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spray bottle, green rubber gloves, plant on shelf- What's clean? Setting your rental cleaning standards

What’s clean? Setting your rental cleaning standards

What’s clean to you may not be clean to someone else and vice versa.

From my decade-plus years as a landlord, I’ve discovered most potential tenants will tell you they are “clean” people. All potential tenants also tell me they have a well-behaved pet that doesn’t make any noise or smell or destroy the property/yard. Right.

I’ve also learned that “cleanliness” has a vast spectrum of definitions, all very subjective. Few that match my standards. There’s a reason Airbnb and VRBO set highly detailed cleaning clauses.

Setting your standards

Expecting a certain level of cleanliness from your tenants may sound picky. If you don’t set a standard from the start of the landlord/tenant relationship, there is little chance of habits changing after a lease is signed. Realistically, you also can’t expect tenants to read your mind about your cleaning standards.

Lack of cleanliness can lead to disastrous ramifications; endless repairs, ongoing costs, upset neighbors, and a lower property value.

Short of paying a surprise visit to your future tenant’s current home to check their tidiness, what can you use as a measure to gauge their level of cleanliness?

Clean car clean house

While attending a Real Estate Investment Forum hosted by Azad Chandler and Tim Desautels of Remax iRealty Innovations www.calgaryrealestateinvestmentforum.com Azad shared a brilliantly simple tip for assessing cleanliness. 

People view their cars as an extension of their homes, and car cleanliness is a pretty accurate indicator you can use to your advantage.

Simply have a look inside their car. Is their vehicle clean and tidy, or does it look like it belongs on an episode of hoarders?

Within a couple of minutes, you’ll have your evidence and your answer.

Three ways to enforce cleaning standards

What if they don’t have a car and you’ve already accepted your new tenants?  Here are three ways you can establish the expectations and standards from the onset.

  • Include a  move-out cleanup checklist that tenants sign and date. Specify all areas that require cleaning and how you want them cleaned. Explain that this is the expectation you set for all tenants. You can even include a copy of the cleaning receipt as proof it was cleaned according to your standards.
  • Include a move-out fees agreement that tenants sign and date. Detail the costs for replacement of each household item, and hourly contractor rates for repairs and replacements. Tenants appreciate knowing the expenses in advance. A signed/dated copy is proof they agreed to the standards and costs, which eliminates any confusion.
  • Let tenants know you will be conducting quarterly, bi-annual, or annual property maintenance inspection reports (as required by your property insurance policy). Most insurance companies have a minimum inspection requirement for rentals. When tenants know you will be coming to look at the property several times a year, it keeps them on their toes and lets you know of any issues needing attention.

Cleanliness is next to godliness

I came from a German background where I often heard “cleanliness is next to godliness.”   My mother’s friends waxed their kitchen floors once a week; they inspected my socks before I was allowed to enter the house and the seat of my pants before I could sit on the sofa. My mother had a plastic path to preserve the trafficked areas of the carpet. Admittedly, those standards were over the top, and they certainly make for some interesting strolls down memory lane.  My mother’s friends were very clear about setting the standard of cleanliness in their households, and their houses were very well preserved, the nicest on the street.

You will stand a better chance of having tenants who take care of your properties according to your standards when you; take a sneak peek of their car interior, include a move-out cleanup checklist, a schedule of fees for repairs/replacements, and conduct maintenance inspections.

AND according to German standards, if they keep a clean house, they’re not only in your good books, they’ve secured a special place in heaven.

How do you set your rental cleaning standards? I’d love to hear about it, email me; nelda@neldaschulte.com

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