Q&A: My outgoing tenants haven’t cleaned, should I deduct this from their deposit?

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There are no major issues, but my outgoing tenants haven’t cleaned. Should I deduct some money from the deposit for cleaning?

This is always a sore point, for tenants and landlords, as cleanliness is so difficult to judge. Everyone’s definition of ‘clean’ is different, so your tenant might be under the impression that they’ve left the property spotless, while you think it needs a thorough deep cleaning!

Of course, you have no say about how they choose to live in the property for the duration of their tenancy (unless how they choose to live is causing damage to the property or upset to the neighbours), but now they have vacated, it’s understandable that you expect the property to be in a certain condition, ready to re-let.

The Deposit Protection Service did some research that revealed that cleaning issues are the most common cause of deposit disputes in the PRS, usually over half!

Luckily, most of these disputes are rectified without disagreement, but there is a chance that your tenant will fight back and you’ll find yourself in a full-blown deposit dispute, which is a lengthy and complex process. So it is definitely not something you should do just to prove a point!

Take a step back in order to consider how successful you’d be if you went down the route of trying to deduct from a deposit. Have you got a thorough inventory in place, ideally with detailed photographs, depicting the state the property was in when the tenant moved in? Without this, the tenant would argue that it has been returned to you in the same condition it was in when they moved in and you won’t have any evidence to the contrary. 

An inventory isn’t a legal document, but once signed by the tenant to agree that the contents are accurate at the time of moving in, it gives you key evidence should you need it, as the burden of proof sits with you, the landlord. Without an inventory, you are in a much weaker position.

That said, even if you do have an inventory, take some time to assess how bad things are. If the property is only a little grubby, with no lasting damage, it’s often easier just to roll up your sleeves and give it the once over yourself. It’s much quicker and you’ll have it back on the market in no time. 

If you didn’t have an inventory, make sure you book in some time to organise one before your next tenant moves in.

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