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Defining “clean and tidy”

The issue of exactly how clean and tidy rental properties should be when tenants vacate has long been a battleground but a recent Tenancy Tribunal decision provides some guidance.

Tuesday, December 10th 2019, 10:22AM 5 Comments

by Miriam Bell

Accounts of rental properties left filthy, with piles of rubbish everywhere, might be at the extreme end of the spectrum.

But, all too often, landlords and tenants have vastly different interpretations of what constitutes an acceptable condition for a property to be left in at tenancy end.

Section 40 of the Residential Tenancies Act says “the tenant must ensure that the premises are left reasonably clean and tidy and remove all rubbish”, but it does not specify exactly what “reasonably clean and tidy” means.

Now, a new Tenancy Tribunal ruling offers up some guidance for landlords in this area.

Oaks Property Management Ltd (acting for the landlord) took a group of Auckland tenants to the Tribunal over a number of issues, including the state of their rental property at the end of the tenancy.

The company claimed the tenants did not leave the premises (including the lawns and garden) reasonably clean and tidy, and did not remove all rubbish.

To support the claim, the company presented an array of information including the move-in property inspection report (with photos) and the final property inspection report (with photos).

It noted that the move-in property inspection report showed the premises was in reasonably clean condition at the start.

In contrast, the final property inspection report showed mould on the ceilings that should have been cleaned, dirty window sills, a bedroom door handle which was missing, rubbish left around the premises and unkept garden and lawns.

The tenants disputed the claim, arguing the property was not in a reasonably clean state when it was handed to them. They also said they had undertaken extensive cleaning at the premises before vacating.

Ultimately, the Tribunal did not find wholly in favour of either the landlord or the tenants – because the adjudicator was not satisfied that the evidence provided by the landlord proved their claims to the extent required.

However, in its ruling, it did provide some clarification as to what it considers “reasonably clean and tidy” means.

The adjudicator said the words “reasonably clean and reasonably tidy condition” do not impose an absolute standard. Rather this standard will vary according to the age and condition of the premises.

“There is no requirement that each and every individual item in the premises be left ‘reasonably’ clean and tidy, only an overall obligation in relation to the tenancy premises.

“Also, a tenant generally should not be expected to keep the premises any cleaner and tidier than they were at the commencement of the tenancy.”

The adjudicator noted the contradictory evidence of the landlord and the tenants over the issues raised in the claim. “But I further note the landlord has the burden of proof placed on them to prove their claim to the required standard.”

As the adjudicator did not think the landlord had done that to the extent necessary and also felt some of the problems were due to general detoriation, the tenants were ordered to pay the landlord just $100 towards the clean-up of the lawns and garden.

Tags: compliance disputes landlords property investment property management Tenancy Tribunal tenants

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Comments from our readers

On 10 December 2019 at 12:29 pm Alan W said:
So if property inspections and photographs of the property before and after tenancy does not form adequate evidence, then what does? Surely the onus is on the Tenancy Tribunal to stipulate what further evidence is required rather than simply make a blanket statement that the evidence presented was inadequate and hope that in the future the landlord/property manager will be able to guess what is required.
On 10 December 2019 at 12:40 pm donc said:
That's farcical! If the moving in and out reports, including photos aren't sufficient, what is? What else would it be possible to provide?
I can accept that some matters can be "general deterioration" but if before and after photos don't provide proof what else could?
On 10 December 2019 at 5:04 pm AT HOME said:
LUDICROUS is the only word that can describe this drivel that pours forth from the mouth of left wing socialist adjudicators that are meant to be impartial. An ingoing inspection report with photographic evidence is not enough. What the heck is next, landlords being legislated to make tenants breakfast in bed daily? As a property manager I have had the displeasure of facing several adjudicators since the twits that run run the show now ( the Labour Party- I hope free speech is still on the table and I can call a spade a spade ) have taken power and its extremely noticeable that adjudicators have definitely become even more biased towards tenants. To the point of even awarding exemplary damages when the tenant hasn't even claimed for them, a totally illegal thing to do. I have been saying for a long time now that this is happening and here is the proof. So one tenant goes and leaves the property "reasonably" clean and the next one comes in and complains and they will no doubt rule against you in that claim and say its unreasonable. So all landlords will have to pay for professional cleaning between tenancies? If the costs keep mounting for landlords who will remain? Is this a plot to have state housing and weed out all private investors? Are eggs still good for you? ( a moronic statement in my reply just like this ruling is- hopefully someone still gets my humor before that becomes illegal too )
On 11 December 2019 at 11:06 pm Lin35 said:
I guess the adjudicator does not own a home and is a tenant as well.
Unfortunately the reality is that if the damages are high is better to be represented by a lawyer. Tenants need to agree to the pictures and the initial inspection in writing to avoid stupid and costly complains later.
On 5 January 2020 at 1:07 am Vote National Party said:
Has move-in inspection in HDR videos ever been presented as evidence in Tenancy Tribunal?

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