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Should I deduct from deposit for cleaning issues?


My tenancy has ended, and the property has been vacated. There are no major issues, but it’s just a bit grubby – bath could do with a bleach and carpets need a vigorous hoover, that sort of thing. I don’t know if I’m being picky, but should attempt to deduct some money from the deposit, more to make a point than anything else?


Cleanliness is a difficult thing to judge, as everybody’s definition of ‘clean’ is very different. Your tenant may be under the impression that they have left the property spotless, whereas you may be left feeling like it still needs a good going over with the Marigolds and Dettol! Obviously, you have no say over how they choose to live in the property throughout the duration of the tenancy (unless they lifestyle is causing damage to your property) but now they have moved out it’s understandable that you want to get the property back to tip top condition to get it re-let.

The Deposit Protection Service released some research this week that revealed that you are not alone in this query, in fact, cleaning issues are the most common cause of deposit disputes in the PRS. Over the past 12 months, a whopping 63% of claims handled by the dispute resolution team had cleaning as an element of the claim.

Luckily, they noted that 98% of the disputes are rectified without any disagreement between the tenant and landlord, however, there is still a risk that your tenant may not agree with you on this one, and a full-blown deposit dispute is a lengthy and complex process.

It is also worth considering how successful you would be if you chose to go down the route of trying to detract from a deposit. Have you got a solid inventory in place, ideally with detailed photographs, of the state the property was in when the tenant moved in? Without this document, the tenant could argue that they have returned the property to the same state it was in when they received the keys, and you won’t have any evidence to the contrary. Whilst an inventory isn’t a legal document, a comprehensive one, signed by the tenant at the start of the tenancy, is key evidence to back up any deposit dispute later on - the ‘Burden of Proof’ (having to prove one way of another the state of the property) lies with you, the landlord in this instance. You can read more about the importance of inventories here. If you don’t have an inventory, you are in a much weaker position.

That said, even if you do have an inventory, it may be worth assessing how band the issue is. You mention that the property is just a little grubby, but is there any lasting damage that you need to address, or would it be a better bet to roll up your sleeves, give the place a once over yourself and chalk it up to experience?

If there are no major issues you should be able to turn it around and get it back on the market in no time. Don’t waste time on a tenant who has left just to teach them a lesson, focus on moving forward and finding a great new one, but make sure that you have a comprehensive inventory that leaves no room for ‘interpretation’.

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