Deposit disputes over cleaning increasing

Increasing numbers of landlords are facing properties that are dirty at the end of the tenancy and it has become the most common reason for disagreement when it comes to deposit disputes, according to the Association of Independent Inventory Clerks (AIIC).

In 2011 the percentage of disputes involving cleaning increased to its highest level since records began at 52%. Damage claims were 42%, redecoration 28%, rent arrears 18% and gardening 12%.

The disputes over cleaning are arising because tenants are not leaving the property in the same state as when they rented it and are shocked to hear that they could pay anything from £10-£20 per hour for professional cleaning.

The most common cleaning problems at check out are:

  • Ovens
    If the oven was clean at check in, then the tenant is obliged to leave it in the same state at check out, with no burn marks. Professional oven cleaning can cost anything between £50 and £80.

  • Marked and stained carpets
    Many tenants try to hide stains with furniture or rugs. Some even cut out the stain and replace it with another bit of carpet from another area in the property.

  • Limescale, grease and dust
    Other cleaning issues include heavy limescale on bathroom and kitchen fittings, grease deposits in the kitchen and think dust and cobwebs throughout the property.

  • Windows
    Windows that haven’t been cleaned throughout the whole term of the tenancy.

Problems such as knife marks on worktops and large chips on paintwork are viewed by tenants as normal ‘wear and tear’. 

As a result, it’s extremely important for landlords to do a thorough check in and check out of their properties at the start and end of the tenancy agreement.

How landlords can avoid deposit disputes


  • Prepare from the beginning of the tenancy
    Make sure that you have a clear, concise tenancy agreement. Conduct a thorough property inventory, check-in report and check-out report. Remember to take photographs and keep receipts and invoices.

  • Make sure you have sufficient evidence
    When taking the dispute to the tenancy deposit scheme, make sure that you have evidence to support your claim that is robust and relevant, as the adjudicator will make the decision based solely on the evidence you submit.

  • Allow for fair wear and tear
    The House of Lords defines fair wear and tear as ‘Reasonable use of the premises by the Tenant and the ordinary operation of natural forces’, which is a statement quite open to interpretation. Are replacements or repairs needed at the end of the tenancy? Light marks on the carpet may be viewed as unavoidable but if the tenant has spilled nail varnish on the carpet or burnt it with an iron, then the tenant could be liable for repair. When making a judgement, you must consider whether the item has been damaged or worn out through natural use versus sheer negligence.

  • Speak to your tenants
    When checking out a tenant, it’s vital for landlords to inform the tenant of the areas that require cleaning and the potential costs involved. Talk through any issues with your tenants and explain their obligations as set out in the tenancy agreement and your reasons for making deductions from the deposit.

As wear and tear cannot be easily definined, it's vital that landlords minimise the level of wear and tear in their properties and ensure that they have covered all bases in the unlikely event of a dispute with the tenant over the return of the deposit.


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Published on: September 27, 2012

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