How clean does my rental need to be when I move out?

Written on September 14, 2017 by , updated on September 18, 2017

clean rental move outIt’s time to move out of your rental. But you already have a lot on your plate, such as hauling belongings to your next home.

As tempting as it may be, don’t leave the place trashed or even somewhat messy. After all, you want to get your deposit back. Here’s what you should clean to get your deposit back.

Make it look like it did at move-in

Your landlord expects your rental to look just as nice after you move out as it did before you moved in, within reason. The rental should look as pristine as possible, in the kind of condition you’d expect to see when picking out a new place. Go through every inch of the space and clean, clean, clean.

Naturally, there may be a little more wear on the carpet or flooring or other parts of the rental. Everything in the unit will be a little more “used” than it was when you moved in, which is acceptable as “normal wear and tear.” But if you spilled something on the carpet, and it left a stain, you’re responsible for removing that stain. Otherwise, you could get charged for it, as a deduction from your security deposit.

Related: Who’s responsible for dirty carpets

What to clean: the basics

Treat your empty rental as a hotel room or rental cottage that you care for.

  • Clean sinks, toilets, showers, bathtubs, floors, and appliances.
  • Clean any stains or marks on the walls.
  • Remove all your belongings—including trash—or you could be charged for its removal, since someone will have to spend time cleaning it up.

Note: Your apartment should be clean before the end of your lease, so allow ample time to pack up, move out, and clean afterwards in order to avoid paying extra rent.

Check your rental agreement

There’s a good chance your rental agreement details exactly what your landlord expects on move-out. Read the agreement, and look for the move-out checklist. A larger property management firm may have the information posted online, in printable form, like this detailed checklist. The landlord or management firm most likely expects to do a final walk-through to ensure the place is clean. So read up on the walk-through procedure, and decide if you want to arrange to be there too.

Will I get my full deposit back?

You should get all of your security deposit back if you’ve cleaned up and returned the space to the condition it was in before you moved in. But your landlord has the right to charge you for any damage or cleanup required to get your old place back into rentable condition. This includes charges for steam-cleaning carpet to remove stains or repainting walls that are dingy. The specific laws regarding what a landlord can reasonably deduct may vary by state, so be sure to check the laws in your state.

What if I don’t have time to clean?

If you don’t want to—or can’t—clean your place to your landlord’s expectations, you could always hire a cleaning company to do the work for you. Give the cleaning team a copy of the landlord’s cleanup expectations, or write up your own.

To avoid any financial surprises, be sure to ask the cleaning company in advance what they’ll charge for the project. As with cleaning the place on your own, schedule the cleaning session during your last paid month of tenancy. That way, you can turn in your keys and do the final walk-through at the end of your lease agreement.

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15 CommentsLeave a Comment

  • Loraine

    My landlord charged more than double than what we agreed on for the carpets (which weren’t clean when we moved in) even though I did use my carpet cleaner on them. The signed agreement was$20/room and they charged $50/room because after we moved in they went with a different company but did not inform any of us about it. Is that legal?

    • Fay

      I am moving out of my rental apt.after 2 years and my landlord tells me that even if I lean my apt well they will still hire professional cleaners ,want to clean behind fridge , stove, and I have to pay !! How can that be ??????

  • Rental Agreement

    This is really good idea, Thanks for sharing with all of us. If anyone wants to take suggestion about service agreement then consult with start contract they will give you advise how you can terminate your agreement with rules and regulations.

  • Sherina Gere

    I have just moved out of an very same.two bedroom apt/guest house attached to the owners no.e. When moving in I paid a 10000 deposit and 3000 pet dog. She said that the place was very pet crie fly. I have just moved out, .y year lease is up. She is harassing me by text and emails co to rally. I gave her more than 30 days notice. The place was far cleaner than it was when I moved in. We also moved in on the qtth of the most th. She gave me my copy of the lease the next day. She made a copu6
    She changed the date that rent was due till the 10th. I had no idea
    I jave my receipts from the with. For the next year I was charged a 100 late feencor paying on the 15. The place was NOT dog friendly all. Too much to write
    Do I have rites?

  • Michael Martin

    My landlord want me to paint the hole in side of the house an d clean the floors but a professional person I need to know what can I do the landlord said it will cost 3000 to clean the House and to do the floors

  • Theresa Pesce

    Recently moved out of an apartment who in charging me $450.00 to replace carpet due to pet stain. I should have taken a picture but did not, the stain was hardly noticaeable. The apartment complex representative said the ‘carpet was pulled up’ and there were multiple pet stains. There may have been another two dog accidents but defintely not noticeable. Can I be charged for stains that are apparent when the rug is pulled up? The rug was worn and cheap (I had to keep the vacuum at a high level as to not pull up the rug fibers – as per apartment representative request following my inquiring as to rug debris in the vacuum canister).
    Please advise.
    Thank you,

  • nicole sowell

    I paid for professional cleaning $400 and my landlord states it is not to her expectations and is still wanting to deduct from security deposit.

  • Stacey

    I am breaking my lease due to moving out of state. I called my landlord about 40 days prior and told her the situation. She told me that I would not get back my $1000 security or $350 pet deposit. She also said that I would have to pay my rent until she found a new tenant. I immediately posted on FB about the vacancy and she ultimately did 2 weeks later. Luckily, she found a new tenant and I’m moving out next week. She has been a poor landlord not responding to broken items in a timely fashion as well as the place not being very clean when I moved in. I do NOT want to spend a lot of time deep cleaning the place. I plan to do a quick run down with the vacuum and wipe down counters and toilets. That’s it. How do you all feel about this??

    • Evelyn

      For next time’s reference, if YOU found the tenant, try a lease transfer. Make the person pay you the deposit you paid. This is college renting 101 trick so that the leasing office never gets to profit over people coming and going.

  • Terry Lyle

    If you are in need of carpet or upholstery in King of Prussia, try OxyMagic

  • Sarah

    I have been lucky the last 2 apts, the landlords said they have professionals come in after anyway so they didn’t expect the apts to be pristine, just basic cleaning. And that’s the way it should be. If they have to hire a crew, the tenant shouldn’t have to make the apt “move-in ready”. That’s silly & frankly, that’s their job. I’m in OR & there are laws for the carpets: if a tenant is there more than a certain amt of years, (I think it’s 2 years..) the landlords are not allowed to charge for carpet cleaning at that point; every 5 or 10 years, they’re required to replace carpets. Also, a tenant should always thoroughly fill out their move in walkthrough sheet & that way the landlord can’t charge them for what was already there.

  • Sarah

    When I moved in here, the apt had several carpet stains, missing blinds & there was SO MUCH dust & pieces of dirt all over the counters, window sills, stove, etc. & I wrote it all down on the walkthrough sheet. I refuse to be expected to make the apt “move in ready” when they really didn’t give me that consideration. I even told the landlord they might want to discuss using a different cleaning crew (politely, of course) & I showed her the dust, then I cleaned it. I haven’t discussed w/the landlord yet what they’re expectations are but I hope it’ll be similar to my last landlords. I have also paid for carpet cleaning on my own 3 different times while living here. So you see, it’s not always so cut/dry, there can be extenuating circumstances

  • John

    Is the apartment maintenance crew responsible for cleaning behind my appliances or even moving my appliances, so I can clean, while I am currently renting my apartment or is it my own responsibility? I am not handicap or elderly, just wanted to know if I should call maintenance to move my appliances so I can clean, or if I can do it myself. My lease does not state who does it.

  • Marie

    What if landlord tries to keep my deposit for cleaning and repairs. But I have pictures and text (from landlord) when I moved in showing proof that the house was dirty and in disrepair when I moved in.
    So the house is not in good shape
    But it was that way when I moved in
    Can they keep my deposit

  • dazy

    When I moved out of my apartment after 12 years, i cleaned the apartment better than when I moved in, took photos, and a video, and the landlord sent me a bill for 30 hr. at $10 for cleaning the apartment. when I contacted the manager and sent photos of the cleaned apartment and asked why I was charged for cleaning the apartment when i cleaned it I was told if I don’t pay they will send to collection and ruin my rental history

    is there anything i can do?

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