How To Ensure You Get Your Property Back Clean!
How do I make sure I get my property back clean?
We move a lot of tenants in and out every week, and disputes over the deposit are thankfully rare. The main reason for this is that we are very thorough in making sure that the expectations of the landlord are communicated and, where necessary, enforced during the tenancy.
Nevertheless, disputes do occur, and the main reason for this is usually because the landlord and tenants have different expectations of what “clean” means. Most tenants make very genuine efforts to return the property in the right condition, but I find it best to avoid confusion right from the start.
The most important two items a landlord needs for a tenancy are the inventory, and the tenancy agreement. The first of these shows, clearly and impartially, what the condition of the property was when it was handed over. I cannot emphasise enough, that having no inventory is a dreadful idea, and having a poor one is almost as bad! If all that your inventory says is: “living room carpet, good condition” and the like, then you may as well not have bothered at all. Vague statements like that won’t get you anywhere if a dispute starts – and the law presumes that the tenant is correct 90% of the time. So you need photographs, in colour and of good quality, along with a detailed description of every part of the property. Agencies like mine use special software to create a digital inventory, and we often spend up to 3 hours making sure that we have everything possible covered. If you’re letting your own place, I suggest that you do the same!
This then sets an accurate baseline against which any damage can be measured. Remember that “fair wear and tear” should also be expected and allowed for when deciding if the property has been returned in a fit condition.
A tenancy agreement is there to set out the obligations of both the landlord and the tenant. Therefore your tenancy agreement should also make reference to cleaning. You’d imagine that any adult would understand that it’s a good idea to keep the property clean and reasonably tidy during the tenancy in order to prevent stains and other longer-term issues – but not everyone agrees! So make a reference to this in the tenancy agreement, which will allow you to enforce the desired behaviour if things go very wrong. You must also explain that the deposit can and will be used to return the property to a clean condition if the tenant does not do so – if you do not, then any adjudicator would immediately rule against you in the event of a dispute, regardless of the other circumstances.
If you impose any special conditions then these also need to be mentioned in the tenancy agreement. Typically this includes situations such as insisting on a professional cleaning of the house where you have agreed that the tenant can keep pets. Where this occurs, it is a good idea to get a separate signature from the tenant and landlord (or agent) against this particular clause.
Finally, I’ll go back to the start. When you first let the property, I would pay for a professional leaner to do the whole house. It might seem pointless, but consider this: if you keep the receipt (and write it off against tax), then you can prove that the house was clean to a professional standard before the tenant moved in. That means that a clause in the tenancy agreement that they must pay for a professional clean on move out will be easier to enforce – and everyone gets to avoid disagreement! This method costs a little more all round, but once again; What’s your time worth?