How clean is clean?

I just got off the phone with a very disgruntled tenant. He moved into a very inexpensive rental home I manage. He signed a lease on the 7th and moved in on the tenth of this month. He says he is very unhappy with the cleanliness of the house. He says he spent 15 hours cleaning and wants to deduct that off the next months rent. The specific complaints were a refrigerator that had food in it (in the crisper drawer), a stove that smokes when turned on (I am guessing that this is actually from the cleaner - the stove looked clean to me), dirty walls (these had completely new paint), and a few other things.

The last tenant left the place dirty and I paid someone to come clean it. I actually didn’t think it was that dirty, but it’s an old home that kind of feels dirty without being so, if that makes sense. It’s a $350/month house - it’s old and small. It’s not up to date, but it’s not some dump either. I still don’t know how he spent 15 hours cleaning a 400 square foot house (studio style).

He hasn’t yet filled out the inspection sheet. It’s due tomorrow. He said he’s got it all marked up with pictures. I’m not going to credit his rent, and am considering offering to let him break his lease and move out at the end of the month if he’s not happy with the place. If he were a month to month tenant I could just give him notice, but I can’t break a lease without cause legally.

Would you guys try to get rid of him or is is possible that this can end well?

I’ve had a few “divas” in our properties before. Still have one in fact. The one I still have started off bad. She wanted me to pave the driveway because she said the rock was too uneven and would tear up her car (a mid-90s Buick). I told her there was no way I was paving the driveway. I did manage to have a load of rock brought in for about $150. Never a driveway complaint after that. Then she had problems with her heat. After multiple calls of “it’s cold up in here” and her wanting me to pay her gas bill, we finally got the intermittent problem with the furnace fixed. I’d sent my repair guy over there multiple times. He finally had to stay in the house for an hour to let the furnace cycle and ended up replacing the board in there.
Since those couple things, she’s pretty much been fine. So sometimes, it can work out. This lady has been in the house for well over a year.
The guy should have said something at the time of the lease signing - not after the fact and over-embellishing his hardships.
My guess is that people like this try crap like this to see if they can get away with it. If you cave in, something else will be wrong next month and he’ll want a rent credit for that too. It is possible you can show him you’re not a pushover and he’ll straighten up.
This is the reason I do m2m leases on low income stuff (besides sect 8 obviously). I want to have control of when people go if they start acting up.

This is what I think too. I just went and reviewed the pictures.

I’ll have to rethink how I do check in inspections. I always required the sheet within five days of move in but never ran into a situation where we disagree about condition.

The whole idea of having the move in condition sheet is that they are documenting the condition BEFORE they move in. After they have moved in how do we know that this dirt is not theirs? I am a little anal I guess but I take pictures of every room and walk through the house with the prospective tenant before they move in and have them initial each page. They don’t get the key until after this step. Once they move in they have accepted the house with the exception of what is on the move in condition sheets.

Yeah, I took pictures. I will now start doing it as part of check in. In this case the tenant and I signed the lease that day and it was late so I took pics and asked him to document the condition and send it to me.

You might want to have a chat with your cleaning crew, also. You need to absolutely sure that they understand what your standards are and what is considered acceptable and what is not.


I saw this place. The cleanliness here isn’t the issue.

It is not an issue to you.

The mistake is the process where you and the tenant allowed the inspection to happen without both of you being present and agreeing there and then.

Now you are in damage control mode. If you can legally ask the tenant to leave, fine. It might be argued that you should compensate the tenant as you are in effect forcing them out by not having the place ready before they moved in. I know you feel it was ready. The problem is you are now in a he said, she said stand off.

Best to reach an agreement. You might want to have the conversation in the property so you both can see what the other person is talking about. Then agree something and make sure the agreement is documented.

I cannot force the tenant out. Nor would I.

I will talk to the tenant tonight about this. I actually think he has buyers remorse about the place. I think he’s upset about it and is making a big deal about this as a result. That’s why letting him out of the lease might be best for both parties.

Did you do a walk through with the tenant? If so I would say sorry about his luck. And honestly him wanting to get paid for the clean up is a joke IMO I would tell him “I have no issues letting you move to a different place, please keep in mind that if you break this lease your DAMAGE DEPOSIT will not be refunded” and leave it at that.

I called and gve him three options:

  1. Record the condition on the check in sheet and send it in. Leave it in similar condition at move out. I have pictures too.

  2. I’ll give him half what he’s asking for ($75) and he’ll send in a check in sheet saying the house is clean. This amount will not be decucted from rent.

  3. He can move out at the end of the month. I’ll refund his deposit if there is no damage to the house.

We’ll see. Quite honestly he’s really ticking me off here and I want him to move. He seems to be prepping himself for a lawsuit over this.

If you can represent yourself there and you have pictures of the condition at move-in, I wouldn’t worry too much about the threat of lawsuit. If you can show you have your act together, you should be fine.
I’ve quit even offering a move-in/out sheet at lease signing. I used to do that and never received a single one back. My lease says the tenant accepts the property in an “as-is” condition. Tenants will say anything, but rarely have anything to back up their claims. Just like that former tenant I had to take to court. She claimed I -never- gave her any receipts for money she gave me. I have plenty of carbon copies of old receipts I gave her. Stupid me didn’t have the receipt books in court, but it didn’t matter.

Get rid of him ASAP if he doesn’t move out at the end of the month and screen these tenants better prior to them moving in. I’m willing to bet 99 to 1 that it won’t get any better and I think you’re right on the money that he’ll be building a much stronger case for a lawsuit and doing things that will cost you more than it’s worth. You’ll lose money no matter what. It’s just the way they are. If he accepts the $75, give it to him and then evict for cause the first time you get the chance. He has the nerve to take photos and demand $150 a few days after moving in? Sounds like he has a history. Once they start doing something like that this early in the game, it’ll be ongoing. I can assure you. Get rid of him so you can sleep well at night. What was his rental history? Did he live anywhere very long? Why is he moving in on the 10th instead of the first? Did he get evicted? Why did he move from his previous place?

I can’t evict without cause obviously. I figure the $75 is what it will cost to get the clean check in sheet, helping me if we do get into a lawsuit.

This is his first month here. He moved in on the tenth because I had trouble getting it rented. It went vacant in the middle of last month, although I was paid through the end of the month. He lived for two years with a girlfriend, she still lives there. I called the landlord and spoke to him and the only thing he mentioned was that “there was damage to the house that may have been storm related.” The tenant said that there was a screen door that blew off in a storm. The landlord said he got his full deposit back.

He was otherwise a good applicant, nothing else of note on his application. I found no evidence of evictions, lawsuits, or other legal issues. He did have an Obama bumper sticker though!

LOL. I ain’t getting into any political stuff, but this does point out that one thing that I do is look at the car they drive up in. Your house will look like their car in 6 months. If the car hasn’t been washed in 3 years and is full of old fast food bags then your yard won’t get mowed and the house will stink in 6 months. Another thing is that once they have been awarded the house, I call and congratulate them. I then make an appointment to sign the lease. I always sign the lease at where they live now. I may have to drive across town or may have to meet them at night, but I do that because it gives me a look into the future. My house is going to look like that house in a year. It is not likely that they moved in to a house with things broken. It may be a little unkempt but they aren’t going to fix the stuff they broke just for you…and that ain’t political there are nasty Democrats, Republicans and Libertarians.

I have had two kinds of tenants that exhibited this kind of behavior.

The first kind is someone who will complain about everything, request repairs that are not needed and generally expect you to be a slave to their remotest wishes. If that’s the case, gain control quickly. Start to give them warning letters about how they are breach their lease agreement for whatever petty nonsense you can come up with. I’m not suggesting that you terrorize this poor guy but give as good as you get! Do not let him control the agreement with constant grievances. If you let him do this in the beginning, he will never stop; his complaints will persist and get worse.

The second kind is actually a pleasant situation, for you. I have had people that were absolutely obsessive compulsive about cleanliness. It’s a little hard in the beginning, but when they finally get everything the way they want it, they keep it that way. I have had tenants live in a building for years and leave it just as clean as the day they moved in.