a success of that then they are possibly in the wrong job!)
I’m not going to lie, full professional end of tenancy cleans are not cheap but your expenditure should come with the guarantee that if any part of the clean is listed as unsatisfactory during your check out inspection they will return and rectify it. Below are a few pointers.
Discuss check out expectations with your managing agent or landlord when you give notice. It’s not a test that you don’t get to revise for, you can ask! “My report says that the property was professionally cleaned when I moved in, please could you provide the invoice so that I can ensure that the property is cleaned to the same standard”.
Does your agent or landlord have a recommended company? You may feel that you could get a better price elsewhere but if they have a company which they are used to using they will know their standards should match the quality at move in.
If you would still prefer to instruct a company of your own choosing do your research. What is their main product? Does it come with a guarantee? What are the terms and conditions? What does their quote include? Does the work included on their quote match up to the cleanliness recorded when you moved in? If you have paid for a professional clean and your check out report picks up areas which require further attention it should be as simple as reporting this to your cleaning company so that they return to correct it.
Don’t pay a professional domestic cleaner to do the job of a professional cleaning team. They are different products; you are likely to be wasting your money and may just end up getting charged again.
Also, don’t forget that you have a duty of care to the property. No matter how good a cleaning company is, they can’t clean away neglect and misuse. If you haven’t cleaned your property for months, that is your choice. Lack of sufficient and regular cleaning causes damage. No matter how good a cleaning company is, damage is damage. If you have frequently dropped red wine on your carpet and not correctly cleaned it up no amount of professional steam cleaning will bring out all of the stains. Limescale build up is a killer. Take a look at your taps/shower head/shower screen. Proper care and maintenance will prevent a large percentage of limescale build up but removing it once it’s out of control is hard/nearly impossible without damaging the fittings.
Respect the cycle. Your cleaning may be absolutely 100% the equivalent to a full professional end of tenancy clean, why may this be a problem? Your landlord has done the right thing by paying for a professional clean to start off with. If each subsequent tenant returns the property professionally cleaned it will be maintained at this standard. If you cannot provide a professional cleaning receipt, the standard of the clean will be noted as a domestic clean completed to a high standard. This may not be an issue to you, and may not cause you any deductions however it may put your landlord in a difficult position as the quality of the cleaning gradually declines over each subsequent tenancy.
The more information you equip yourself with the smoother your transitions will be. Communicate, be part of the process and you are more likely to understand that there are as many bad tenants are there are bad landlords. If everyone in the cycle truly appreciated each other’s positions I guarantee everyone would feel less hard done by.