End of tenancy cleaning – what’s expected?

Vacuuming glitter

REINZ has called for clearer guidelines from MBIE Tenancy Services as confusion continues to arise around the obligations in relation to the condition a property must be left in when ending a tenancy. For example, as to whether tenants need to clean items such as the carpet or the oven before departing a tenancy, whether picture hooks need to be removed and the timeframes in which the cleaning needs to be undertaken once the tenancy has ended.

Under the legislation, tenants are required to leave a property “reasonably clean and tidy” however, this does not mean being cleaned to professional standards.

Bindi Norwell, Chief Executive at REINZ says: “Where the confusion arises is the difference between what a landlord or property manager determines to be reasonable and what a tenant believes is reasonable – and these two views naturally tend to differ in around 90% of cases.

“From a landlord’s perspective, if they’ve paid for professional cleaners to clean their investment property between tenants, when the new tenant leaves, they expect and assume that the property will be left in the same condition. It’s also about the timeframe in which the cleaning needs to be undertaken, as this can be compounded when the next tenant is due to move in and there is still cleaning to be done,” continues Norwell.

In Australia, the rules are more specific than they are in New Zealand and stipulate for example that when a tenant leaves a property that the property needs to be professionally cleaned and that receipts are required as proof. They also stipulate that picture hooks need to be removed from walls and the holes are filled in.

“Unlike in Australia, where the rules are much more prescriptive, there is no ‘yard stick’ in New Zealand as to what actually constitutes being reasonably clean and tidy. If landlords/property managers and tenants had an actual check list, then everyone would know exactly where they stand,” points out Norwell.

“If we had a more specific regime in New Zealand we wouldn’t end up in these situations where people’s views differ so significantly. Additionally, it would also be of significant benefit to the Tenancy Tribunal which is currently clogged with cases about cleaning,” continues Norwell.

Where confusion also occurs is that some property managers, in many cases those who don’t belong to an industry body, insert clauses into contract to include professional cleaning, but then this gets thrown out when the case reaches the Tenancy Tribunal.

“Currently you can’t insert a clause into a contract that goes above and beyond the law, but as the industry isn’t regulated some property managers do this to appease their clients (landlords), but this can ultimately create further problems down the track.

“Right now, all we can do is recommend that property managers educate their clients as to the requirements of the law, but also explain to tenants up-front that the landlord really does expect the property to be cleaned to a high level when they leave the property. However, clearer guidelines to reduce the subjectivity would go a long way to resolving this issue,” concludes Norwell.


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