What Should Owners and Tenants Expect From One Another?

Tenants have several reasonable expectations when they sign a lease agreement. They assume that the property will be safe to live in, everything will work as promised and be repaired promptly when needed, and that at the end of their lease they will receive their deposit back. Property owners also have a set of understandable expectations of those who lease from them. They include: that their tenant(s) will pay the full rent on time each month, not conduct any criminal activities or behave in ways that are non-compliant with HOA or community ordinances, not disturb their neighbors, maintain sanitary conditions, not keep dangerous materials on the premises, and vacate the property when the lease has expired. They also expect their property (facility and appliances) to be well maintained, undamaged, and left clean at the termination of their lease.

If you are the tenant it is always helpful to remember and apply the old adage: "leave a place in better shape than you found it" or as you may also have heard it, "leave a place as you would wish to find it. "If you are a tenant who does not subscribe to this proverb you may not only not receive back your full deposit, but be charged some additional expenses. Worse yet, you may also learn that when the next property manager checks out your rental history your name may be 'red flagged'.

Here are some of the most common expectations an owner will have of their tenants.

  • HVAC filters changed monthly. Dryer screens and vents kept clean. Microwave filters washed and/or changed as specified.
  • Garbage disposals used only as directed.
  • Refrigerator and stove thoroughly cleaned inside and outside, behind and beneath.
  • Floors, walls, baseboards, windows, cupboards, sinks, counters, and shelves cleaned.
  • Carpets professionally cleaned.
  • All belongings and trash removed from the property.
  • Bathroom toilets, showers, tubs, and sinks scrubbed clean.
  • All damages repaired including holes in the wall from hanging pictures or otherwise
  • If you smoked inside the house when not permitted, all that is required to remove the smell will be charged to the tenant
  • Make sure all light bulbs are working and smoke alarm batteries are replaced
  • Replace any missing keys
  • Make sure the yard has been maintained as agreed upon and is left as you found it - or better, if possible.
  • If you have changed anything without authorization, such as painting, adding additional locks to the doors, or whatever, you will most likely have to cover all the expenses involved in returning the property back to the condition it was when you first leased it.
  • If pets were permitted, yet you were required to pay a one time or additional monthly fee for pets, be sure to note what it did and did not cover regarding damage done by pets.

This list isn't exhaustive. It may include some non-applicable items for your rental unit.

The best advice we can give you is to be sure to carefully read your rental agreement. Make sure you clearly understand your obligations as a tenant. Learning what you should have done on the day you are moving out can leave you with an unnecessary headache. Don't assume that you've gone the 'extra mile' in cleaning. Your 'extra mile' must begin, at least, where the owner set the starting line.

Next week we'll be looking at some helpful hints for keeping your home clean.