Tenants who don’t clean can create unsanitary and unsafe living conditions, not to mention major damage to your property.

A lack of cleanliness can be expensive for may reasons. Unclean living conditions can attract bugs and rodents, and ultimately make the place difficult to re-rent. And eventually you’ll need to pay to repair and fix the damage.

If you discover your tenant isn’t keeping the unit clean, you can take action immediately. If your lease allows it, send a notice to the tenant to clean the property.

Once the lease expires, you can choose not to renew it, which will result in the tenant moving out of the unit. If the rental unit isn’t cleaned by the tenant at the time the lease terminates, you can deduct the costs of hiring a cleaning company from the deposit.

What does “dirty” mean?

Generally speaking, landlords can’t control how, and when, tenants clean their properties, unless they have a reason to think the tenant is violating health or fire codes, causing damage to themselves, damage to the property, or other people. That said, if the lease states that the tenant must hire a monthly cleaning service, then that contractual expense can be defended in court.

Examples of dirty living conditions

  • Bugs, rodents, or roaches
  • A potent smell coming from any part of the property
  • Mold growing in the bathroom, laundry room, and other parts of the unit
  • Appliances that are sticky to the touch
  • The presence of rotten food or dirty dishes that haven’t been cleaned for days
  • The presence of animal feces that’s not in the litter box
  • Bags of garbage, open or closed, that aren’t in a garbage can and seem to be more than a week old
  • Improper air circulation caused by blocked furnace intakes, because a tenant’s possessions are blocking the intake, or for other reasons
  • Unsafe chemicals lying around the property

Have a solid lease

It’s best to be clearly communicate expectations about cleanliness in the lease, so everyone’s clear on the expectations right from the start. Still, a lack of cleanliness can happen. Consider the following options.

3 ways to help your tenants keep their rental clean

Sometimes tenants simply don’t know how to keep a clean house. If you decide to explore the topic with them, don’t act judgemental or condescending when you bring it up.

1. Show tenants how to clean

Before they move in, or whenever issues arise, tour the house with tenants and point out areas that need regular cleaning. Show them how to properly clean certain spots, and what kind of supplies they might need. Help them understand that everything will last longer if cleaned regularly.

2. Describe the tenant’s cleaning responsibilities in the lease

Ensure that your lease describes the cleaning practices you expect. You can enforce this clause under threat of eviction for a lease violation. If you don’t want to go through the eviction process, you can hire a cleaning service and bill the tenants for it.

3. Hire a cleaning service

There are clauses in leases that allow landlords to hire a cleaning service, which can clean the unit at the landlord’s discretion and at the expense of the tenant. When enforcing this clause, tenants can feel annoyed and insulted. Be clear about why you’re bringing in a cleaning service, and give them plenty of notice before anyone arrives to clean.

Lease clauses you can use

Finally, consider adding the following clauses to your lease to help tenants understand their responsibilities and your expectations for general cleanliness in your rental properties. These clauses help landlords who find themselves working with tenants who don’t keep rentals clean.

SURRENDER OF PREMISES. Tenant(s) have surrendered the Premises when (a) this Agreement expires; (b) the expressed move-out date has passed and no one is living in the Premises within Landlord’s reasonable judgment; or (c) all Premises keys and access devices have been turned in to Landlord – whichever comes first. Upon the expiration of the term hereof, tenant(s) shall surrender the Premise in better or equal condition as it were at the commencement of this Agreement, reasonable use, wear and tear thereof, and damages by the elements excepted. If a professional carpet cleaning is required to restore carpets to the condition found at the commencement of this Agreement, tenant(s) must hire, coordinate, and pay for this service. If tenant(s) fails to accurately assess and restore the Premises, and all subsequent elements, to condition found at the commencement of this Agreement, less normal wear and tear, Landlord can hire professionals, at tenant’s expense, to fulfill tenant’s responsibilities.

CLEANING. tenant(s) is responsible for cleaning all areas of the Premises, including but not limited to, living room, dining room, kitchen, hallways, laundry room, bedrooms, closets, bathrooms, outdoor walkways, and parking spaces. To prevent the infestation of rodents and insects, tenants must remove any collected trash and food waste from the Premise at least once a week. Carpets and Rugs must be vacuumed at least once a week. Hardwood floors or Tiles must be swept once a week. Bathrooms must be cleaned regularly, and as frequently as needed, to prevent the formation of mold and mildew. If tenant(s) does not clean adequately and regularly, tenant(s) will be liable for reasonable cleaning charges – including charges for cleaning carpets, draperies, furniture, walls, etc. that are soiled beyond normal wear (that is, wear or soiling that occurs without negligence, carelessness, accident, or abuse). Landlord reserves the right to hire a recurring Professional Cleaning/Maid Service if tenant(s) are not keeping the Premises in clean/sanitary order at Landlord’s own judgment. This expense will be the responsibility of the tenant(s).

MAINTENANCE AND REPAIR; RULES. The Premises and other areas reserved for tenant’s private use must be kept clean. Tenant(s) will, at his or her sole expense, keep and maintain the Premises and appurtenances in good and sanitary condition and repair during the term of this Agreement and any renewal thereof. Without limiting the generality of the foregoing, tenant(s) shall:

  • Keep all air conditioning filters and window units clean and free from dirt;
  • Keep all lavatories, sinks, toilets, and all other water and plumbing apparatus in good order and repair and shall use same only for the purposes for which they were constructed. tenant shall not allow any sweepings, rubbish, sand, rags, hair, ashes, fabric towels, paper towels, diapers, baby wipes or other similar substances to be thrown or deposited therein. Any damage to any such apparatus, resulting from misuse, and the full cost of clearing stopped plumbing shall be borne by the tenants. Any plumbing costs associated with snaking clogged sinks, toilets, showers, bathtubs, or drains will be incurred jointly by the tenants;
  • Deposit all trash, garbage, rubbish or refuse in the locations provided and shall not allow any trash, garbage, rubbish or refuse to be deposited or permitted to stand on the exterior of any building or within the common elements.
  • Any minor repairs under $25.00 in cost, caused by normal wear and tear, to tenant’s rented space, shall be paid for and repaired by tenant(s). Such repairs include but are not limited to: light bulbs, door knobs, broken windows, holes in walls, etc. Any major repairs over $25.00 in cost, caused by normal wear and tear, to tenant’s rented space, shall be paid for and repaired by Landlord, however the first $25.00 of the repairs shall be paid for by tenant(s). Tenant(s) are responsible for replacing expired light bulbs and smoke detector batteries. With tenant’s approval, Landlord can repair any minor damage during the time of this agreement without extracting from the Deposit monies, at the cost to tenant(s) of $25.00 per hour of labor plus cost of materials.
  • Any major damages resulting from activities in excess of normal wear and tear, abuse to the property, negligence, or due to a lack of general common sense, can and will be charged to the tenant(s) and/or deducted from Security Deposit monies;
  • Any damage done to appliances resulting from negligence will be paid for by the tenant(s). This includes but is not limited to: damage to clothes washer and dryer due to coins or debris left in pockets or failure to regularly clean the lint trap, damaged A/C units because of blocked air intake, and damaged refrigerator because of overfilling or blocking of air flow.