Does A Landlord Have To Clean My Apartment Before I Move In?

Matthew Mountain
by Matthew Mountain

When a renter moves into a new apartment, they’ll probably have some expectations. For one, they’ll expect the place to be clean. But an unfortunate truth is that not all apartments are clean on move-in day, so if you move into a place that’s dirty when you arrive, you’ll probably have to clean on your own.

But are landlords required to clean their apartments before new tenants move in? Such is the main question this article addresses.

Yes, a landlord has to clean their apartment before a new tenant moves in. However, clean is a subjective term, so a tenant may not think their new apartment is clean whereas the landlord sees it as such. If your apartment is not clean on move-in day, you should clean it yourself to ensure it’s sanitary.

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Does a Landlord Have to Clean Before a New Tenant Moves In?

Before we dive into the answer here, it must first be pointed out that individuals define “clean” differently. Clean to some means the area has been thoroughly disinfected and is virtually spotless. To others, clean simply means that the area has been swept and wiped down.

Therefore, if you’re someone who defines clean the first way, and you move into a place where the landlord defines it the second way, it’s likely there will be disagreement about the status of the apartment. In such an instance, a landlord may not have to do additional cleaning, since the apartment was clean according to their standard.

Ask About Cleaning Before You Move In

Before you sign a lease, ask the landlord or property manager whether or not the place will be cleaned before you move in. Mention specific points, like carpet cleaning, oven and stove cleaning, and bathroom cleaning. If the response you get is that the place was cleaned before it was listed, you can take this as an indication that the specific kinds of cleaning you mentioned have not been carried out.

A good rule of thumb is to assume you’ll be moving into the place that’s shown in the listing pictures. For this reason, you should never sign a lease until you see some pictures. Without pictures, you’ll have no idea what you’re getting yourself into.

What Is a Landlord Legally Obligated to Do to Prepare a Property for Rent?

While a landlord doesn’t have to make an apartment spotless before a new tenant moves in, the place can’t be falling apart on move-in day. In other words, all the appliances should be working properly, and there shouldn’t be any major structural damage.

But dirty walls and carpets aren’t hazards like broken windows and leaky faucets are, so if you notice these unattractive elements during a tour of the apartment, don’t expect them to be gone when you arrive to move in.

Below are some things that landlords are legally obligated to do before new tenants move in. Many laws and regulations govern how landlords are supposed to operate. If a landlord does all that’s required, they’ll be in a good position to defend themselves—in court—should a renter file a formal complaint.

A Landlord Must Conduct an Inspection Before Move-in Day

Before renting out a unit, the landlord must conduct a thorough inspection. During this inspection, the landlord will make note of:

  • What needs to be fixed.
  • Where cleaning needs to take place.
  • What needs to be replaced.

If there are any safety hazards like mold, defective smoke detectors, or broken windows, these will have to be addressed before the new tenant moves in.

The Walls Must Be Painted

The landlord must ensure the unit’s interior walls are adequately painted. Chipping paint is not only a safety hazard but likely indicative of a structural issue as well.

A landlord can either paint themselves or hire professionals to paint for them. A fresh coat of paint makes the place look clean and updated. And the landlord should paint the exterior as well, but this isn’t required; it’s more of a friendly gesture.

The Fixtures Must Work

Even if the fixtures look like they’re in good condition, the landlord must go through and make sure that everything is working properly. The landlord should test:

  • The toilet
  • The shower
  • Sinks
  • Lights (both interior and exterior)

The landlord must also check the appliances, but these are discussed in the following section. If all the fixtures are checked before a tenant moves in, it’s likely the tenant won’t have to file a maintenance request. When it comes to lights, the landlord isn’t just obligated to replace bulbs; they must also make sure the electrical wiring is sound, functional, and properly installed.

The Appliances Must Work

The appliances must be functional also. And every five years or so, the landlord should upgrade the appliances. A tenant shouldn’t move into a place that has outdated appliances, as it’s likely these will break down sooner rather than later. When it comes to appliances, the landlord should inspect:

  • The oven
  • The microwave
  • The refrigerator
  • The freezer
  • The stove
  • Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors

If any appliances are found to be malfunctioning, they should be fixed immediately or replaced. Again, addressing these problems before the tenant moves in is simpler than dealing with them once the tenant is occupying the apartment.

The Locks Should Be Changed

One of the most important things a landlord has to do before a new tenant moves in is change the locks. If the previous tenant has not returned the keys to the property, then all locks must be changed. This is done to ensure the tenant’s safety. If the property has a garage, the landlord should change the garage security code as well.

Some Degree of Cleaning Must Take Place

Although landlords must clean before new tenants move in, how one defines “clean” is really up to them. In general, an apartment should be tidy, and there shouldn’t be any obvious unsightly or unsanitary areas. The best way to ensure an apartment is clean before a tenant moves in is to have a professional cleaning company clean the apartment.

Should a Renter Clean Their New Apartment Before Moving In?

When a renter arrives at their new apartment on move-in day, it’ll be apparent within the first few minutes of viewing the apartment whether the place is clean or not. If it’s not clean, the renter should take matters into their own hands and clean thoroughly before they move any of their belongings in. This way the renter ensures the space is sanitary and spotless before they make it their own.

If you didn’t bring any cleaning products along on the move, go to the local supermarket and pick up some essentials. Thoroughly clean the kitchen and bathroom, as you’ll be using these spaces often. Moreover, they should always be sanitary.

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Related Questions

Is a landlord expected to provide cleaning products?

A landlord is not obligated to provide cleaning products to new tenants. In most cases, the tenant’s rent just allows them to occupy the space and use the utilities. While some landlords do stock their apartments with essentials before new tenants move in, others only give new tenants the bare minimum.If, for example, you’re renting a single room in a building with multiple units, it’s likely the property manager won’t give you special treatment. However, if you’re renting a house from somebody—and it’s their only rental property—they may be inclined to provide you with essentials. Generally speaking, small-time landlords do more to satisfy their tenants.

Is there recourse for tenants who move into a dirty apartment?

You may be able to receive compensation if there’s a clause in the lease which says the apartment will be cleaned before move-in day. But if such a clause is absent, it’ll be hard to get a landlord to pay for cleaning. Moreover, starting the relationship off like this can make the rest of the lease term unpleasant.

Matthew Mountain
Matthew Mountain

Matt loves everything DIY. He has been learning and practicing different trades since he was a kid, and he's often the first one called when a friend or family member needs a helping hand at home. Matt loves to work with wood and stone, and landscaping is by far his most favorite pastime.

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