A landlord's guide to end-of-tenancy cleaning

Superscript
Flexible monthly business insurance
30 June 2022
6 minute read

It’s the part of renting that both tenants and landlords look forward to the least; the cleaning. However, cleaning a property at the end of a tenancy in preparation for a new arrival is a vital part of maintaining a rental home. So what is involved in this major cleaning operation, who is responsible for it and what areas should you not neglect to clean?

Who is responsible for cleaning a rental property?

In the majority of cases of private rental properties in the UK, tenants will clean the property themselves, or hire a professional cleaning company to save them time and effort in getting the home up to the standard of cleanliness that they found it in.

Landlords have actually been banned from contractually requiring tenants to hire professional cleaners at the end of a tenancy since the implementation of the Tenant Fees Act 2019. Forcing a tenant to hire a professional cleaner can incur a fine for the landlord, starting at £5,000.

However, tenants are still responsible for cleaning the property, they just have the option to do it themselves to save money if they wish.

What is fair wear and tear?

When judging how clean or dirty a tenant has left your property when they move out, it is important to differentiate between cleanliness and the general process of deterioration that furnishings and decor goes through over time. The latter is known as fair wear and tear, and this is both expected and not something that you can charge a tenant for. Fair wear and tear can include:

  • Some scuff marks on walls
  • Chipped or peeling paint
  • Worn carpets
  • Faded curtains
  • Frayed and worn soft furnishings such as sofas and armchairs

These elements are not considered dirty, but rather ‘used’. If a tenant has been living in your property for more than a few years, you may want to consider replacing some soft furnishings and redecorating before a new tenant moves in, to keep the place looking and feeling fresh.

Cleaning yourself vs professional cleaning services

Whatever state the previous tenants have left the property, it is vitally important that you, as a landlord, ensure the home is well cleaned before new tenants arrive. This means you may have to make a choice between undertaking all the necessary cleaning yourself, or hiring a professional cleaner to do the work for you.

The obvious upsides of hiring a professional cleaner is that you can expect a high standard of work with minimal or zero effort on your behalf. It will save you time and energy during the transition between tenants.

On the flip side, conducting a clean yourself will save you money, with full house end of tenancy cleans usually ranging from roughly £190-£500 in the UK, according to Checkatrade.

Property type Size Average UK cost
Studio One room £195
Apartment Up to two rooms £250
Apartment Two or three bedrooms £315
House Four of five bedrooms £370
House Six or more bedrooms £415

Source: Checkatrade

Cleaning costs and tenant deposits

As mentioned above, landlords are not allowed to charge tenants for a professional clean after the end of their tenancy and, because of this, you cannot deduct the cost of a professional clean from a tenant’s deposit if they have cleaned the property themselves already.

However, it is allowed to state in your tenancy agreement that the tenant must clean the property themselves “to a professional standard” before leaving. This is generally accepted to mean that they return the property to the same or a better state of cleanliness than when they arrived (allowing for fair wear and tear).

If a tenant does not clean the property when they leave and the place is left in a clearly dirtier state than when they arrived, you can reasonably seek to deduct the cost of a professional clean from their security deposit.

Property cleaning checklist

So, if you have decided to clean your property yourself ahead of the arrival of your new tenants, then here is a checklist of tips to get your rental property looking spick and span.

Living areas and bedrooms

Depending on whether your property is rented out as furnished or unfurnished, you may have a number of items of furniture, soft furnishings and fittings to clean in the living room and bedrooms. In these areas, you should:

  • Vacuum all carpets
  • Dust and wipe down all hard furniture
  • Move furniture to vacuum and clean underneath
  • Remove and machine wash all appropriate soft furnishings (eg. sofa covers)
  • Clean interior of windows and wipe down sills
  • Dust behind and on the top of wardrobes and chest of drawers
  • Dust and wipe down picture frames

Kitchen

The kitchen is one of the most heavily used rooms in any home, and one that can get the dirtiest over time. When deep cleaning your kitchen, is it best to:

  • Clean the oven and oven shelves with professional-grade cleaning materials
  • Wipe down all tiling and scrub grouting
  • Clean the inside of the microwave
  • Clean the inside of the fridge
  • Defrost the freezer and clean inside
  • Degrease the hobs
  • Dust, degrease and clean the extractor fan
  • Dust and wipe down all surfaces and the insides of cupboards and drawers
  • Remove limescale from the sink and unblock the drains
  • Wash the sink and polish taps
  • Dust and clean the exterior of any appliances

Bathrooms

In the bathroom, the real enemies are limescale and mildew, but a thorough deep clean should cover many of the following jobs:

  • Use limescale remover on the sink, bath and toilet
  • Clean the basins, taps and fittings
  • Wipe and polish radiators and towel rails (especially if they are chrome)
  • Thoroughly scrub and rinse the toilet
  • Clean the plumbing behind toilet (this tends to accumulate dust and dirt)
  • Wipe water stains from the shower screen
  • Scrub and rinse bath marks and signs of mildew
  • Ensure the drains are unblocked
  • Polish mirrors and glass surfaces
  • Remove limescale from showerheads and taps
  • Clean accumulated dust from the extractor fans
  • Wipe down bathroom tiles and scrub grouting

General cleaning

These tips apply to every room around the property.

  • Use a broom to sweep the ceilings, removing any cobwebs
  • Clean the cornice, curtain rails and picture rails
  • Dust and wipe down the skirting boards and door frames
  • Clean and polish the inside of all windows and wipe down window sills
  • Vacuum all carpets, ideally with a professional grade carpet cleaner

You can usually hire a heavy-duty carpet cleaner for around £20-25 per day, with significant discounts for multiple days, from brands such as RugDoctor.

You should use the opportunity between tenancies to check the paintwork for scuffs and flaking. At this point, the decor may need touching up or fully redecorating ready for the new tenants.

It’s worth remembering that if scuffs and marks on the wall are as a result of fair wear and tear over time, then you cannot charge a tenant for the redecoration work.

Are cleaning costs covered by landlord insurance?

In short, no. Landlord insurance policies do not cover the cost of deep cleaning your property during, or at the end of, a tenancy. However, a landlord insurance policy with Superscript does cover you for the costs involved in the event of malicious damage. If a tenant spills bleach on a sofa and permanently stains it, for example, or drops an iron onto the carpet, burning the fabric, then Superscript’s landlord insurance will cover the cost of replacing or repairing the fittings that have been damaged.

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