End of tenancy cleaning: tenant rights & fair prices

Moving is often a stressful exercise, made worse by having to ensure that you leave your rental property in good enough condition to have your deposit fully refunded.  However, tenancy cleaning is imperative if you want to get your deposit back. Even if you carry out regular deep cleans on their homes, cleaning routines can drop off even more in the lead up to moving house. When it comes to vacating a rental property, the overarching guideline is to leave the home in as good a condition as you found it, but the specific expectations are more in-depth than that. 

End of tenancy: responsibilities of the tenant

Tenants are responsible for the regular upkeep of the property in terms of cleanliness, and also to report the need for any repairs and maintenance above and beyond routine requirements. 

When renters fail to maintain reasonable standards of hygiene in the property, they risk causing a variety of health hazards due to such conditions as mould or pest infestations. Rectifying such issues can be extremely costly, and if the tenant is found to be responsible, they will be required to foot the bill. Outdoor areas such as the garden, patio, and driveway are also typically included in this tenant responsibility. 

Outside of that, there are some specialty cleaning jobs that landlords can take responsibility for, such as gutter cleaning, for example. In shared/common areas of a residential building, cleaning duties are typically the responsibility of the landlord or property management.

Thoroughly cleaning your rental is essential to having your deposit returned

According to the Deposit Protection Scheme, more than half of all tenancy deposit disputes (56%) result from accusations of insufficient cleaning. Inflicted damage is the second most common cause, followed by redecoration as the third. 

If you fail to carry out the necessary cleaning before you vacate your rental property, your landlord will likely hire a professional cleaning service to do it and recoup this tenancy cleaning cost by retaining some of your deposit.

Landlords often take this opportunity to hire professional cleaning services that come at a premium, so this is not a cost-effective way to get the job done. Tenancy cleaning costs can be very high compared to standard cleaning costs, so make sure to leave your property in a good condition.

Your landlord will have to provide a receipt as proof of the tenancy cleaning service expense and can only deduct that amount from your deposit for cleaning. It is recommended that you request a copy of that receipt before approving any deposit deductions. 

Look at your inventory report before conducting your end of tenancy clean

The most effective way to judge whether a tenant has left a rental property in a satisfactory state is by comparing the inventory checks and condition reports conducted at the start of the lease to the ones at the end.

So long as you leave the property in as good or better condition than you found it, you should have no problems receiving your deposit back. It is always recommended that tenants carefully check their move-in inventory and take photos of the condition of the property to avoid any disagreements when it is time to vacate.

Special attention should be paid to ensuring that any damage, defects, or out-of-operation appliances are noted at the start of the lease, as it will therefore not be the tenant's responsibility to fix the issue upon leaving. 

Can a landlord force a tenant to hire a cleaning company?

Many people prefer to save on the expense of hiring a cleaning company and do the work themselves. Still, some opt to pay the professionals so they can focus on the other aspects of moving. 

In most cases, the choice is up to the tenant. That said, some landlords do stipulate that professional cleaning must be carried out at the end of a lease. If this is the case, it will be detailed via a clause in tenancy agreements.

In some extreme cases, tenants are forced to pay large sums of money for cleaning despite a short-term lease because they failed to read the fine print when they signed the rental agreement. Thankfully, though, this isn't the norm.

If your tenancy agreement includes this stipulation but you think it's unfair, make sure to have this conversation with your landlord before signing the agreement on your rented property.

Guidance from The Office of Fair Trading

The Office of Fair Trading provides some guidance for this issue in its online information entitled 'Guidance on unfair terms in tenancy agreements.' For example, when addressing end-of-tenancy cleaning, they state the following:

4.4 Cleaning charges

A requirement to pay for cleaning at the end of the tenancy may be unfair if it is vague or unclear about the basis on which money will be demanded, or the extent of the cleaning involved. Such a term is more likely to be fair if the amount of the charge is expressly limited to reasonable compensation if the tenant fails to take care of the property.

4.8 Excessive cleaning charges

As a matter of normal practice in letting property, reflecting the common law, tenants are expected to return the property clean and in the same condition as it was when they received it, with fair wear and tear excepted.

We therefore commonly object to terms that could be used to make the tenant pay for the property to be cleaned to a higher standard than it was in at the start of the tenancy, or that require cleaning regardless of whether or not this is necessary for the tenant to comply with their normal obligations with regard to the state of the property. 

Read your check in inventory and rental agreement thoroughly before signing

If a landlord has agreed to have the property professionally cleaned before you take occupancy, it's only reasonable to expect that you will, in turn, have it professionally cleaned when vacating. Ultimately, the optimal time to negotiate these terms is prior to signing a rental agreement and ensuring that an agreeable compromise is included in the document. 

Make sure that you have looked through the check in report thoroughly too before signing, taking note of any wear or marks already on the carpets, marks in the furniture upholstery, etc. Usually a professional company or independent inventory clerk will write the report, so if your report has come from your private landlord, there's extra reason to go through it carefully before signing your rental agreement.

What does an end of tenancy clean include?

An end of tenancy clean is a deep clean of the home to include all floors, carpets, tiles, walls, and windows. Any other visibly dirty or dusty areas must also be cleaned, as well as all cupboards, shelving, appliances, and any included furniture. Essentially, an end of tenancy clean provides a comprehensive top-to-bottom clean of the home. 

Any electrical appliances that are part of the tenancy inclusions will also be given a deep clean before you check out. For many people, the fact that cleaning the oven thoroughly is part of the deal is enough to convince them to hire a professional cleaning team, as it's usually the biggest and muckiest job of them all. 

Unlike a routine weekly clean, end of tenancy cleaning includes easily overlooked areas - light switches, skirting boards, behind appliances, etc. 

When shopping around for end of tenancy cleaning services, it's essential to agree on a clear, detailed scope of work for the quotation you are given. 

What does an end of tenancy professional clean include?

Here is a recap overview of what to expect from an end of tenancy cleaner:

  • Wiping and dusting of all surfaces

  • Deep clean of kitchen and bathrooms, including any descaling

  • Deep clean of the oven

  • Cleaning the inside and outside of all cupboards

  • Cleaning the washing machine and dishwasher

  • Cleaning the fridge and freezer 

  • Cleaning the inside of all reachable windows

  • Vacuuming of all flooring, carpet, and upholstery

  • Mopping all hard floor surfaces

  • Cleaning underneath all furniture

Unless otherwise agreed, you should have all cupboards and surfaces emptied and ready for the tenancy cleaners.

Any additional requirements above and beyond this list should be negotiated with the company of your choice ahead of time. 

Top Tip:

Check in advance how long their cleaning guarantee lasts to ensure that the service is scheduled in time for your landlord, letting agent or property management agent to inspect it. Many end-of-tenancy cleaning guarantees only last for 72 hours, so if there is any need for them to return for additional cleaning, you will need to have it inspected within a day or two of the service. 

Is professional carpet cleaning included?

Most end-of-tenancy cleaning services will charge extra for carpet cleaning and upholstery cleaning as it requires additional cleaning materials. Alternatively, a steam cleaning machine can bring carpets and rugs up to look like new, and if you don't have one, they are relatively cheap to hire. 

Of course, if you are hiring a cleaning team or professional cleaner anyway, you might prefer to add carpets to the job and have it done for you. However, any expectation for you to have your carpets and any upholstery professionally cleaned should be specified in your tenancy agreement. Otherwise, it will be up to you to decide whether the condition of the carpets when compared to the beginning of your tenancy warrants a deep professional cleaning service or whether you can spruce them up to a good enough standard with your own cleaning.

Does using a professional cleaning company guarantee a full deposit refund?

No, although it makes it much more likely. Professional cleaning services will typically include a guarantee that they will return and re-clean if the landlord takes a tenancy inspection or final inspection and has an issue with any end-of-clean standards.

So long as the issues are directly related to cleaning standards, using a reputable cleaning company for deep cleaning does increase your chances of having your deposit refunded. 

Conversely, if there are discrepancies regarding cosmetic or structural damage caused during your tenancy, there is nothing a tenancy clean can do to rectify it. 


What about the windows?

Typically, end of tenancy cleaning services only include cleaning the inside of the windows, and charge extra for any outside deep cleaning.

However, many professional cleaning companies do not have the safety equipment to clean upper-floor windows, so you may have to hire a window cleaner if your rental is more than one storey.

Fair prices for an end of tenancy clean

The cost of an end of tenancy clean will, of course, depend largely on the size of the home, the number of rooms, and how much cleaning is involved (in other words, how dirty the property is).

According to the site Checkatrade.com, the average UK prices for end-of-tenancy cleaning services are as follows: 

  • Studio (one room) - £195

  • Apartment (one/two bedrooms) - £250

  • Apartment (two/three bedrooms) - £315

  • House (four/five bedrooms) - £370

  • House (six or more bedrooms) - £415

The average cost for end of tenancy domestic cleans in the UK is £310. Of course, this will be more for larger homes and those that require a more intensive clean. 

The prices listed above are the current average prices across the UK. Like many things in London, living in the capital comes at a premium, and this can include fantastic services for end-of-tenancy cleaning services. 

Typically speaking, prices for an end of tenancy clean in London are on the higher end of the scale. For example, a studio flat might cost nearer £150, a 1-2 bedroom flat £315, a 2-3 bedroom house could be nearing £400, and homes with 4-5 or more bedrooms could attract quotes in the region of £500 upwards. 

It's essential to shop around to ensure that you source the best end of tenancy clean at a fair price. In such an active market, demand for quality cleaning services is high, so it's important to vet your choice and ensure they use quality cleaning materials to leave the property in the same condition you found it in.

You want to ensure that you get value for money and that the professional cleaning service will guarantee that they will come and re-clean if necessary if your landlord or letting agents try to take deposit deductions as a result of cleanliness after a final inspection.

Choosing a end of tenancy cleaning company

Firstly, it is recommended that you gather three or so end of tenancy cleaning quotes to be sure that you find the best overall deal. The best deal may not always come down to price alone, although most end of tenancy cleaning companies list the same inclusions for a standard end of tenancy clean - it may be that one offers cheaper extras such as outdoor clean-ups, shower head or oven cleaning, or driveway scrubbing. 

Secondly, while it is expected and standard, make sure that the guarantee to return and re-clean if necessary after a tenancy inspection. 

It is also essential to ensure that you formally agree on a fixed price to avoid any nasty hidden charges. 

Finally, recommendations are worth paying attention to. If someone you know recommends a end of tenancy cleaning service based on first-hand experience, it's well worth including them in your quotation requests.

Failing that, be sure to check the reviews of each company that you consider. Most businesses receive one or two complaints from time to time, but it's how they address the issues that speak volumes. Furthermore, if there are just as many criticisms as praises, it's probably best to give them a wide berth. 

Are end of tenancy cleans more expensive than regular cleaning services?

When you receive your end of tenancy cleaning quotes, remember that the service will likely be more expensive than other standard cleaning services you may have previously arranged.

An end of tenancy clean is far more thorough than a regular cleaning service. End of tenancy cleans are a specialty service often completed by a team of professional cleaners who will typically bring all of their own equipment and all the cleaning materials.

Typically there is also no time limit for the end of tenancy cleaning. While the company may estimate how long the cleaning will take depending on whether you live in a studio flat or a large, multiple-bedroom home, they usually take as long as needed to get the job done well. As you are paying a set fee and not by the hour, how long the job ends up taking does not affect how much you will pay.

Another reason for higher than normal prices is the guarantee that comes with an end of tenancy clean. There will usually be a set period of time in which the company guarantees their work - and will return for a re-clean if the landlord is not satisfied and tries to keep some of the tenant's deposit. 

Can I just hire a regular cleaner for an end of tenancy clean?

Unless otherwise stipulated in your tenancy agreement, it is entirely up to you how you go about cleaning your rental home before vacating. 

If you really need to save money and you have the time, you can do all the work yourself. Depending on the condition and size of the property, it can be hard work - and often much harder than it may appear.

That said, if you plan it right and give yourself time to do it systematically over the last weeks of your occupancy, it can be doable. Remember that landlords tend to have famously high expectations when it comes to final inspections, so there is no point half-doing it only to have to return when it's not up to standard. 

If you choose to hire someone for a professional clean, again, the choice is yours. You can hire a regular cleaner, especially if you know the standard of their work or if someone recommended them to you. 

The main risk with hiring an independent cleaner is how well any guarantee would hold up. They may either not guarantee the work to an end of tenancy standard, or if they do, they may not subsequently have the insurance or time to back it up. Large cleaning companies are typically able to offer alternative cleaners or refunds if you are unhappy with the service provided. 


The bottom line

If your tenancy agreement leaves you free to choose whether to hire professional cleaners or do the job yourself, then it's a matter of weighing up the pros and cons. End of tenancy cleaning can be a surprising amount of work, but only you really know how much is involved in bringing your rental back up to the standards in which you found it. 

Having the guarantee that the company will address any cleaning-related discrepancies gives you the added peace of mind that the job will be done to an acceptable standard. It's important to maintain a positive relationship with your landlord - not only to increase the chances of receiving your deposit back without issue, but to help ensure that you receive good references in the future. 

If you have any questions related to your tenancy agreement or end of tenancy clean, we recommend reaching out to the Citizens Advice for advice. You can also use our resources to tell your landlord you are moving out, create a tenancy agreement, or check your rental value.

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