End of Tenancy Rights and Responsibilities of Tenants and Landlords
End of tenancy cleaning is a major cause of dispute between tenants and landlords, and it is important that both parties know their rights and responsibilities. These include who should pay for what, required level of cleanliness, and what fair wear and tear is. Here is a brief guide on why end of tenancy cleaning should be done and what the tenant’s and landlord’s responsibilities are.
Why Clean When Moving Out
Ideally, tenants would keep the premises tidy, organized, and clean during their enire stay. Some people do while others don’t. Tenants are under no legal duty to maintain the property clean. For obvious reasons, we don’t have legislation on daily or weekly window cleaning, dusting, or mopping. What a landlord can do is politely request that tenants address specific issues such as a dirty oven or piles of rubbish but there is no legal recourse for the duration of the tenancy agreement. The only responsibility that tenants have is to ensure a safe environment for everyone in the building. Landlords can take an action to address serious safety and health risks but this usually goes beyond regular cleaning. As there is no legal mechanism to ensure that tenants keep the property in good condition, landlords will thoroughly inspect the premises to check for damages and determine the level of cleanliness.
⇒Tenants’ Rights and Responsibilities
Once the lease agreement has ended, tenants have the responsibility to leave the property in the same condition it was when they moved in. For both landlords and tenants, it is recommended to take photos of all premises and appliances at the start of the tenancy. These can serve as evidence of the level of cleanliness at the time when the property was leased. The landlord or building manager will also provide a copy of a written inventory listing all items indoors and outdoors. These can include:
- Back door
- Front screen
- Baseboards and cabinets
- Cutlery and crockery
- Pans and pots
- Gas and electrical
- Bath suite
The inventory includes a description of the condition of each item on the list. If the stove or oven is described as clean throughout or as new, this is how the landlord expects it to be. In case of failure to do so, a portion of the deposit will be deducted to pay for the cleaning.
What Tenants Should Know About Wear and Tear
Fair wear and tear has nothing to do with cleanliness and refers to gradual deterioration due to use. This depends on several factors, including the age and number of inhabitants, the condition the property was in, and the length of tenancy. The longer the tenancy, the more wear and tear should be expected. Whether the fixtures and fittings are old or brand new is also a factor to determine what the fair wear and tear is. Additionally, the age and number of tenants is an important consideration. A group of college students or a family with young children is likely to cause more wear and tear than a single occupant or an elderly couple. The same holds for tenants with three or more children and extended families living under one roof. More tenants also mean more heavy use and foot traffic in communal spaces such as the kitchen, bathrooms, hallways, and living and dining room.
Tenancy agreements usually define wear and tear as a reasonable use of appliances, fixtures, and premises. No property can remain in a spotless condition after years of use. However, if there are any burns, rips, or stains, this doesn’t fall under the definition of fair wear and tear. The landlord has the right to make reasonable deductions for any damages made. This holds for intentional damages such as:
→Damaged household appliances due to bad or inappropriate use
→Broken bed frames, tables, and chairs
→Broken curtain poles
→Pets causing damage to furniture, carpeting, hard floors, or the premises
→Ruining carpeting with cigarette burns, spills, and stains
→Damages caused by guests or after a party
→Windows broken by tenants or someone they know
In contrast, examples of normal wear and tear are things like:
→Discoloration of upholstery, furnishings, and carpets
→Marks and scratches on worktops, door handles, and wooden furniture
→Painting and redecorating
→High winds causing damage to the property
→Appliances and electronics breaking in the course of normal use and due to age
The checklist for renting in England also offers guidance on what tenants should do when moving out. They should take meter readings, dispose of all rubbish, thoroughly clean the premises, and remove all their possessions. The property should be left in the same condition as it was in the beginning of the lease. All unwanted furniture and other personal belongings must be disposed of through a local collection service.
It is also important that the tenant is present when the landlord inspects the property. This is a way to ensure that possible deposit deductions cover real damages. In case that the tenant disagrees, he has the right to turn to the relevant deposit protection scheme for assistance and dispute resolution.
Rights and Responsibilities of Landlords
It is within the legal rights of landlords and building managers to retain a portion of the deposit to pay for cleaning or cover intentional damages. Landlords are no longer allowed to add cleaning clauses to the tenancy agreement but phrasing stained walls or carpets as intentional damage allows them to keep a portion or all of the deposit.
How much the landlord can charge for cleaning depends on the level of cleanliness before and after the tenant moved. Any photos taken and the inventory report can help to this end. If the check-in report states that the carpet was vacuumed only but not steam cleaned, the landlord can only charge for vacuum cleaning unless there are new spills or stains. Basically, the landlord cannot retain the deposit to make the premises cleaner than the state they were in. He can claim all or a portion of the funds via a deposit protection scheme in case that the tenant has caused damages and the property is in an unacceptable state.
To ensure that the tenant keeps the property in good condition, the landlord must handle a copy of the How to rent checklist. The checklist includes important details such as minimum tenancy period, amount of deposit, permitted fees, etc.
Landlords are also responsible for property maintenance, including problems with gas, electricity, and water supply, maintenance of furniture and appliances, and the exterior and structure of the building. Building managers and landlords must also insure the property to cover damages from fire and flood.
In case the landlord and tenant fail to agree on how the deposit should be split, they can refer the case to a dispute resolution service. Both parties will be asked to provide evidence to support their position and claim. Common types of claims include cleaning, damage to items or property, outstanding utility bills, and contractors fees for repairs and maintenance. When cleaning is the cause of a dispute, evidence may include things like:
- Copies of any correspondence between both parties
- Video recordings
- Date stamped photographs
- Quotes, estimates, receipts, and invoices
- Periodic inspections of the property
The evidence provided by the tenant and landlord is then sent to an independent adjudicator for review. It is his responsibility to determine whether the deposit should be split and how it should be repaid. The decision is then sent to all interested parties. It is important to note that the landlord or building manager must submit a signed copy of the tenancy agreement. The adjudication process will not proceed if the landlord fails to provide evidence of contractual obligations. The landlord can also submit signed reports of periodic inspections that have been carried out to ensure that the property is clean and well maintained. Periodic reports are not as detailed as check-out and check-in reports but can still serve as evidence in case of a dispute. It is also important that landlords send follow-up to tenants and notify them in writing.
In terms of the timeframe to resolve a dispute, the tenant and landlord must submit evidence within 14 days from the start of the adjudication procedure. Once all evidence has been submitted, the adjudicator has 28 days to notify both parties of the outcome of their case. While the whole process can take a good amount of time, it is usually much shorter.
Even when a dispute is still under review, the tenant and landlord can still reach an agreement that feels fair and right. The decision is binding and final once the adjudication process has been completed.
When calculating any reward of damages, the adjudicator takes a number of factors into account, including fair wear and tear, betterment, and type of remedy, which can be a compensatory award, cleaning, replacement, or repair.