Opinion: Cleaning is key for tenants to get back deposits
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The subject of tenants’ deposits is one which often concerns landlords and tenants alike, and whilst the introduction of mandatory tenancy deposit schemes has helped, clarity on what can be recovered by the landlord from the deposit at the end of a tenancy is always the best route to avoiding potential disputes down the line.
One of the most common claims made from tenants’ deposits is for end-of-tenancy cleaning. Of course, cleaning standards are subjective, and professional cleaning bills can be high, depending upon the amount of work required, so it is important tenants do everything they can to avoid seeing their deposit whittled away by cleaning costs.
The overriding principle is that tenants must leave the property in the same condition and standard of cleanliness at the end of their tenancy as it was at the beginning. The most effective way to protect yourself as a tenant is to ensure that you routinely clean the property during the tenancy and certainly undertake a thorough clean at the end of your tenancy and to comply with the above requirement.
Bear in mind also that cleanliness is not subject to ‘fair wear and tear’; an item may be old and worn, but it should still be clean.
Otherwise, there is a lot you could be doing at the beginning of the tenancy as well. This is the time when you can set things straight about the level of cleanliness against which the property will be judged when you move out. Take time to check everything against the schedule of condition provided, including its level of cleanliness.
If, for example, the schedule refers to the oven having been professionally cleaned but you find it greasy to the touch, then you need to note this on the schedule and let the landlord or agent know quickly – usually the schedule has to be returned with any amendments within seven days of the start of the tenancy.
It’s a good idea to take photos to support your claims and provide copies to your landlord or agent, paying particular attention to those parts of any property which tend to need the most cleaning, such as the kitchen, appliances and bathrooms, as well as windows and flooring.
The schedule of condition, and indeed any clauses within the tenancy agreement, establish the benchmark and obligations for cleaning and maintenance by the tenant of the property including decoration, fixtures and fittings and so on. If the property was indeed cleaned to a professional standard before you moved in, then that is how you must leave it, even if that means paying for a professional cleaning job.
If the property was newly decorated at the start of the tenancy then tenants should not attempt any touching up of marks, unless this has been previously agreed with the landlord or agent, as quite often tenants will not know the correct paint colour or finish, and their best intentions can lead to deductions for full redecoration.
As ever, it’s best to engage in dialogue between landlord, agent and tenant right at the start, rather than waiting until a dispute occurs down the line.
Catherine Hunt is lettings property manager at Arnolds Keys.