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serenityNOW's avatar

How much do you clean an apartment when you move?

Asked by serenityNOW (3636points) April 25th, 2011 from iPhone

I’m moving from my apartment at the end of the month. I’m more than happy to sweep and mop and dust, but that’s it. Am I expected to do more on my end, or leave it as-is? I’m not the “attention-to-detail” guy, and doing a super cleaning job is just too much, with packing and all that

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19 Answers

YARNLADY's avatar

When I was young, I used to try to get my cleaning deposit back by spending hours cleaning, only to get letters with no deposit and something like this “I had to hire a cleaning lady to wash the walls of the apartment after you left and this is the itemized bill.”

There is no appeal when they claim the apartment was not cleaned to their satisfaction. I only was successful in one appeal, when the landlord said he had to paint the apartment and sent me a bill. I had pictures!

But remember, even pictures don’t show if the apartment is clean around the window sills, door frames and cupboards. It is usually not worth the trouble. Just accept the loss of your cleaning deposit as a moving expense.

serenityNOW's avatar

@YARNLADY – I never heard of a cleaning deposit. I just paid a standard regular deposit.

Seaofclouds's avatar

@jonfreed Some of it depends on the agreement you signed with your landlord. Some places require you to have the carpets (if there are any) professionally cleaned before you leave, while others don’t. The best thing you can do is ask your landlord what they expect. Most of the time (in my experience), a general cleaning is good enough, such as making sure all countertops and appliances are clean, the bathrooms are clean, and the floors are clean (swept and mopped). My personal rule of thumb is to make the place one I would want to move into.

If you gave them a security deposit, there should be a section in your lease that specifies what conditions allow them to keep some of the deposit instead of returning it (such as needing to do any repairs or bringing in a cleaning crew (if they need to)).

jca's avatar

Usually the lease specifies that the apartment must be “broom clean” when you leave.

I think you might have better luck if you rent in a building where they deal with people moving in and out all the time. If with a private landlord, like a house with an apartment in it, you have to deal with landlords who may more likely be looking to keep the deposit on you and just need an excuse.

I never heard of a cleaning deposit either, just the one month deposit (sometimes two months). I am lucky – I only rented two apartments in my life and both were in buildings where they were not looking to rip anybody off. I was going to rent an apartment once in a house that had three apartments in it, and the landlord/owner said he wanted cash as a deposit and my mom said he would be more likely to try to keep your deposit on you, so let’s go with the building.

jca's avatar

If you installed carpeting onto wood floors, I would rip the carpeting out before you move out. It gets to a point where carpeting cannot be cleaned to look new anyway, no matter how much you may clean it.

YoBob's avatar

Frankly, it depends on how much of a jerk the landlord is likely to be. If they are easy to get along with and are unlikely to try to screw you out of your deposit, then by all means go the extra mile for them. OTOH, if they have a history of being a butt head when it comes to returning deposit money then there really is little motivation for you to do much more than to remove your stuff from the premises.

WasCy's avatar

Check your lease. Most leases require “broom clean” only. So mopping would be “above and beyond”, unless you had a lot of mud tracked on the tile / linoleum floors from the move, perhaps.

It sounds to me like @YARNLADY got hosed. I haven’t rented in many years, but when I did the “first clean” is part of the expected move-in condition to be provided by the landlord (and that was also the way I provided rentals, when I did that). You shouldn’t have to provide or pay for a ‘spic and span’ cleaning when you leave. But check your lease.

The deposit should be strictly a “damage” deposit. “Normal wear and tear” is on the landlord. So, for example, a leaky faucet that you never made him fix or replace during your tenancy is now his to fix at his cost – you didn’t damage that. On the other hand, if you punched holes in walls, left a cracked window pane, cigarette burns in the rug, or burns on linoleum counter top or floor, then that’s “damage”, and it’s on you.

serenityNOW's avatar

What about scraped wooden floors? They do have a synthetic type of veneer on it; am I f——ed?

JLeslie's avatar

The real estate term is “broom clean.” All your belongings out, and swept. The landlord is going to pay a cleaning team to come in and clean before the next tennant no matter what. But, if you were a real slob, leaving behind bad stains and build up in places, then you might get charged, because the maid service the landlord hires will need much more time to clean than standard.

YARNLADY's avatar

In the old days (1960’s through 80’s) when I was a renter in California, we always paid first and last months rent plus a cleaning deposit to move into any apartment. The landlord’s nearly always kept the cleaning deposit.

WasCy's avatar

“Scraped” wooden floors are going to be iffy. If it’s something that can be considered “normal wear” in a high traffic area such as a hallway or through the center of the kitchen, then it’s “wear and tear”, and the landlord may or may not even refinish the floors, depending on how high-toned the place is to begin with. (In the 70s in Massachusetts college apartment rentals, floors were seldom refinished, but that was in a college neighborhood, and most of the apartments that came vacant from year to year were student housing – not a super high class apartment at all.)

But if it’s a scratch that gets into the wood itself and requires re-sanding of the floor (or replacing of synthetic tiles or whole boards) then you’re probably going to pay for that. If it’s just a surface scratch, try fixing it with a crayon – seriously. If you get a decent color match and don’t make it obvious that you’ve repaired it (and if the scratch isn’t so deep as to be felt), then that might work out. (And it might be all that the landlord does to fix it, anyway.)

seazen_'s avatar


I moved apartments a few times (house nowadays) in the past – always got it clean – always left it clean. And even repaired, when needed.

klutzaroo's avatar

I got billed for not getting the bugs out of a light fixture one time. Have someone who isn’t familiar with your apartment come in and look for stuff if you’re worried about it.

jca's avatar

When renting an apartment, it’s a good idea to get in writing the Landlord’s acknowledgment of anything that is broken, missing or damaged so that on the occasion when you move out, there is no discrepancy about what was there already vs. what you did while you lived there. Otherwise, it’s your word against his about what was there and what you did.

optimisticpessimist's avatar

@jca gave really good advise. Do a walk through with your landlord have him/her note anything which needs to be cleaned or fixed. Make sure both of you date and sign it. Take care of anything on the list you do not want the landlord to take out of your security deposit. Take dated pictures of the apartment before you turn the keys over and if anything like cleaning the carpet was listed, keep the receipt if you pay for either rental equipment or professional cleaning. Do check the lease to see what it says about cleaning prior to leaving, but do the walk through with your landlord anyway.

jca's avatar

kudos to @optimisticpessimist – take pictures. I took photos of the last apt I moved out of just in case they wanted to say it was not clean. That way if you have to take it to small claims court to get your deposit back you have proof it was clean.

Ron_C's avatar

I have only had two apartments in my life. My method was to move out all of my stuff and hire a clean crew to get rid of the mess and patch small holes where the pictures hung. It is cheaper, faster, and easier to hire someone that knows what they are doing.

Navy housing required that the walls be repainted and patched to their original white.

serenityNOW's avatar

@Ron_C – I ended up doing the cleaning crew, too. It was well worth it; I’d amassed a lot of dust-bunnies, dirt and debris. Yuck!

Uggh – sorry for the late-reply, jellies. Between work and unpacking, I’ve been all over the board, but I appreciate all the suggestions, and the dust is starting to clear. Pun intended!

optimisticpessimist's avatar

@jonfreed Glad it worked out for you (and the dust). Guess I am a die hard tightwad. I hate paying for anything I can do myself.

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