Updated on January 7th 2021
Without a shadow of a doubt, the end of tenancy cleaning can be a stressful experience, for both tenants and landlords.
Surprising or not, tenants leaving a rental in a poor state of cleanliness is a primary reason for deposit deductions.
It is why it is of great importance for tenants to do an end of tenancy clean and leave the property in as good or better condition as stated in the move-in report.
A lot of housing contracts are filled with clauses that state the tenant is obliged to professionally clean the unit before moving out. However, it is his/her decision whether they will do the cleaning themselves or hire a cleaning specialist.
The Law on Tenants Fees
But can a landlord charge tenants for cleaning? According to the Tenant Fees Act 2019 (introduced on the 1st of June 2019), it is illegal for landlords to charge tenants with professional end of tenancy cleaning services.
Please note that a landlord or agent cannot necessitate making payments in connection with your tenancy. They cannot make you sign a contract with a third party for insurance or make a loan with connection with your tenancy or for provision for a cleaning service.
What is more, if you are a landlord and you charge your tenant with a cleaning fee, you can be penalised with a £5,000-fee (at least). If the tenancy agreement includes such clause that obliges tenants to pay for a professional tenancy cleaning service, it is not enforceable.
The only payments a tenant can be required to make include:
- The rent
- A refundable tenancy deposit capped at six weeks’ rent if the total annual rent is £50,000 or above, or no more than five weeks’ rent if the total annual rent is less than £50,000.
- A refundable holding deposit capped at no more than one week’s rent.
- Payments in connection with early termination of the tenancy contract (when requested by the tenant).
- Payments to change the tenancy (when requested by the tenant) capped at £50, or reasonable prices incurred if higher.
- Payments in connection with communication services, utilities, TV license and council tax.
- A default fee in case of late payment of rent and replacement of lost security device/ key that gives access to the accommodation
If the landlord or agent requires the tenant to pay for something which is not on this list it is not lawful. The landlord or agent cannot ask the tenant to pay it. In case a landlord or agent has charged any prohibited payment, please know that you should keep any evidence that shows that:
- You have paid an unlawful fee that is receipts, invoices, bank statements, written confirmation from the landlord or agent.
- You have been required to pay an unlawful fee that is letters or emails from the landlord or agent.
Even though landlords cannot charge tenants for cleaning services, they can still use the security deposit to cover any costs in order to get the unit back to the condition it was when the tenant moved in.
As we already mentioned, charges for cleaning are some of the most common reasons for deposit deductions and if the tenant fails to provide the same or better condition of the property, landlords often use the deposit to clean the unit which may include booking a professional end of tenancy cleaning service.
When Does the Ban Apply?
As of the 1st of June 2020, the ban applies to all applicable tenancies, licence or student lets to occupy accommodations in the private rented sector no matter when they were entered into.
Landlords are considered responsible for all the costs in connection with setting up, renewing or ending the tenancy. If you are a tenant, you should challenge your landlord or agent if you think that they are requiring you to pay an unlawful fee.
If you entered into a tenancy before the 1st of June 2019, a landlord or agent still preserves the right to charge fees up till the 31st of May 2020, but only if these are required under an already existing housing contract. Since the 1st of June 2020, the term requiring such payment is no longer binding.
If you make such a payment in error, you preserve the right to ask your landlord or agent to return the payment. This payment must be returned within a period of 28 days.
In case the landlord or agent does not return the sum in time, then they will be treated for the purposes of the Act as requiring you to make a prohibited payment.
What Should a Tenant do If a Landlord/ Agent Has Charged a Prohibited Payment?
- Check the aforementioned list of permitted payments. In case you are still not sure, you could seek independent assistance from a charity such as Citizens Advice.
- Ask your landlord to return the sum
- If your landlord or agent refuses to return the sum in time, you could complain to the relevant redress scheme.
Each and every one of the letting agents must belong to the so-called Government-approved redress scheme. Redress schemes offer an independent dispute resolution service between landlords/tenants and agents.
- Contact the local authority in case your agent or landlord still does not return the sum.
All local authorities are responsible for enforcing the ban. They have the right to take formal enforcement actions against agents and landlords.
They can require them to repay any fees that have been unlawfully charged. What is more, they can also require the agent or landlord to pay interest on this sum.
- You could recover the sum via the First-tier Tribunal.
Fortunately, the First-tier Tribunal is easy to access for all tenants. You will be expected to provide evidence to support any application you make. The First-tier Tribunal can order your agent or landlord to repay the unlawful payment. The local authority can also assist the process.
In some cases, you may have to pay a small fee to make a claim. Tenants will not be eligible for legal aid but may be eligible for some other financial support to help pay Tribunal fees.
- Viewing Fees: A landlord or agent CANNOT charge for this.
- Tenancy Set-up Fees: A landlord or agent CANNOT ask you to pay when they are setting up a new tenancy.
- Inventory: A landlord may choose to carry out an inventory check, but they CANNOT charge you for this. However, you may choose to acquire your own inventory check and you will have to pay for this.
- Tenancy Check-out Fees: A landlord or agent CANNOT ask you to pay a check-out fee at the end of your tenancy. If the tenancy was entered into before the 1st of June 2019 and you agreed to pay exit fees, such as inventory or check-out fees, your landlord or agent could only charge you till the 31st of May 2020. Since the 1st of June 2020, the term requiring such payment is not binding on you anymore.
- Cleaning Services Fees: A landlord or agent CANNOT require you to pay for a professional end of tenancy cleaning service, but may use the deposit to book such service if the tenant has not left the property in the same or better condition as stated in the move-in report.
- Check-out on a Saturday: A landlord or agent CANNOT require you to pay a fee when you vacate the unit, or check-out, on a Saturday or at any time over the weekend/evening.
- Reference: A landlord or agent CANNOT charge you for providing a reference in relation to a privately rented unit in England. If your new landlord/ agent requests a reference from your previous landlord/agent, it is they who would have to negotiate and pay any costs.
- Fees Through a Third Party: A landlord or agent CANNOT require you to pay for any services of a third party.
- Inventory Through a Third Party: A landlord or agent CANNOT ask you to pay for an inventory through a third party. If you decide to undertake an inventory independently, you will be the one who is paying the associated costs.
- Insurance Through a Third Party: A landlord or agent CANNOT ask you to take out insurance through a third party, but you may decide to do it vliuntarily.
- Gardening Services: A landlord or agent CANNOT ask you to pay for gardening services unless this is included as part of the rent.
- Rent Guarantor: A landlord or agent can require to provide a rent guarantor as a condition of granting the tenancy, but they cannot ask you or the guarantor to pay any fees in connection with meeting this condition.
Please, do not hesitate to seek independent assistance from a charity like Citizens Advice if you are feeling unsure of whether your landlord or agent asks you to pay a prohibited fee before taking any action.
There are templates that can help you ask your landlord or agent to return your fees or holding your deposit or to ask your landlord or agent to provide evidence to support any fees that you have been charged.