So, you're ready to move on from the property you're renting, and there's a lot to tick off the list before you leave.
One of the most important things you'll need to sort out is cleaning your rental. To help you, here's a guide to getting your place ready to hand over to your landlord or their agent.
There are a couple of reasons why it's worth spending time cleaning the place you've been renting:
The property's cleanliness is one of the most common reasons behind tenancy disputes. According to the Tenancy Deposit Scheme (TDS), over half of the disputes it adjudicates concern cleaning. By ensuring the property is as clean as when you first moved in, you're more likely to get all of your deposit back.
Get good references
You may need your landlord to provide references when you move into your next property. If you've not cleaned it to an adequate standard before you move out, your landlord may include this information in their reference to your new landlord.
What will your landlord or letting agent be looking for?
The expected level of cleanliness is generally open to interpretation. What one party may consider spotless may be very different from someone else's opinion. This is possibly why so many disputes adjudicated by the TDS are about cleanliness levels.
However, when it comes to cleaning your rented home, your landlord or letting agent should only expect you to clean the property to its standard when you moved in while accounting for general wear and tear.
Therefore, whether you opt to hire a professional cleaner to do the job or decide to do it yourself, it's essential to make sure you have your inventory with you to see what things looked like before your tenancy began. By keeping your inventory with you as you clean each room, you'll be able to focus your attention on cleaning the skirting boards rather than trying to fix the scuff on the wall that was there when you moved in.
What about the request for a professional clean?
Some tenancy agreements contain a clause that asks for a professional clean at the end of the tenancy; however, the Tenant Fees Act 2019 has changed things somewhat. Under the Act, which came into force on 1 June 2019, it's no longer legal for landlords to ask in the tenancy agreement for a range of previously enforceable charges, including clauses to have their property professionally cleaned.
What does 'legitimate and fair' mean?
Landlords putting in claims for fees need to have a legitimate case. Before introducing the Tenant Fees Act, the Office of Fair Trading had stated that requesting a professional clean is an unfair clause and that landlords and letting agents were never in the position to demand this of their tenants.
Whether landlords have a case is ultimately decided by the TDS in instances where they can't agree with the tenants. For example, if you feel that you have cleaned to the standard the property was at when you moved in, but the landlord is withholding your deposit to pay for a professional clean – and if you can prove that you've cleaned it to the standard it was initially at – you will have to dispute your landlord's claim.
Your landlord can still deduct from your deposit to cover the cleaning bill if the property is not cleaned to its level and can prove it, though. So, it's still important to clean the property thoroughly before you move out.
Professional clean vs DIY
You may be trying to decide whether to hire a professional cleaning service or get the property back in order yourself. There are plenty of reasons why both options are attractive:
DIY cleaning job
Cleaning the rental property yourself will be a much cheaper option, meaning you'll have more money available for your new house move.
The downside to doing this is that it can be time-consuming. You'll have to put in the hours to give the property a thorough and intensive clean to get it back to the standard of before you moved in.
Choosing a professional cleaning service offers a stress-free move. By hiring someone to take care of the cleaning, you can concentrate on the rest of your moving day checklist.
You're less likely to have deposit deductions for cleaning if the property is professionally cleaned, as you've chosen an expert team that should make sure the property is spotless.
However, there are some downsides. Professional cleaners can be expensive. Unless a few of you are willing to chip in, it might be one cost too many, especially if funds are running low after you've paid your deposit for your next property.
Also, choosing the right cleaner can prove tricky. As with any service, there's a risk that you could hire a company that doesn't do a thorough job. Check through your inventory to compare the list with the work carried out so that you can be sure it matches up.
How to clean the property yourself
Should you opt to clean the house or flat yourself, you'll need to plan and consider every stage.
To help, here's a step-by-step guide to tackling the deep clean:
Aim to start planning the cleaning process two weeks before your move date. This is so you can double-check your tenancy agreement to make sure you're aware of any cleaning-related clauses and look through the inventory from when you moved in.
From there, create a list of what you need to do and plan out the process so you know when you'll be able to concentrate on critical areas. For example, if there's a spare room, you could decide to start here as this is a space that you can get done and not use again before you move out. Or, you might want to plan everything in to get the carpet cleaned last.
When it comes to starting the cleaning process itself, the amount of time it will take depends on the size of the property, what condition it's currently in and whether it's unfurnished or furnished. Plus, if you're cleaning on your own, the process will take longer than if there are a few of you doing it together.
You might be able to complete the cleaning in a day, or it could take a whole weekend. If you think it will take a while, you'll need to factor this in before your move-out day.
Use the inventory
The inventory is your guide for the deep clean, so keep it with you as you go from room to room and check off every detail listed. If you or your landlord took photos of the property when you moved in, even better. This means that you have a visual and written account of how everything looked when you arrived. Remember, the aim is to get it back into this state, so using these details is the most reliable way.
Use the right tools
Even if you've kept the property spotless throughout your tenancy, you'll still need to sanitise the kitchen and bathroom and vacuum every corner. You'll need some effective cleaning products to get the job done, such as window cleaning solution, disinfectant, scourers, cloths, a good mop and an effective vacuum.
If you're cleaning on a budget or want to reduce waste and plastic use, there are plenty of natural cleaning products that are kind to the environment and won't break the bank. Take one last look at the contents of your kitchen cupboards before you rush out to the shops. Here are some top tips for using up what's left:
- Baking soda can be applied to sinks, toilets and baths in place of cleaning spray – mixed with water. When applied to hard surfaces, baking soda makes an excellent cleaner!
- Salt is the ideal replacement for a plastic scourer. Use a sprinkling on particularly grimy surfaces.
- White vinegar is a cleaning hero. Apply on everything from mould and mildew to stains. It's particularly brilliant for glass, such as windows and shower screens. You may want to apply this a couple of days before your move date, as the smell can be strong.
- Lemon juice is nature's grease buster. Switch this citric acid with your usual spray and apply liberally to worktops, hobs and other surfaces. (note: wooden worktops may not be suitable)
Areas that are used regularly and accumulate the most dirt and grime, such as the kitchen and the bathroom, are best left until last as you'll be using these right up until you leave. These areas also require an intense clean, so you'll need to allow time to focus on these rooms. Jobs such as cleaning the sinks, toilets, hob and inside the oven will need some elbow grease.
Some jobs will need careful timing too. The oven, for example, may need some cleaning solution applied and left for a few hours, so you'll need to plan this in and come back to it.
Consider every detail
While the big jobs such as vacuuming and mopping need attention, so do the smaller ones. Dust is something that gets everywhere and causes many problems for tenants when they come to move out. Skirting boards, wardrobes, coffee tables, and shelves gather dust, so make sure you clean every surface.
In addition, you'll need to wash the windows, frames and doors. These can be easily missed while you're dealing with other tasks on the list, but they're the things that will be checked carefully by your landlord or letting agent.
Other details to focus on include:
- cleaning inside drawers and wardrobes
- wiping sockets and light switches
- removing stains on carpets, walls and upholstery, as well as cobwebs
- wiping appliances down, from the toaster to the soap drawer in the washing machine
- cleaning the bins
If your inventory covers the outside of the property, take some time to ensure this is in order. Tidy up the garden, including removing any animal hutches and the mess that comes with these. Remove anything you may have stashed in the garage or shed, such as garden furniture, children's toys or other belongings, as you may be charged for their disposal.
If there's a lawn, cut the grass and do some weeding, but be careful not to damage existing plants or mature trees. If there's a patio or decking, wash the area. It can be easy to forget this before you go, but an untidy garden can put off the people who may rent after you and the cost to smarten it up to return it how it was when you moved in could be taken out of your deposit.
Do a final check
Make sure you allow time for a final check. Run through your inventory one last time and walk around the property to ensure you've ticked every box. If you can, get a friend to look over it as they may spot something you missed.
Make your choice
Whether you want to take care of the cleaning process yourself or you're leaning towards hiring a professional cleaning team, you will need to choose as soon as you know your moving date to start making preparations.
Your landlord wants you to leave the property as you found it so that the next tenants can move right in. If you keep this in mind, you'll be able to leave a spotless flat or house behind, and you'll be more likely to walk away with excellent references and your full deposit back.