The word ‘reasonable’ is found throughout the Residential Tenancies Act 1986 but this can be difficult to navigate because one person’s interpretation of ‘reasonable’ is not the same as another’s. One area that has proven troublesome for landlords and tenants is to establish what is ‘reasonably clean and tidy’ when it comes to vacating a property.
As per section 40 of the Residential Tenancies Act 1986, “the tenant must ensure that the premises are left reasonably clean and tidy and remove all rubbish”. A recent Tenancy Tribunal case clarified what ‘reasonably clean and tidy’ means:
The Tribunal stated that "the words ‘reasonably clean and reasonably tidy condition’ do not impose an absolute standard. This standard will vary according to the age and condition of the premises. There is no requirement that each and every individual item in
the premises be left ‘reasonably clean and tidy’, only an overall obligation in relation to the tenancy premises. Also, a tenant generally should not be expected to keep the premises any cleaner and tidier than they were at the commencement of the tenancy."
Harcourts property managers conduct thorough vacating inspections, comparing the ingoing and outgoing reports to establish the condition of the property when the tenant took possession and when the tenant vacated, using photographic evidence where possible. If some items in a property are not clean when a tenant vacates, a property manager will request that these items are cleaned and if necessary, apply to the tribunal for cleaning costs. We are finding, however, that we may not be awarded the cleaning costs, as the tribunal has stated that there is no requirement for each and every item to be clean.
Landlords should be aware that some Adjudicators are stating that landlords should expect to professionally clean a property between tenancies. We consider this acknowledgement that ‘reasonably clean’ is not actually considered clean enough for the
commencement of a tenancy and we tend to agree. To hand over a ‘very clean’ property at the commencement of a tenancy is the best possible start to a trouble-free tenancy. The opposite can also hold true for the beginning of a troublesome tenancy, something good landlords and property managers avoid. Fortunately, many tenants do leave the property in a very clean and tidy state and professional cleaning to take the property from ‘reasonably clean’ to very clean is not always required.
You can view the tribunal case here.