The accidental landlord: messy tenants should clean up their act

Here is a clear solution to a dirty problem when renters want to move out — they should get the cleaners in.
Yet again, a couple of tenants have moved out of one of my flats leaving a bit of a mess behind, which makes me wonder whether I should make it a condition of the tenancy that they pay for the property to be professionally cleaned when they leave.
This latest pair did make an effort to clean up after themselves, but they — like all the other tenants before them — clearly didn’t realise that when I said the property must be “deep cleaned”, I didn’t mean “have a bit of a wipe around”.
Even though I write to tenants shortly before the end of their lease spelling out in black and white all the things they need to do when they leave to ensure the safe return of their deposit, they never seem to appreciate that a property should be as clean when they move out as when they moved in.
Or perhaps they just underestimate how long it takes to give every room, every appliance and every item of furniture a really thorough clean.

These two were still frantically sweeping and dusting when the check-out clerk arrived, so obviously there was no time to de-grease the oven, wash the windows, hack away two years’ worth of limescale from the bathroom taps or shampoo the sofa and the mattress.
One of them complained that the clerk was being “picky” when he pointed out the dirty floors, but what on earth was he there for? They were decent tenants, so I’m not going to charge them much for the proper cleaning, but if an agent had been managing the property, I’m sure they would have deducted several hundred pounds from their deposit.
I’ve heard tenants moaning about letting agents charging them because they “forgot” to vacuum a room, but if they leave it dirty, it’s dirty. Right? And who do they think will clean it? Their cleaners, that’s who, and the tenant will have to pay.
The solution is for tenants to hire a professional cleaning agency that provides a deposit guarantee with its end-of-tenancy clean, so if the check-out report shows the job wasn’t up to scratch, or the landlord or letting agent complain, they’ll do it again.
In London, it costs about £150 to £200 for a professional end-of-tenancy clean for a one-bedroom flat, including shampooing upholstery and mattresses. Cleaning carpets will cost more.
This might seem a lot, but it’s better than losing your deposit. Talking of deposits, I’ve been slapped on the wrist by Trading Standards for writing in this column that I take a “non-refundable” holding deposit of £100 to £150 from tenants when they put an offer on a property, which I deduct from the first month’s rent if they move in.
As this is a practice widely used by letting agents and other landlords to prevent tenants changing their minds at the last minute, I thought I should pass on Trading Standards’ position.
It says that while it is acceptable to ask tenants for a holding deposit to secure a property, landlords must explain what it’s for and they mustn’t use the term “non-refundable”. A landlord can deduct out-of-pocket expenses such as credit checks from the holding deposit and also any loss of rent if the tenant doesn’t rent the property, as long as the landlord can quantify the loss, but any surplus must be refunded to the tenant. I hope this clarifies the situation. 
  • Victoria Whitlock lets three properties in south London. To contact Victoria with your ideas and views, tweet @vicwhitlock

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