Are Tenants or Landlords Responsible for Cleaning When Tenants Move Out – Explained


Maria DeSouza

| Published September 20, 2023

It’s a stressful and challenging endeavor to move out of a rental unit. One of the aspects that may be confusing is the question: “Are tenants responsible for cleaning when moving out?

Before you grab the vacuum cleaner and tackle all the dust bunnies in your apartment, it’s important to look at the rental agreement you signed the moment you began paying rent.

The cleaning clauses in your rental agreement are crucial in determining the tenant’s and landlord’s responsibilities.

If you’re still lost, this article will help you sort through tenant and landlord cleaning responsibilities when moving out. Read on!

Understanding Rental Agreements

A lease agreement is a contract that outlines the responsibilities of both tenant and landlord. This includes tenant and landlord cleaning responsibilities when moving out of a leasehold estate.

If you haven’t thoroughly read it yet, start now! It is important to abide by your lease agreement as much as possible to eventually receive your security deposit refund.

Overview of Rental Agreements

A rental agreement outlines the terms and conditions of the rental unit lease.

You will find the duration of the lease, the rent amount, security deposit details, and even the responsibilities of both parties concerning keeping the property clean in this document.

Entering a lease agreement ensures both parties understand their rights and responsibilities during the tenancy period and when the tenant decides to move out.

Tenant Cleaning Responsibility

If you were an incoming tenant, you wouldn’t want to clean after the previous tenant. That’s definitely not worth paying rent for.

That’s why tenants are typically responsible for leaving the unit in the same condition as they moved in. This means tenants are required to perform some form of cleaning before moving out.

The level of cleaning required will depend on the agreement and the expectations of the property manager.

If the agreement states to leave the rental unit “broom clean”, the tenant is generally responsible for cleaning just the floors and removing personal belongings.

However, if the landlord finds the unit excessively dirty during the final inspection, a deep cleaning may be requested. In this case, it’s best to hire a cleaning company to do the job.

Landlord Cleaning Responsibilities

While tenants are responsible for cleaning the unit, a landlord must maintain the whole property.

The landlord’s responsibility covers cleaning common areas like stairwells and hallways to keep a welcoming environment. Property management should also ensure proper locks are in place.

Additionally, it is the landlord’s responsibility to ensure the new tenant moves into a well-conditioned rental unit. If the previous tenant leaves the property in poor condition, that is on the landlord.

In many state landlord-tenant laws, landlords are obliged to provide tenants with a move-out inspection checklist. The previous tenant must complete this to receive their deposit back.

A property manager should also address maintenance issues. Proper emergency exits, making necessary repairs, and other concerns that may be a safety hazard should be dealt with immediately.

The landlord should also ensure smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are properly installed, and functioning.

NOTE: It is the landlord’s responsibility to stay informed and updated on local health and housing codes. Strictly adhering to these ensures the safety of all the tenants.

Role of Cleaning Clauses

Cleaning clauses focus more on the tenant’s responsibilities for cleaning the rental unit upon moving out. These ensure a smooth transition for the new tenant.

As a tenant, make sure to adhere to these clauses to ensure the return of your deposit refund. Additionally, knowing the specific cleaning requirements helps you plan your move-out efficiently.

On the other hand, these clauses help every landlord keep the property clean. This attracts new tenants without unnecessary delays or disputes.

Cleaning clauses may cover the following points:

  1. Level of Cleanliness Expected – This may range from a standard clean, which includes basic cleaning tasks, to a deep clean, involving more intensive cleaning measures.
  2. Specific Cleaning Requirements – The clauses may specify particular cleaning tasks for each property area, such as the kitchen, bathrooms, living areas, and bedrooms.
  3. Removal of Personal Belongings – The clauses may also require tenants to remove all personal belongings and trash from the premises before vacating.
  4. Timeframe for Cleaning – Rental agreements might include a timeframe for completing the cleaning process before the move-out date. This allows the landlord to conduct a prompt final inspection.
  5. Deductions from Security Deposit – The cleaning clauses typically inform tenants that failure to meet the cleaning obligations may result in deductions from their security deposit to cover the cleaning costs.

National Laws and Regulations Around Tenant Responsibilities

So, are tenants responsible for cleaning when moving out? You might find differing answers. However, there are specific legal guidelines that can clarify the answer.

Federal Laws

At the federal level, there are no specific laws that outline the cleaning responsibilities of the tenant.

However, federal laws require landlords to return security deposits within a reasonable time.

For transparency and accountability, the law also requires every landlord to provide an itemized list of deductions made from the security deposit. These usually cover cleaning costs and damages, if any.

State-Specific Regulations

State laws vary significantly when it comes to tenant cleaning responsibilities. Both parties need to familiarize themselves with the specific regulations in their state.

Tenants’ Cleaning Responsibilities in California

According to California law:

  • Tenants are expected to leave the rental property in the same condition as when they moved in, except for normal wear and tear.
  • Normal wear and tear include minor damages or deterioration that occurs naturally over time and use. An example would be light scuffs on walls or carpet wear.
  • Tenants are not responsible for performing substantial repairs or cleaning that goes beyond the ordinary use of the property.
  • Landlords are allowed to deduct the cost of cleaning from the deposit if the property is not left in a reasonably clean condition. Proper documentation and itemization of the expenses are necessary.

Tenants’ Cleaning Responsibilities in Oregon

According to the Oregon Residential Landlord and Tenant Act:

  • Tenants are required to restore the rental property to the same level of cleanliness it was at the start of the tenancy before the new tenant moves in.
  • Landlords must provide an itemized statement of cleaning costs if they intend to deduct from the security deposit for cleaning.
  • The law does not mandate tenants to clean carpets or draperies, but tenants may be held responsible if these items require extensive sanitizing.

Tenants’ Cleaning Responsibilities in Massachusetts

According to the Massachusetts Security Deposit Law and the Massachusetts General Laws:

  • Tenants are obligated to maintain the rental property in a clean and safe condition during their tenancy.
  • However, tenants are not responsible for damages or defects resulting from ordinary wear and tear.
  • If landlords intend to deduct cleaning costs from the security deposit, they must provide a written statement detailing the expenses and damages charged against the deposit.

Tenant Cleaning Responsibilities When Moving Out

Before a new tenant moves in, it is the previous tenant’s responsibility to conduct a move-out cleaning. 

As stated in the lease agreement, some landlords may require a simple broom clean, while others may need to do a more thorough clean.

Standard vs Deep Clean

The previous tenant is typically responsible for either a standard clean or a deep clean when moving out. The distinction between the two lies in the thoroughness and intensity of the cleaning tasks involved.

The goal of a standard clean is to remove visible dirt, dust, and grime. This ensures that the property looks presentable before the new tenant moves in.

A standard clean typically includes the following tasks:

a woman placing her plants into boxes preparing to move in
  • Removing all personal items and trash from the rental property.
  • Carpet cleaning and vacuuming floors.
  • Mopping hard floors.
  • Ensuring the property has clean windows, wiping flat surfaces, including countertops, and dusting light fixtures.
  • Cleaning kitchen appliances (such as the stove and refrigerator) and wiping down kitchen cabinets.
  • Cleaning bathroom fixtures, sinks, and mirrors.

Deep cleaning tasks may include:

  • Cleaning and sanitizing the inside and outside of kitchen appliances, such as the oven, microwave, and dishwasher.
  • Scrubbing and disinfecting bathroom surfaces, including tile grout and shower doors.
  • Steam-cleaning carpets and rugs to remove embedded dirt and stains.
  • Washing windows, window sills, and tracks.
  • Dusting and cleaning high and hard-to-reach areas, such as ceiling fans and light fixtures.
  • Removing cobwebs from corners and walls.
  • Cleaning baseboards and door frames.
  • Making necessary repairs.

NOTE: A deep clean requires additional cleaning to restore the rental property to its best possible condition. If thorough cleaning is too tedious, consider hiring professional cleaners. This is not only for the benefit of the new tenants, but it also maintains the asset value of the rental unit.

Room-By-Room Cleaning Guide

Landlords also have certain responsibilities like cleaning common areas. They must also ensure the rental unit is in good condition before a new tenant moves in.

For previous tenants, a landlord may provide a cleaning checklist. This is particularly helpful if you do not plan to avail of a cleaning service.

Here are some of the tasks you might need to do per room:


  • Empty all cabinets, drawers, and the refrigerator of personal items.
  • Dispose of any expired or perishable items.
  • Clean appliances, including the stove, oven, microwave, dishwasher, and refrigerator.
  • Wipe down countertops, backsplashes, and cabinets, removing spills, food residues, stains, and grease.
  • Scrub and sanitize the sinks and faucets, removing any limescale or mineral deposits with baking soda or vinegar solution if needed.
  • Sweep and mop the kitchen floor thoroughly, paying attention to the corners and baseboards.


  • Empty the cabinets, drawers, and medicine cabinets of personal items.
  • Dispose of any expired or unused toiletries.
  • Clean and disinfect the bathtub, shower, shower doors, showerhead, sinks, faucets, toilet bowl, seat, and exterior.
  • Remove soap scum and grime with an appropriate cleaner.
  • Polish any mirrors or glass surfaces.
  • Sweep and mop the bathroom floor, including around the toilet and baseboards.

Living Areas & Bedrooms

  • Remove all personal items, including furniture and decor.
  • Dust all surfaces, including shelves, tables, mantels, and ceiling fans.
  • Wipe down light switches, doorknobs, and other frequently touched areas.
  • Vacuum or sweep the floors, removing any dust, dirt, or debris.
  • Clean hard floors, such as wood or tile, with appropriate cleaning solutions.
  • Clean the windows, window sills, and tracks inside and outside, if accessible.
  • Check walls for scuffs, marks, or nail holes.
  • Touch up paint as needed, following any guidelines in the rental agreement.

Financial Implications of Tenant Move-Out Cleaning

When tenants move out of a rental property, the condition they leave it in can have significant financial implications.

Security Deposits and Cleaning Fees

A security deposit refers to funds paid by tenants at the beginning of the lease. These protect landlords against any potential damages or unpaid rent during the tenancy.

When tenants move out, the security deposit becomes a crucial financial consideration.

If the property is left in poor condition, the landlord may deduct cleaning costs from the deposit. These deductions, including any damages, must be itemized for transparency.

Note that inevitable damage should not be expensed. Examples of these include minor scuffs on walls, worn-out carpeting, or paint fading due to regular use.

Some rental agreements include a specific cleaning fee that tenants must pay upon move-out, regardless of the property’s condition. 

It’s important to begin examining the cost of move-out cleaning before moving out, so tenants can check whether the fees being charged are reasonable.

NOTE: The legality and enforceability of cleaning fees can vary by state. In some jurisdictions, cleaning fees may be considered non-refundable and are not subject to the same rules as security deposits.

Landlord’s Rights and Tenant Protections

Both landlord and tenant have rights and protections. These are crucial to ensure fair treatment and to avoid potential disputes.

  • Landlord’s Right to Maintain Property – Landlords have the right to maintain their property and expect tenants to leave it in an acceptable condition. They also have the authority to deduct reasonable cleaning costs from the tenant’s deposit if the property is excessively dirty, requiring additional move-out cleaning.
  • Tenant Protections – Tenants are protected from arbitrary deductions from their deposits. Most states outline the timeframe for returning the security deposit and require landlords to provide an itemized list of deductions.
  • Dispute Resolution – In case of financial disagreements, tenants can pursue dispute resolution mechanisms provided by the state’s laws or seek legal advice if necessary.

Frequently Asked Questions

Check out these questions for more info on tenant and landlord moving-out cleaning responsibilities:

What Happens if a Tenant Does Not Clean When Moving Out?

If a tenant fails to clean the property adequately, the landlord may rely on professional cleaners.

The landlord also has the right to deduct this cost from the security deposit. However, the landlord must provide an itemized list of cleaning expenses for transparency.

Can a Landlord Use a Tenant’s Security Deposit for Cleaning Costs?

Can landlords charge for cleaning? YES, under certain circumstances.

The deductions must be reasonable and necessary to restore the rental property to its original condition, excluding normal deterioration from use.

What Is Considered Normal Wear and Tear vs Damage by a Tenant?

Wear and tear refers to the natural deterioration of the property that occurs over time with regular use.

Damage, on the other hand, results from tenant negligence or misuse.

What Is Deep Cleaning for a Rental Property Move-Out?

Deep cleaning involves a thorough cleaning of all areas of the rental unit, including cleaning appliances, and hard-to-reach places.

The service may also include carpet shampooing, window washing, and grout cleaning.

Are Landlords Required to Hire Professional Cleaners After a Tenant Moves Out?

It depends on the rental agreement and state laws. Some agreements may specify that a cleaning company must be hired, while other agreements don’t.

But if there’s a lot to clean before a new tenant comes in, it might be efficient to hire professional cleaning services in Boston to do the job.


In conclusion, tenants are generally responsible for cleaning when moving out. However, the specific requirements may vary based on state laws and rental agreements.

Make sure to understand tenant and landlord responsibilities clearly to maintain a positive relationship between parties.

Simply follow our room-by-room cleaning guide if you decide to do your move-out clean yourself. Otherwise, you can save yourself the hassle by hiring a cleaning service.

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