Out of all the reasons listed for causing disputes between landlords and tenants, cleaning has emerged as the most common issue in the UK’s private rental sector. Data revealed by the Tenant Deposit Scheme revealed cleaning has been consistently the most common problem in dispute cases, and is now at its highest levels since the scheme began. Cleanliness of the property accounted for 56% of all disputes in 2013, up from 46% in 2010. Damage to property came in as the second highest cause of disputes at 43%, followed by redecoration and rent arrears.
Popular examples of unacceptable cleaning standards include stains to carpets or furnishings, dirty ovens and fridges, heavy limescale on kitchen and bathroom furnishings and profound dust and cobwebs. However, more cleaning disputes are raised to the TDS by tenants than landlords, with 21% of tenants receiving their total deposit back and 19% of landlords keeping 100% of the amount.
The difficulty of the situation is that many landlords and tenants obviously have varying opinions in what is classed as a clean and acceptable condition to leave the property in. Everyone has different ideas of hygiene standards, which can become a problem for landlords when it comes to replacing tenants. Cleaning charges can vary from £10 to £20 an hour depending on the area and how much cleaning is needed, so extremely dirty properties can cost a lot and lead to landlords leaving properties unnecessarily empty for longer.
Ovens are apparently the top problem, as tenants leave grease and burnt food for months then cannot remove it. If it was completely clean on the inside and outside when moving into the property, it has to be left in the same condition; burn marks or any residue can lead to cleaning charges of up to £80. Another major problem is pets kept by tenants without the permission of the landlords, leading to pet hair embedded in carpets or furnishings left scratched or gnawed.
To prevent any disputes over cleaning when the rental contract is over, it is vital that both landlords and tenants:
- Do a thorough inventory together on moving in. If the house is spotless, landlords need to stress to tenants that this is how they must leave the property. Both parties take photographic evidence of the condition of carpets, appliances and furniture. Similarly, tenants must highlight any dirty areas or stains by making a note on the inventory and taking a photograph in case a dispute does arise in the future.
- Be very clear on rules regarding pets and redecoration. Most landlords have a no pets rule for the pure reason of the mess they make, but some animal loving tenants may agree to pay for professional cleaning services before they leave. Redecoration rules should also be used with discretion, as tenants who wish to redecorate may be doing landlords a favour in the long term, provided they don’t spill paint on the carpets.
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