Tenant Question – House filthy on move in

February 18th, 2014 · 11 Comments · Property Management

Hammonton Photography / Foter / CC BY-NC

Tenant Reader Question

I realize your site is directed towards landlords, but I have a tenant question for you.

I have recently moved into a semi-detached house rental, and the place is filthy. When we first visited the rental we thought it looked all right, but after the previous tenant moved out, and we moved in, we became aware of a lot of gross crap (like cat pee, human hair, inches of dust everywhere, and food crusted on carpets and cupboards). Our landlord never closed with the previous tenant, the tenant didn’t keep contact, and almost didn’t give up our keys. They didn’t even do a walk through with us – we were given the keys and they left for vacation. Now I’ve cleaned my hardest, but I expect compensation; cleaning up the previous tenant’s mess can’t be my responsibility, can it? I’ve looked at the Landlord and Tenant Board Act and can’t find any information about this problem. Any help or advice would be appreciated!

Rachelle’s Answer

First off, I’m not even close to Molly Maid but every time I ever moved into an apartment I had to clean it before I moved in. It’s not because it was dirty, it’s because it’s not really clean until I know it’s clean which is after I had cleaned it. In the process of this cleaning I always found other people’s grime and was disgusted by their habits. This was after a professional clean. The cleaning lady being paid $60 to clean is just not that invested in cleaning the back of the toilet where all the sticky filth really lives.

As a manager, I’ve the above complaint about a hundred times. Every time someone who is a relatively clean person moves into an apartment the above scenario happens. In your case, it’s an order of magnitude worse because you had what we call a back to back tenancy. Even if the owner wanted to…which it doesn’t sound like they cared that much, they would have struggled to find someone to clean in the very short timeline between the other tenant moving out and you moving in. You found out the hard way that even people look clean and actually are relatively clean, there’s a lot of dirt. Those dust bunnies do not clean themselves.

It sounds like you are really upset about the situation because I’m not sure the expectation was set by the landlord that when the old tenant moved out there might be some challenges.  This is actually normal in this situation. While it is the landlord’s responsibility to clean in your case, it did look clean enough until further inspection, it’s only when you started cleaning that you realized how filthy it was. Again normal even if cleaned by a professional first.

Now as to the Landlord & Tenant Board my advice to you is to stop consulting them on every minor issue. First of all the call center reps are completely clueless when it comes to the actual application of the laws. When you start saying Landlord & Tenant Board to your landlord, they either fear you or get annoyed with you. The Landlord & Tenant Board is supposed to the last step but too many tenants start there over what are minor inconveniences.

Can you imagine if every time you had a fight with your boyfriend he called Divorce court and started threats of lawsuits? My personal experience in business is that if I have to consult a lawyer when doing business with you, your business is not worth the hassle. So while you certainly might consult the Landlord & Tenant Board about issues, it’s not wise to bring it up to your landlord. It will immediately set the relationship you have with them on the wrong foot.

Having said that… I would talk to or email the landlord and tell her that you feel that the cleaning job left behind by the other tenants was more than you consider fair and that because you’re so awesome they should get you a gift card from the LCBO to wipe all cleaning thoughts away from your brain. If you approach it in this manner you are more likely to get what you want. Frankly the landlord had no way of knowing it would be so bad when the other tenant moved and still doesn’t know.  When you talk about compensation you have to realize that at most it would cost the landlord about $100 to clean the place. So I ask you, even if you don’t like the response your landlord gives you, is it worth $100 to forever impact your relationship with your landlord? No one takes legal threats well.

I hope this helps…




Get Your Free Landlord Documents Now! 

11 Comments so far ↓

  • Jimmy

    I agree with Rachelle in that it is likely that the landlord had no idea that the place was as dirty as it was. I have had tenants who steam clean the entire house when they leave and others who are the opposite of that.

    At the end of the day this is a business decision for you. If the unit is a place that you want to remain for a period of time and the rent and terms are fair then you need to ask yourself how much a fight over $100 is worth to you. You may be far better off just to mention in passing when you are talking with the landlord that the place was a mess and you had to really work at cleaning it up and you may be surprised to have the landlord offer to pay in any event.

    • Dan

      Rachelle and Jimmy are both right with a little additon from me.
      it is the landlord’s obligation to ensure the unit is in a decent contition on move in.
      i have on a couple of occasions been in a back to back tenancy with little or no time for a good cleaning. I have offered more than once a cleaning rebate and offered cleaning supplies to a tenant on move in. yes many tenants want to do their own cleaning either way.
      I would be more concerned with the mechanical condition of the unit and if the landlord cares about their property. Are there signs of pride of ownership or are they just interested in getting the money and couldn’t care otherwise.

  • Igor

    I’m a landlord myself, but I’ll take the tenant’s side in this situation.

    First, for sure, I would let the landlord know politely. If he decides not to do anything about this, I wouldn’t bother cleaning when I move out. That would be fair: you moved into dirty place, you live it dirty when you move out. The law will be on your side, as he didn’t even do a move-in inspection and cannot prove how clean/dirty the place was.

    No one likes bad tenants, but careless landlords are even worse.

  • Victoria

    What if the landlord had over 30 days to inspect the house before a move in? When the tenant (myself) drives from another state to move in and finds dishes, cleaning supplies from the last tenant, multiple maintenance issues, and Landlord (property manager rather) shows the tenant the dirty air filters covered with 3 inches of dust and tell the tenant to go ahead and by the filters and he would reimburse the cost. In addition tells the tenant that the lawn needed mowed and weeding needed done. The tenant writes and email in disgust. The property manager sends a cleaning lady over, who does nothing and most of the cleaning was already done. The tenant also completes the yard work. Then on move out the tenant cleans leaving the place nice for the next tenants because there is little time between tenants, but still requests a walk through. The same property manager gives her some detailing, mostly edging the driveway and removing weed from the cracks in the driveway. The tenant obliges the property manager with his request because per his choice he did the walk through by himself. The tenant fixes the issues and sends pictures the next day, letting him know that she is turning in the keys to the house later that evening (2 days before scheduled move out) The property manager does not respond at all, tenant believes all issues resolved. But the day the new tenants move in he states that the sidewalk needed edged and when is the last time the lawn was mowed ( it had been a week) then calls the tenant and states that the window tracks,when you open the windows are dirty and that there is soap scum in the bath tub, he will now charge the tenant 150 dollars for cleaning and 65 for lawn service. Additionally, this property manager states that once I get back into town which would be over a week later of handing in the keys that he would let me back in the house to see the cleaning (like i could do something being the other tenants moved in) states that the tenants have boxes there but are out of town for the next week. When the tenant decides to remind the property manager of the condition of her move in he takes photos of the property issues now a week later and new tenants in the property to show the services that needed complete. Am I responsible for those items, I would like to know if I have a case in small claims court or if I am wasting my time?

    • Rachelle

      Where are you located?

    • Hallie adams

      I moved into an apartment. I had to wait 10 days. For a clean up. They did nothing. Refused to do anything. Or reimburse a penny. It was not painted it new carpet. The blinds broken.ROACHES all over. I had no place to go. It was a nightmare. They didn’t. Let me see the apartment. Until I had the key. They never ever fixed a thing. I was afraid to call housing authority for fear of eviction.

  • Tenant

    I moved into a place that was built only a year ago. the home owner lived here with her 2-3 kids and they apparently left messy finger marks all over the three guest rooms and the carpets were filthy and stained. I did not see this when we walked through the home the first time. We signed an application and lease 1 month before move in. When we were to do the pre-inspection, 3 days after the lease term began, the property manager refused to see it with us. The carpets were filthy and the walls had dirt marks all over the place. They thankfully cleaned the carpets, but the walls were still dirty. They said they would only compensate us $150 to paint the walls in these 3 rooms.
    We got an estimate from a painter for $1500. The point is, I shouldnt have to clean a place that is obviously filthy after i move in. They had a month and 3 days into my lease to get it fixed and never did. Now they are threatening to evict us if we sue them for the painter.

    • Rachelle

      I can get a three bedroom house painted for $1500 or less all paint included. Get their painter to come in or even better, just wash the damn walls, lesson learned, don’t rent a place you haven’t seen properly.

  • Jackson jr

    WE just moved to a house that’s was being renovated, it almost don’t but alot of dus every where the landlord is telling us to clean the whole house including Windows, lampshade, floors eg what are our right here? Is it us who is supposed to do all that and we are paying rent?