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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