How clean is clean? How to avoid a filthy problem at the end of a tenancy

Our figures on disputes tell us that cleaning is the most common issue that will cause a dispute to arise. Although less than 1% of tenancies end in dispute, of these, cleaning is mentioned in 57%.

The Tenancy Deposit Scheme (TDS) is a firm believer that prevention is the most effective method of dispute resolution.

In this blog, we will lay out some best practice principles you can implement at the start of a tenancy to lessen the chances of needing to raise a cleaning dispute at the end of a tenancy.

How clean is clean?

One of the main reasons for a dispute over cleaning to arise is a miscommunication between tenants, agents and landlords about what standard of cleaning is expected at the end of the tenancy. There are many different standards of cleaning, and the difference between these standards can be very subjective.

For example, you may expect a property to be cleaned to a professional standard – that is the gold standard of cleanliness, and should show no evidence of a person having been there. For example, no smears on glass, no fingerprints on appliances, no dust on the tops of doors. Imagine someone inspecting the property in white gloves, checking for dust under sofas and on skirting boards. In comparison, a tenant may clean to a domestic standard fit to live in and generally clean – if the sofa is moved you may find some dust bunnies. This is where the miscommunication can build into a dispute.

Lay out at the beginning of the tenancy what standard of cleaning the property is presented in. You can expect the property to be returned in the same condition of cleanliness.

Communicating this to the tenants at the start and end of the tenancy will go a long way to setting expectations and avoiding a dispute over cleaning charges.

Cleaning best practices

The key to getting the tenant to meet your expectations is to be descriptive when detailing cleaning standards. You can list this in both the tenancy agreement and the inventory, and remember that cleaning is not subject to fair wear and tear. If you note that the property was cleaned to a professional standard prior to the tenancy beginning, then you can expect it to be cleaned to the same standard at the end.

When a tenant gives notice, you may wish to give them a pre-checkout checklist, making particular note of areas which are often overlooked, or are particularly subjective. For example, rather than simply noting that the tenant should ‘Ensure the kitchen is clean’ you can specifically a list where you want them to clean, and what that entails. For example:

  • Clean and degrease oven
  • Clean and degrease hob
  • Defrost and clean out fridge/freezer
  • Empty and clean kitchen bin

This is not an exhaustive list, but it should give you some examples of what you could consider including.

Cleaning disputes

If, after all your preparations, the tenants do not clean to an acceptable standard, then you will need to prepare for a dispute. Preparing for a dispute is something to be done at the start of the tenancy – as afterwards could be too late.

As part of the inventory and check-in process, don’t simply mark down what items are there – also mention the age and condition of the item, remembering to include the features of the property itself such as walls, skirting boards, doors, etc. For example, you may describe your living room as follows:

  • Freshly laundered lined curtains, blue and beige checked material. Two years old – no frays, tears or stains.
  • Steam cleaned twist carpet in pale cream colour. Three years old, slightly worn by doors but no stains, marks or other damage.
  • Painted walls and skirting boards, last refreshed in October 2016. No chips or marks, professional standard.

As you can see, this clearly lays out what state the property is in at the start of the tenancy. If at the end of the tenancy the check-out report stated that the walls were dented and the paint was chipped beyond wear and tear, you would be able to show a clear deterioration in condition.

Cleaning dispute prevention checklist

There are many things you can do to try and protect your property. The following are only suggestions and the list is not exhaustive.

  • In the tenancy agreement note the cleaning standard you expect the property to be in by the end of the tenancy.
  • In the tenancy agreement note that if the property is not cleaned to a high enough standard you can use the tenant’s deposit to cover professional cleaning costs.
  • In the inventory note the condition of all items; pictures can be useful as supporting evidence but can seldom replace a comprehensive written description.
  • During the check-in explain to tenants what is expected of them when the tenancy ends.
  • Send a pre-checkout checklist to tenants when you receive their notice.

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  1. Woodentop

    Lay out at the beginning of the tenancy what standard of cleaning the property is presented in. You can expect the property to be returned in the same condition of cleanliness.


    Is it now? You say fair wear and tear is not included! H’mm I can recall a ruling that asking for carpets to be cleaned at the end of a tenancy was not enforceable in a tenancy agreement. I know of many rulings over claiming for cleaning being rejected by different deposit protection adjudicators under fair wear and tear = trivial claims. Subjective is what is fair, some are obvious but others are not.

    1. OmegaGeorge

      Yeah!! I am pretty sure that no tenants would clean the flooring, stuff before they hand over the room to another member. This issue of cleaning the flooring tiles and carpets has been a serious issues, mostly on rainy days. One should install the Flooring tiles according to the expert suggestions, and advice, as they will know about what type of flooring will be more suitable for home. Get some of the advice from Sacramento flooring ( ) experts.

  2. Homefinders Plus

    As woodentop mentions, this is all rather subjective although there is a fairly easy answer: The landlord pays for a professional clean at the start of letting the property, the tenant pays for one at the end and the property is therefore professionally clean for the next tenant, who again professionally cleans at the end of the tenancy, providing a receipt.




  3. PeeBee

    “Although less than 1% of tenancies end in dispute, of these, cleaning is mentioned in 57%.”

    Sorry – could you please clarify if that is 57% of ALL tenancies, or 57% of the 1% of tenancies that “end in dispute”?

    1. TenancyDepositScheme

      It is 57% of the less than 1%. Although please note that the ‘less than 1%’ applies to the number of disputes adjudicated on by all three deposit protection schemes, when compared to the total number of deposits protected by all three schemes. For more information please see: 


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