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Dealing with dirty tenants

From time to time I get asked about dirty tenants.  “My tenants are keeping my house in an absolute mess” one outraged landllord said, “what can I do about it?”

Tim cleans his flatI’ve seen all sorts of attempts by landlords to deal with this.

  • There was the landlord whose tenancy agreement provided for tenants to wipe down the kitchen surfaces daily
  • There was the elderly female landlord who harranged her student tenants, intimidating them into doing more dusting
  • And there was the landlord who employed a cleaner to go in and clean the house and then charged the tenants for it

However none of these were legal.

  • the tenancy agreement clause would have been void under the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999
  • The elderly landlord was guilty of harassment (although I think the students just complained about her to the students accommodation office), and
  • the landlord who arranged for the cleaner ended up having to pay for it himself

When you rent a property to a tenant, effectively they own it for the period of their tenancy.  You, the landlord, are not entitled to go in and demand that they keep it to your standard of cleanliness.  If they want to live in a mess, thats up to them.  Its their home after all.

Your remedy is when they leave.  If the property is left in a filthy state, this would probably justify your using professional cleaners and claiming the cost from the deposit.

Also of course if you are unhappy with them as tenants, you can serve a section 21 notice and refuse to allow them to stay in the property after the end of the fixed term.

I suppose the only time you would be entitled to actually do something would be if the property was being kept in such a poor state that it was actually affecting the fabric of the building.  In those circumstances you might be able to persuade a Judge to give you an injunction.

But if they are only leaving the place in a bit of a mess, you will just have to put up with it, and hope to find some better tenants after they have gone.

Photo by Toms Baugis

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3 Responses to Dealing with dirty tenants

  1. Another good Blog subject Tessa.

    Might add that without an detailed inventory & schedule of condition preferably with date & time stamped photos, followed by a decent Check Out report proving the cleanliness of a property will be extremly difficult if a tenant disputes.

    An ADR service will be expecting the landlord to prove it was clean at the start of a tenancy “Burden of proof lies with the Landlord” I would recommend a property is professionally cleaned prior to a tenant moving in (keep the invoice as proof of it)

    If you can use the same company to clean at the end of the tenacy and ask them to confirm the differences in cleanliness it will help a landlord make a sucsessfull claim on a tenants deposit.



About the post author:

Tessa Shepperson

Tessa is a lawyer and specialises in creating products and services which help landlords and letting agents learn and understand landlord & tenant law. For example, she runs the Landlord Law website (now in its 14th year) and is a director of Easy Law Training Ltd and Your Law Store. Tessa also sits on the Property Redress Scheme Council. When not working she enjoys reading, cooking and messing around on the computer. You can also find her on Google

The Landlord Law Blog from Tessa Shepperson

Tessa is an English lawyer specialising in residential landlord and tenant law.

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