Do Landlords Have to Clean Between Tenants?

When a tenant moves out of a rental property, an inevitable question arises: who is responsible for cleaning up? Should the landlord take care of it, or does the responsibility fall on the departing tenant?

The answer is not always cut and dry. However, ensuring a clean and habitable rental unit is in everyone’s best interest. While legal requirements vary across locations, landlords and tenants generally share specific responsibilities to maintain the cleanliness of a rental property.

In this article, we’ll dive into the nitty-gritty of cleaning between tenants, covering:

  • Landlord’s and tenant’s roles in cleaning and upkeep
  • The importance of security deposits
  • Motivations for a landlord to have a sparkling clean rental unit
  • Rental cleaning tips for landlords

Let’s get started!

Taking Advantage of Tenants’ Security Deposit

It’s common for landlords to charge a security deposit when a tenant moves in. However, taking cleaning fees out of that deposit often leads to disagreements between both parties. It’s crucial to understand the specifics of your local and state laws before doing so.

What is a Security Deposit?

A security deposit acts as a protection for a landlord to cover potential tenant-caused damages, excessive wear and tear exceeding normal use, or unpaid rent.

Landlord’s Role of Cleaning Between Tenants

Landlords hold the main responsibility for ensuring their rental unit is habitable and ready for the next tenant. Generally, this entails:

  • Deep Cleaning: Thoroughly cleaning the entire unit, including areas tenants seldom address, like behind appliances, inside cabinets, and baseboards.
  • Carpet Cleaning: A good idea, especially if there were pets in the unit or noticeable stains.
  • Repairs: Fixing any existing damages the tenant was not responsible for (beyond normal wear and tear).
  • Fresh Paint: Depending on the unit’s condition, this can make a huge difference in attracting new tenants.

When Is a Landlord Responsible for Cleaning a Rental Unit?

  • Normal Wear and Tear: Landlords are responsible for cleaning and repairs resulting from the unit’s regular use over time. This might include faded paint, loose cabinet handles, etc.
  • Move-in Condition: The rental should be handed over to the new tenant at the same cleanliness level as the previous tenant received it.
  • Health and Safety Hazards: If the property presents hazards like mold growth or infestations, it’s the landlord’s duty to address it.

When Is a Tenant Responsible for Cleaning a Unit?

The departing tenant holds some responsibilities towards leaving the rental unit in a decent condition:

  • Basic Cleaning: Includes tasks like sweeping, mopping, dusting surfaces, and cleaning bathrooms and appliances.
  • Trash Removal: All of the tenant’s belongings and any garbage should be removed.
  • Damages Beyond Normal Wear and Tear: Responsible for covering the costs of fixing damage they’ve caused exceeding normal usage.

Motivations for Cleaning Your Rental Property

A clean rental property translates to a multitude of benefits for a landlord:

  • Attracting Quality Tenants: Cleanliness directly impacts a unit’s attractiveness, allowing you to charge higher rents.
  • Maintaining Property Value: A well-maintained property holds its value and potentially helps it appreciate over time.
  • Avoiding Disputes: Thorough move-out cleaning checklists and documentation help avoid conflicts and miscommunications with outgoing tenants.

Tenant Cleaning Responsibilities

Here’s a helpful checklist of expected cleaning tasks for tenants moving out:


  • Clean inside and outside the refrigerator and freezer, defrosting if necessary.
  • Clean stovetop, oven interior, and exterior.
  • Wipe down all cabinets, countertops, and drawers.
  • Clean the sink and dishwasher.
  • Sweep and mop the floor.


  • Thoroughly clean toilets, showers/tubs, and sinks.
  • Wipe down mirrors, countertops, and cabinets.
  • Sweep and mop the floor.

General Living Areas

  • Vacuum carpets and mop hard floors throughout.
  • Dust surfaces, including shelves and window sills.
  • Remove cobwebs from corners and ceilings.
  • Wipe down baseboards.
  • Remove all personal belongings, trash, and debris.

Additional Expectations

  • Patching Holes: Tenants might be expected to patch up small holes made from hanging pictures or decorations.
  • Stain Removal: While normal wear and tear is acceptable, removing significant stains from carpets or walls might fall on the tenant.

Note:  Always make sure you clearly articulate and document cleaning expectations in your lease agreement with tenants.

Can a Tenant Perform Property Repairs?

Generally, tenants should not attempt major repairs without the landlord’s express permission. Some reasons for this are:

  • Liability: If poorly executed, repairs could worsen the issue or create new problems, making the tenant liable for additional costs.
  • Warranty and Insurance: Landlord repairs might be covered by a warranty or insurance policy, which becomes void if performed by an uncertified person.
  • Expertise: Improper repairs can devalue the property or pose hazards.

Minor fixes: Minor repairs such as tightening a loose screw or replacing a lightbulb are usually acceptable for tenants. It’s still wise for the tenant to inform the landlord of ANY issue, no matter how seemingly small.

Rental Property Cleaning Tips for Landlords

Move-Out Cleaning

  • Detailed Checklist: Provide tenants with a comprehensive cleaning checklist before moving out. This aids in a smoother transition and eliminates ambiguity.
  • Walk-Through Inspection: Schedule a walk-through with the outgoing tenant to identify cleaning items that need extra attention.
  • Documentation: Take photos or videos of the unit both before and after cleaning to provide proof of condition – this also helps avoid security deposit disputes.

Get Help from Professional Cleaning Services

Hiring a professional cleaning service guarantees a thorough and consistent clean-up job, and saves you time and effort. Consider these benefits:

  • Expertise: A cleaning service understands best practices, has cleaning supplies, and is equipped for tasks like deep carpet cleaning.
  • Time Efficient: Outsourcing saves time you can devote to finding and screening new tenants.
  • Tax Deductible: Generally, the cost of a professional cleaning service is tax-deductible as a business expense.

Important: If you hire a professional cleaning service, consider splitting the cost between you and the tenant or deducting a portion from the security deposit, local laws and lease terms matter here.

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