Cleaning expectations when moving out of apt.

robine66December 21, 2006

We live in a house that was converted into three apartments. Our landlord is an older lady and has been very nice to us. Prior to us moving, she supposedly hired a woman to clean the entire apartment. Now that we are moving, she expects us to clean the apartment so that it is in the same condition it was when we moved in. She went on to explain that we would essentially need to clean like the woman she hired did - washing floors, ledges, windows, inside cabinets, stove, refrigerator, etc. Assuming the apartment is in good shape to begin with, my experience is that most landlords want you to sweep, perhaps spackle any holes in the walls and just do a general light cleaning as they will bring someone in to a more thorough cleaning after you're gone.

We are moving into our first house, and I frankly do not have the time to go back to that apartment once we've moved all our stuff out to clean it top to bottom. We've consided hiring someone to do it, but we will have to foot the bill. Our landlord said she had some kind of paper she meant to have a sign when we moved in agreeing to this kind of cleaning, but she "forgot" to give it to us.

She's really been nice overall, and I hate to make waves. But are her expectations unrealistic? What has been your experience?


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I would never consider moving out of a place without cleaning it. And yes, that means washing floors, ledges, windows, inside cabinets, stove, refrigerator, toilets, etc.

The landlord is not expected to clean up after you.

Some landlords require that all the walls be washed when you move out. Some even require that the carpets be professionally cleaned AND the drapes and/or blinds be professionally cleaned. And you think you don't have to clean your stove and refidgerator?

You are asking if it is unrealistic for your landlord to expect you to leave it as "clean as you moved in". Why would the landlord NOT expect that?

How long could cleaning this apartment take? I am assuming that you cleaned the fridge, oven, ledges toilets, and sinks on a regular basis all the while you lived there. Another quick wipe of everything and a coating of oven cleaner should take about an hour of time with the two of you doing it. Or is the real problem that you never kept the place up all the while you lived there and it is going to take two days to chisel all the gunk and grime out?

You say you are to busy to clean so I suggest that you will have to hire a cleaning service to do it for you. If you don't, the landlord will probably hire a cleaning service, like she had to do when the previous tenants moved out, and then deduct it from your security deposit like she probably did with the previous tenants.

    Bookmark   December 21, 2006 at 4:06PM
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I think most commercial landlords require the place to be swept and reasonably clean. It's not uncommon for them to require you to get a professional carpet-cleaning service in. In many localities, they are required to repaint, so washing walls isn't that necessary.

But she's not a traditional commercial landlord.

An empty apartment cleans very rapidly--no furniture to maneuver around, etc. Are you sure you could recruit help? Or, check on prices for cleaning ladies, and stress that the apartment will be empty.

    Bookmark   December 21, 2006 at 4:55PM
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Her expectations are not the least bit unrealistic. You indicate you're time is valuable, you'll be too busy and are reluctant to foot the bill for cleaning. She can say the same to you, and she's not the one who lived there day to day. There's no 'supposedly' about it - the place was either clean when you moved in or it wasn't. Why would you expect to walk away and leave gunk on the walls, crumbs and crud in the appliances and lord knows what in the bathroom and not be responsible for it? Even if there's no 'separate' piece of paper regarding cleaning specifics, there is most likely a clause in your lease that the place will be in 'good and tenantable' condition upon your departure. You have a responsibility to clean up. It's the right thing to do. If you opt not to, she has the right to take it out of your deposit.

I had a guy once who left a house filthy. He and his family lived there 7 years (I took over the house toward the very end of his lease.) He was giving me all kinds of arguments and reasons as to why he deserved his deposit back. Since I came into the picture late, I guess he thought this one, the jewel of them all, would work: "It's not our dirt. It was here when we moved in." He didn't get his deposit back...

    Bookmark   December 22, 2006 at 8:20AM
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Your landlady's expectations are not unrealistic. It is normal to leave an apartment in a similar condition to the way it looked when you moved in.

It isn't that expensive to have someone come in and clean after the furniture is out. I've done it several times. It will probably cost under $100.00. Especially if you've been maintaining the property adequately during your tenancy.
Remember, what comes around goes around. Do the right thing by your nice landlady and leave her with a good feeling (and reference) about you.

Congratulations on your new house.

    Bookmark   December 25, 2006 at 7:20PM
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You could not clean and perhaps not get back your security deposit.
I have gone as far as to steam clean the carpets (although most places are required to put in new carpet after 2 years I think)
It is proper ettiqutte to clean when you move.Yes,they will have re-paint and stuff,but everything should be clean.

    Bookmark   December 29, 2006 at 6:15AM
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People are just mean. Look at what happened to me ( a landlord):
Tenent said He would not pay me Dec. rent because he was leaving at the end of the month. He wanted to live the Security deposit money. I said No but he said forget it "you already have that money - I ain't paying you." He leaves Dec. 16th and NOW wants part of he Security deposit money back!! I said "are you crazy? - you didn't pay December's rent!" - Well, he left the apartment a TOTAL MESS - trash, rotting food, garbage, furniture, over 100 holes in the walls, filty rug, etc.
I spent over $1500 just to get the place in shape to rent again. I really hate people who are just plain mean and call themselves Christians!
So, please clean your apartment and be nice.

    Bookmark   December 31, 2006 at 10:23AM
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yvette123, what a terrible way to end one year and start a new one. I empathize with you. And that type behavior/scenario is exactly why I raised my security deposits to $1000 minimum. (We're not in the city, so many applicants have balked at that amount, but so be it.) As you illustrated, when there's a lot of damage/deep cleaning to be done, the money just doesn't go very far.)

    Bookmark   December 31, 2006 at 10:30AM
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I expect a tenant to move out by noon of the last day of the month and have the apartment ready for the new tenant to move in 24 hours later. I don't want to do anything as I wouldn't have time to do it myself or find a cleaning crew on such short notice.

THe 24 hours does leave me a little room and I do have a few people that will get clean, or repair if I call on short notice, but that is my expectations.

Never been an issue as when I show apartments for rent I can typically tell how the tenant will leave the property. I also educate the current tenant on my expectations and remind them in the last 30 days of occupancy. If its not ready for re-rent the current tenant can and will be held responsible for temp. housing, lost rent, (up to new lease signed with new tenant) cleaning expenses, etc.

It's only fair, if you leave a place that can't be lived in when rented to pay rent/cleaning.

    Bookmark   January 1, 2007 at 1:46PM
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I agree you should be leaving a place clean and ready to move in to. to me that doesn't mean that you scub and sanatize every place you can see. just don't leave trash everywhere, sweep and vacuum the carpets clean the sinks, tubs and toilets, mop the floors, wash any dirt you can see off walls and trim so it looks good. if you had a pet by all means rent a steam cleaner and do the carpets unless your landlord has collected a pet fee to cover that. don't leave any food in the cabnets or the refigrator. Clean that out too once its empty, unplug or turn it off and leave the doors open so it don't get a musty smell if the power in the place is turned off. you need to leave the place atleast broom clean. think about how you would like it to be when you move in. I never expect to have a perfectly clean place when I first move in but it should be clean enough to move in and start living and unpacking.

I have heard of renters doing some odd things too. one that got me when I bought my house is the renters that lived in my apartment before took all but 2 of the light bulbs.seriously how much do they cost? what would make you think to take them? being on my side of it I would want it left as clean as possable. If I had to spend more than an hour cleaning to make a place showable to prostective tenants I would deduct from the deposit for that or the cost of hiring a cleaning lady. I expect to hav spackling and touch up painting to do that should not be an issue.

another thing is expecting the security depost to cover the last months rent. in PA its actually not legal to do that. its written in the landlord tenant act. the serurity deposit is to cover for minor damages that may have happened during the contract and to help ensure that the tenant proforms his duties of the lease, it is not ment to be monthly rent at anytime. also be sure to give your landlord your new address so he can mail you any deposit you have coming back. in most states they have to send it back to you within 30 days in full or with a statement of what they took money from it for and the amounts. if you don't give a new address in my state the landlord can just keep your deposit since he don't know where to send it that he can be sure you will get it.

    Bookmark   January 5, 2007 at 1:55PM
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Mike - and how do I enforce the YOU CAN NOT USE THE SECURITY DEPOSIT AS LAST MONTH RENT rule??? These two tenants laughed in my face. I have that rule in the lease document and in a separate sheet that they have to sign. I need to learn how to make a claim though a collection agency. I could threaten them with that.

    Bookmark   January 5, 2007 at 6:35PM
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Yvette that is not going to be an easy thing to inforce. when a tenant would till me that I would remind them that its not legal for them to do that and it is a voilation of their lease. they are not likely to care much since they are moving, but from the time they say they are not paying and don't plan to pay the rent as agreed in the lease you could start evicting them. send them a notice to pay or quit, thretten to evect them, that may scare them into paying or do nothing take the deposit and if damages, more cleaning work is needed and the unpaid rent don't cover it take them to small claims court for what they still owe you. you would be in the right so you would win. if you had all your documentation in order and in most cases a lawyer is not needed in small claims.

    Bookmark   January 6, 2007 at 9:12AM
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yvette: I also won't let tenats use deposits for last months rent. I remind them of this and their other obligations when I get their notice. If rent is late I put my typical late rent note on their door with the late fee added in. It also says the next actions I will be taking if not recieved in X amount of days.

I have used a collection agencies before. Check your yellow pages. They will send out a note on their letter head demanding monies be mailed to me, (no charge to me) This letter typicaly is enough as they know I mean buisness and it will effect their credit and rental history. If I don't get the money before they have moved out the collection is turned over to the collection companies leagal team. Here they will garnish wages and deffinatly put a mark on their credit scores. I only get around half of what the collection company gets BUT they will collect not only the late rent but $500-$1000 in court/ leagle fees.

Basically if they move out before they pay I might get $400 instead of $500 but the tenant will end up paying around $1000 and have lots of future problems. Depending on the renter me losing a $100 might be worth their head aches.

    Bookmark   January 6, 2007 at 10:42PM
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My last apartment I occupied for about 90 days. During those three months I was rarely ever home. I worked most of the time so the only time I was home was to sleep and eat a quick meal. I can honestly say I was not home 85% of the time. The deposit was 400 dollars. The apartment was still very clean when I left. Since I was rarely ever there the appliances were still clean. The carpet was still clean, some even had the marks left from the time they steam cleaned the carpet before I moved in. There were no holes in the wall. The restroom was clean. In other words, the apartment was still almost as clean as the day I moved in. I only received 100.00 of my deposit. They claimed they had to repaint the walls, clean the carpet, hire a cleaning crew. I asked for receipts and they gave me the copies of what the apartment manager was charged for cleaning my apartment and it was ridiculous. Some of the charges were 80 dollars for paint, 75 dollars for cleaning the linoleum and other outrageous fees. had I know they would essentially be keeping my deposit I would have made sure I left the place dirty.

    Bookmark   January 23, 2007 at 9:58PM
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check w/ your local tenant agency. In my jurisdiction, landlords are REQUIRED BY LAW to paint between tenants, and they MAY NOT charge you for it.

There may be limits on what they can charge for a service as well--an outrageous fee may not be acceptable.

But it may also be a royal PITA to document, and take them to small claims court, etc.

    Bookmark   January 24, 2007 at 10:28AM
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It's more realistic for a tenant to clean the apartment thoroughly among moving out than for the new tenant to be stuck with the job. You may feel you dont have time to clean it like that, but I'm sure the people going through the stress of moving into the new place don't feel like it either. (Not to sound harsh here, so don't take me the wrong way please)

Things I find reasonable:
Washing walls, fridge, counters, carpet, bathrooms, toilets, etc.

I dont find it reasonable to require professional cleaning UNLESS the carpet was in bad enough condition from me personally. If the carpet is fine with vacuuming or shampooing it myself, I'd never put out the money to hire a professional, but that's just me. Wear and tear is a normal part of owning buildings, stains are more the tenant responsibility, and so on.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2007 at 6:42PM
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I am a tenant now, and my lease will expire on July 15, and as you, we will be moving to a new home that we purchased. But I am still going to clean and leave the apartment as the way it was given to me when I moved in. I just think its just the RIGHT THING to do. Especially, when they didn't do any of the mess, and now they will have to clean after you.

Good luck

    Bookmark   February 4, 2007 at 9:57PM
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socaldisneydude,they did a number on you! They arent supposed to charge for painting!

I was once charged 300 dollars for one set of metal blinds that got bent. Ask me how blinds cost 300 dollars when you can get some at walmart for like,20 dollars...and they dont even break!

    Bookmark   February 24, 2007 at 1:46AM
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Ok here is the deal folks...I have been on both sides of this debate, as a tenant and as a landlord. I am a former General Contractor, so I have had experience with resident homeowners and renting Landlords.

Unfortunately, we can not use a label to define a generalization for 'landlords' or 'tenants' based solely on those labels; just as we can not do that with a person's race. There are ethical landlords and tenants, and there are pieces of &%$@s from both.

My current landlord is a scum bag. He thinks it is the responsibility of every tenant to maintain the "rentability" of his investment, charging former leasees an outlandish $25/hour to caulk nail holes, while paying the worker $9/hour cash. I know because I used to help him and am good friends with the manager.

There is such a thing as "normal wear and tear". OK, here are the rules: A landlord may not charge a tenant for normal wear and tear. Small nail holes used to hang pictures? Normal. Ordinary paint discoloration? Normal. Minor scuffs on floors and carpets? Normal.

However, that does not mean you can leave the apartment in complete disgust, when you move out. AND it doesn't mean you are obligated to have the apartment professionally cleaned, unless noted in the lease agreement. (If such a clause does exist, go online to see if it is even legal in your state to require that. If it is even legal, there are probably tenant provisions, with regard to obligations.) A "clean" house is subjective to the person looking at it. Some people are freaks about cleanliness. Others are fine if the main elements of the house are clean, leaving dust to settle as it may. And yet others think that if there is a path to walk from one room to the other, they are ready for company.

So unless otherwise noted in a clause in the lease, bringing a rental property up to the same exact condition, as it was in when a tenant moved in is the responsibility of the LANDLORD, or investing owner, of the unit being used as a business, money making, profit earning property. Otherwise, each tenant that performs the necessary measures to bring a unit up to "move in" status, would then be entitled to a stake or share in any future profits gained by the maintenance of the property, beyond normal wear and tear. And remember that No Clause or section of a lease agreement or any other contract can be written in a way that is breaks any local, state, or federal laws. So if you think something doesn't smell right, spend an hour researching it on Google, taking the time to check the sources.

Is it a forum like this that may have facts mentioned but is not a reliable source for legal facts? Or is it your state's .gov site that gives the actual statutes written into law...maybe even the local housing authority...or a lawyer that has offered free online material in eFormat to gain potential clients?

There are certain risks involved in lending, renting, granting temporary usage or access to one's own possessions or properties. If what a landlord is charging for rent is not enough to maintain the unit, that does not entitle him/her to use any portion of the Security Deposit to maintain a 'perfect' status of rentability for future tenants. The landlord should rent the unit for more, to cover those costs of what every business has, as part of its functionality: OVERHEAD!

We all know the difference between blatant damage, intentional or not, and normal living. And we all know that some tenants are just scum bags and should probably be confined to disposable housing of some sort, if such a thing existed. But no matter how many times a landlord has been burnt by one of those tenants, he/she still can't take it out on the next tenant by insisting on unreasonable maintenance on a property that they do NOT own.

Side Note:

As landlords, did you know that you are REQUIRED to add your state's interest percentage to the deposit total times the number of years/months the tenant has rented the unit(s)? In Minnesota it is now 1%. That may not sound like much, but if you add up all that for say 100 units, at an average security of $750 X .01 = $7.50/year times every unit.

That may not seem like much, but it does add up over time, and that interest money does not belong to the landlord, it belongs to the tenants. Also, in that time, the landlord should have been earning around 5% on that same money, sitting in a bank account.

~~@ robine66~~

So to answer your it unreasonable for your landlord to request the condition be as close to the condition as it was when you moved in? Not really.

Are you legally obligated to leave the unit property in the exact same condition that you received it in? the extent discussed above.

Now comes the real question...SHOULD YOU leave it in the best condition possible for her?

That is an ethical question that only you can answer. Was she a good landlady? Did she treat you with respect and take care of any issues diligently, upon your request? Does she have limited resources to do this herself?

Most important of all...Are you going to be able to have a clean conscience, knowing you did what was right?

Remember...Doing what you are legally obligated to do is not always doing what is RIGHT. Doing what is RIGHT always trumps doing what you have the right to do.

    Bookmark   September 25, 2013 at 3:34PM
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