In relation to cleaning and cleanliness, the law requires tenants to return the property in the
same state it was in when the tenancy began. For example, therefore, if there were cleaning
issues at the start of the tenancy then the general rule is that the tenant is not expected to
clean the property beyond that standard when the tenancy ends. Many tenancy agreements
will state that a tenant must have a property professionally cleaned before the end of the
Clauses in tenancy agreements are subject to statute and case law and clauses
that are unfair/unreasonable are not enforceable. Nevertheless, in any event, the issue is
not whether the property has been professionally cleaned by a contractor per se; it is the
standard to which the property has been cleaned.
Clauses in tenancy agreements purporting that a professional clean (undertaken by contractors) is mandatory before the tenancy ends are, usually, unenforceable (however, see below and at pets, smoking). Clauses in tenancy agreements requiring a tenant to utilise the services of a preferred cleaner of the landlord/agent are also unenforceable.
Indeed, the expression “professionally cleaned” can be an inaccurate or misleading description,
as, for example, a tenant may be perfectly capable of cleaning the property to the same
standard as a cleaning contractor or, conversely, a cleaning contractor, who falls short of the
standards expected of it might only clean to a standard that is normally expected from a
reasonable tenant. Further, it is not uncommon for a tenant to hire special equipment for
end-of-tenancy cleaning and undertake the work themselves rather than employ the services
of a cleaning contractor.
Was the property professionally cleaned
On occasion, however, a tenant or landlord may agree to an additional, specially negotiated
condition which might allow, for example, a tenant to keep a pet at the property. Such an
additional clause/condition will commonly stipulate that a tenant is allowed to keep a pet at a
property on the condition that the property is “professionally cleaned to a reasonable or good
standard at the end of the tenancy”.
In this specific scenario, the clause requiring a professional clean would, usually, be enforceable (as the tenant receives the quid pro quo of keeping a pet – when keeping pets is, usually, not allowed in standard tenancy agreements). If a tenant fails to keep to their obligations, the cost of the cleaning claimed, however, must still be reasonable.
The check-in evidence
If cleaning is required at the end of the tenancy (as the check-in and out reports show that the tenant has failed to return the property in the same state of cleanliness, for example) then an adjudicator in a deposit dispute will then have to determine what level of award is reasonable. When presented with an invoice for professional cleaning, therefore, the adjudicator will take into account the location and size of the property, however, will also consider whether any pre-existing cleaning issues were shown in the check-in evidence.
If pre-existing issues are shown to have been present at the start of a tenancy or if the cleanliness of the property at the start of the tenancy cannot be determined (for example, due to a lack of any check-in evidence), a full award for a full end-of-tenancy clean will not, usually, be considered reasonable and an award will instead be made which reflects the amount of cleaning required to return the property to its pre-tenancy level of cleanliness.
For the avoidance of doubt, however, whilst the principle of betterment (see my post on Betterment for more detail) applies to cleaning, the principle of fair wear and tear does not.
John Bolton, Adjudicator