When it comes to cleaning a property, lots of things can stand out for immediate attention. Dust on a mantlepiece, crumbs on a carpet, cooking stains on a hob, hairspray residue on a mirror… These will be obvious tasks to attend to before checking out at the end of a tenancy, but a common and potentially costly pitfall for tenants is missing out on the multitude of cleaning requirements that can be hidden behind doors, inside drawers or under lids.
Cleaning oversights and their impact on a deposit
During the first half of 2023, 63% of all deposit disputes handled by adjudicators for SafeDeposits Scotland involved a claim for cleaning. The scheme’s alternative dispute resolution (ADR) team says it witnesses many disputes, both those where agreement is reached through self-resolution and those that progress to formal adjudication, that mention failure to clean inside ovens and toilet bowls. If a tenant has signed a tenancy agreement stating that they will return the property as they found it, and the landlord can present evidence that they have failed to do this, they may see at least part of their deposit awarded to the landlord to cover cleaning costs. The average award made to landlords and letting agents for cleaning claims between January and June 2023 was £102.
The kitchen: the cleaning capital?
“Hidden” cleaning hotspots can be found all over a property, but the features of a kitchen make it the most notorious room for these types of claims.
Perhaps the most frequent cleaning issue of this nature relates to ovens. They may look fine on the outside but regular cooking can coat their interiors with layers of grease – it’s not only unsightly, but when reheated casts a smell throughout the kitchen. The longer it is left to build up, the more challenging it is to clean off so the advice with oven cleaning is to do it with some regularity. Microwaves can present the same issue on a smaller scale.
Then there are fridges and freezers, with their shiny doors hiding stains from spilled juice and long forgotten bags of peas entombed in frost. Have the kitchen units been cleared out, or are there drawers full of bric a brac needing disposed of and sticky old jam jars needing prised from the cupboard? Even the washing machine, whose duty is to clean, needs a bit of TLC – make sure the compartments are not caked in old washing powder or detergent.
What to look out for in other rooms
Other rooms might not be quite as demanding as the kitchen when it comes to a clean and a clear out, but they do still have their nooks and crannies requiring attention.
An obvious example is the toilet bowl, where the lid can truly be lifted on cleaning standards. This is another amenity where regular cleaning is recommended to avoid an unnecessarily bigger task at the end of a tenancy.
Depending on how the property is furnished, drawers and cupboards can be found in just about every room, including halls, bedrooms and living rooms, and again it is important to leave these as they were found i.e. not containing discarded clothes or other personal items.
Drawing attention to those out of sight areas
For landlords the best way of helping to prevent finding unwelcome surprises at the end of a tenancy, and avoiding having to enter a dispute, is simply to spell out what needs to be cleaned in the tenancy agreement. Just a couple of lines like “oven to be clean and free of grease” or “fridge freezer to be clean and emptied of foodstuffs”, will clearly spell out expectations to a tenant.