Have you been charged for cleaning expenses when you moved out of your apartment?
If you have, you might feel that you were charged unfairly, especially if you left the rental in clean condition.
In this article, I am going to discuss when a landlord is justified in making you foot the bill for cleaning and how much they can take from your security deposit for such expenses.
If you want a quick answer to the question, it is as follows:
As a general matter, a landlord may deduct reasonable and actual expenses for cleaning a rental dwelling; however, the final deduction amount will depend on the size of the rental, the prevailing cleaning rates in your area, and the level of cleaning required for your unit.
But to help you get some context, I will lay out below average cleaning rates for various dwelling sizes, so you have a sense of what to expect.
Ok, we’ve got a lot cover, so let’s get into it.
The information contained in this post is for informational purposes only. It is not legal advice. You should seek the advice of a qualified legal professional before making any decisions relating to the topics covered by this article.
We may earn commissions from products and services that are purchased or recommended through our website as part of our affiliate partnerships. As an Amazon affiliate, we may earn from qualifying purchases.
When Can a Landlord Charge a Tenant for Cleaning Costs
While you’re preparing to vacate your apartment, your landlord will usually go over the property for move-out inspections. This is to identify if there are any damages that need to be covered.
It’s also a way for the landlord to check if the place is still in a livable condition for the next potential tenants.
If you pass the inspection, your landlord will be able to return your security deposit with no cleaning charges deducted.
However, if the space is not as clean as when you first moved in (normal wear and tear excepted), then cleaning or renovation fees may be deducted from your security deposit.
How Much Can a Landlord Charge for Cleaning?
How much your landlord can deduct from your security deposit for cleaning expenses depends on the price paid for bringing the unit to a clean condition.
There’s a good possibility that your landlord will hire a professional cleaning service, and they can charge the cost of that service from your deposit.
Before a cleaning service can give a price, they consider factors such as the size of the apartment, the location, and the condition it’s in. They can charge from $25 to $90 per hour, on average.
The price gets higher if the number of problems found increases.
Now, I quoted you an average price per hour above, but sometimes it’s easier to get a sense of how much cleaning costs based on the size of your dwelling. So, as I promised earlier, here are average prices for some of the most common apartment sizes:
1 Bedroom – $60-$110. Move out cleaning costs approx. $110.
2 Bedroom – $90 – $130. Move out cleaning costs could cost up to $600.
Of course, these are averages, so prices in your area may be higher or lower. You also must factor in whether your apartment is really dirty, in which case, you may need a deep clean and professional carpet cleaning.
Bear in mind that state and local laws may have limits on how much a landlord can charge for cleaning. For example, some jurisdictions prohibit a landlord from making a profit from the cleaning activities and must simply “pass on” the actual costs of the cleaning to you without making a margin.
Bear in mind that your landlord may charge you for needed cleaning, but they generally aren’t allowed to charge you for “normal wear-and-tear.” What is that? Good question – let’s get into it.
What Is Considered Normal Wear-and-Tear?
If equipment, furniture, and the dwelling in general undergoes normal wear-and-tear, it’s generally the responsibility of the landlord.
Normal wear-and-tear means that an item’s deterioration is an outcome of aging and everyday use. These are normal declines that the tenant wouldn’t be able to prevent.
This doesn’t include damages due to the tenant’s negligence, carelessness, and abuse of the premises.
Some examples of normal wear-and-tear include:
- Faded paint or peeling wallpaper
- A reasonable amount of nail holes on the wall
- Minor scratches and marks on walls, floors (for hardwood and linoleum) and other areas
- Rust on pipes
- Faded or worn-thin carpets
- Dusty curtains
- Discoloration of bathroom tiles
- Warped windows and doors
- Dirty or loose grout around bathroom tiles
How to Avoid a Cleaning Charge
The best (and most obvious) way to avoid a cleaning charge is to keep your home clean.
But sometimes a landlord will insist on charging you even if you left the property in clean condition. To prevent unfair charges, make sure you take pictures (and even videos) of the property when you move in, so you can have proof relating to its condition when you got it.
You don’t want your landlord to say that you caused damage or a mess when the issue existed when you moved in. In fact, you may want to send an email or other formal communication around issues you find upon move-in so you have a record of it.
You will also want to be with the landlord when they conduct the move out inspection. That way you can raise any objections if they indicate that your property needs cleaning.
Landlords are people too and it’s a lot harder for them to say they will charge you for something that is unreasonable when you are standing there and can see for yourself that it’s not a fair charge.
You may also want to dispute the amount of the cleaning charge if it is uncommonly high. Do a little research and get some quotes for cleaning. If they are way lower than what your landlord is charging you, that may persuade them to cut the charge.
If all of that fails, and you are being charged a ridiculous amount, you may want to consider consulting with a lawyer to see if you can get some of that money back. But frankly, lawyers are expensive and if you are talking about a relatively small amount, it may not be worth it.
Other options may include going to small claims court on your own, but again, that’s a massive hassle and may not be worth it. But as with all things legal, you should investigate your options based on qualified legal advice (which this blog does not provide).
So there you have it – an answer to how much your landlord can charge you for cleaning and some tips on how to avoid these types of changes. Hope this has been helpful and happy renting!