The accidental landlord: why cleaning up after tenants who have moved out shouldn’t be left to the landlord


Look, I am only too aware that my tenants must be smart because they have the sort of fantastic jobs that pay them more in a single week than I earn in a long month. So why for the love of God can’t they follow the simplest instructions?

A couple of weeks before my last lot of tenants moved out, I sent them a note reminding them of the things they needed to do to make sure I was able to return their deposit in full.

This covered cleaning the property to a professional standard including the inside of all the appliances, cupboards and wardrobes; descaling the bathroom; washing windows inside and out; steam cleaning mattresses and upholstery and replacing all blown light bulbs.

I warned the tenants to supervise any professional cleaners they used and to make sure they hired a firm which guaranteed a re-clean if there were any problems raised in the check-out, because rarely have I used a cleaning company that does a good job first time round.

I also asked them to replace any items of furniture they had removed and take away rubbish including big items, which I often end up taking to the dump.

Did my tenants follow these instructions? Nope. I arrived at the flat to find the mattress covered in hair, four blown light bulbs and dust piled up on top of the wardrobes and along the skirtings.

The cooker hood was greasy, the freezer hadn’t been defrosted or cleaned, the showerhead and shower screen were covered in limescale, the sealant round the bath had gone mouldy and all the floors were filthy.

So yours truly had to fish out a year’s worth of dust, crack open the Cif to clean the walls around the light switches and scrub the loo.

I also found a broken door knob and clock, a cracked lamp and a smashed painting that had been tucked behind a chest of drawers.

So I called the outgoing tenants to discover that the cleaners had broken the door knob, the lamp and the clock but the tenants themselves had not been back to check, so they had no idea what state the property was in.

The cleaners offered to re-clean, but they weren’t able to do this before the new tenants moved in, leaving me with no choice but to do it myself.

So would it have been worth withholding the tenants’ deposit? Not really, they were nice people.

But I am just giving you a little insight into the daily life of a landlord. It does not all run on well-oiled wheels with cash in hand at the end of every month.

Victoria Whitlock lets four properties in south London. To contact Victoria with your ideas or views, tweet @vicwhitlock.

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