A Notice to Clean Property is a document landlords send to notify a tenant that the cleanliness of their rental unit needs to be addressed. This notice reminds tenants of the lease’s cleanliness requirements and informs the tenant of applicable consequences.
When to Notify a Tenant to Clean Property
When the cleanliness of a tenant’s property is poor, as a responsible landlord, it’s important to notify your tenant of their obligations to keep the rental unit clean. This is especially necessary if any of the following occur:
- Code Violations. If the tenant violates a health, safety, or fire code you must take immediate action. If not, as a landlord, you may be liable.
- Lease Violation. The tenant violates a term of the lease agreement.
- Property Damage. The tenant’s uncleanliness is causing damage to the property.
- Tenant Harm. The uncleanliness is causing harm to themselves or other tenants. This could even lead to a landlord being sued because one tenant is interfering with another tenant’s peaceful enjoyment of the property.
The cleanliness of a rental unit is an important issue. Not only does it impact your property, but it can impact other tenants, and can also affect your ability to find future tenants.
Before Sending a Notice to Tenant to Clean Property
While it may be necessary, there are certain steps you can take before sending a formal notice. It could be that certain life circumstances, such as an illness or a death in the family, have caused them to get behind on their cleaning responsibilities.
Before sending a notice, consider having an informal conversation with them or sending them an email to remind them of their responsibilities. It may be that a simple reminder is all that’s needed to get the tenant to take care of the issue.
What to Look For
It’s important to know what to look for when determining if a tenant is not properly cleaning their rental unit. It is especially important to be aware of issues that may lead to health, fire, and safety hazards. Here are some issues to look for:
- Hoarding. Hoarding in general is a problem. It is especially troublesome if the hoarding is causing blocked entryways or air vents.
- Mold. Failing to properly clean certain rooms, such as the bathroom, can lead to mold growth. This can also be caused by leaking pipes that are not reported to the landlord. Mold growth will not only cause an unpleasant odor but can also become a significant health hazard.
- Animal Waste. While you may have received a pet deposit, a tenant is still responsible for properly disposing of their pet waste.
- Excessive Garbage. Whether it’s piles of paper or empty boxes, when these items accumulate it can cause a safety or fire hazard.
- Pests. Signs of rodents, roaches, or other pests are a red flag that there are cleanliness issues with the property. Make sure that, as a landlord, you arrange for seasonal pest control as a preventative measure.
- Unpleasant Odors. If you are smelling overwhelming and unpleasant odors, this may be a sign of a bigger problem. What’s causing the unpleasant odor may be the result of the poor cleaning habits of your tenant. The smell could stem from blocked drains, spoiled food, or dirty dishes that have not been cleaned for a long time. If not taken care of this smell will likely impact other nearby tenants.
- Blocked Drains and Plumbing Fixtures. Blockages can lead to significant and expensive issues for the rental unit and any other units that use the same plumbing system. This is a costly issue that needs to be addressed immediately.
- Toxic Chemicals. Any type of toxic chemical must be properly stored. Be on the lookout for sticky surfaces and strange substances. Toxic chemicals can pose a special danger to children and pets.
Be vigilant for all of these issues but use discretion. There is a difference between mold growing in a unit and a few pieces of trash on a tenant’s patio.
What to Include in a Notice to Clean Property
This type of notice should lay out the landlord’s concerns and any potential consequences.
General Structure and Purpose
The Notice to Tenant to Clean Property should be detailed regarding the specific issue involved. The general structure is as follows:
- Introduction. This section should explain to them the purpose of the letter.
- Body Paragraphs. This section should provide specific information about the cleanliness issues involved, any code or lease violations, and their effect on the property. This section should also provide information as to what the tenant must clean within a specific deadline.
- Conclusion. This section should provide a polite closing to the tenant and let them know they can reach out to you if they have any additional questions or concerns.
Specific Items to Include in a Notice to Tenant to Clean Property
This notice should include the following specific information:
- The tenant’s property address, including the unit number.
- The tenant’s name.
- A detailed description of the cleanliness problem.
- Reference to any specific violations in the lease agreement (attach a copy of the lease agreement with the relevant section(s) highlighted).
- Description of how the tenant can remedy the problem.
- A deadline for complying with the notice.
- Inform the tenant of a follow-up inspection, if applicable.
- Consequences if the tenant fails to comply with the notice.
- Landlord Signature.
- Landlord’s contact information
Sending a Notice to Clean Property
Most lease agreements will specifically state how communication should be sent between the landlord and tenant. Ideally, you want to send a notice in a way that requires signature confirmation to document its receipt. This can be accomplished by certified mail.
You should keep a copy of this notice filed with a notation of what means were used to deliver the notice and any other relevant information. If the issue leads to a lawsuit or eviction, you will want proof that you informed the tenant of the problem and they still did not fix it.
What if the Property is still not Cleaned?
Now that you sent a notice, it’s important to know what may happen next and what options you have.
Notice of Non-renewal of Lease
If the lease is close to expiring your best option may be to send the tenant a Notice of Non-renewal of Lease. This letter will inform the tenant that you are not renewing their lease when it expires. For more information on sending a Notice of Non-renewal of lease, click here.
In some cases, the uncleanliness may lead to significant health and safety violations that require you to evict a tenant. Just be aware of certain exceptions when evicting a tenant. For instance, hoarding can be considered a mental disorder and to evict a person due to a mental disorder is considered discrimination in violation of The Fair Housing Act.
When evicting a tenant, documentation of any notices you sent to the tenant may be crucial in successfully evicting the tenant. In addition, make sure you follow your state’s specific requirements for notifying and formally evicting a tenant.
If the cleanliness has not been taken care of by the tenant at the end of their lease, you can withhold a tenant’s security deposit to clean the unit and pay for any damages that resulted from the tenant’s uncleanliness. If withholding any portion of a tenant’s security deposit, make sure you understand your state’s laws on security deposits as well as distinguishing damage from normal wear and tear.
Maintaining a Clean Rental Unit
Here’s how to reduce headaches like this in the future:
In addition to screening tenants, it’s important to have a detailed Cleanliness Clause in your lease agreement that outlines the rules for the maintenance and upkeep of the property. A cleanliness clause has the following benefits:
- Instructions. It provides your tenant specific instructions on how to maintain the property and the standard of cleanliness required for their rental unit.
- Incentivizes the Tenant. Having a Cleanliness Clause with a description of the consequences for failing to clean the property will incentivize most tenants to be proactive in keeping their rental unit clean.
- Legal Grounds. Having a Cleanliness Clause in your lease agreement gives you clear legal grounds if you are required to evict a tenant or withhold their security deposit for cleanliness issues.
Below is a sample Cleanliness Clause:
CLEANLINESS. Tenant(s) is responsible for cleaning all areas of the premises, including but not limited to, the living room, dining room, kitchen, hallways, laundry room, bedrooms, closets, bathrooms, outdoor walkways, and parking spaces. To prevent the infestation of rodents and insects, tenant(s) must remove any collected trash and food waste from the premises at least once a week. Carpets and rugs must be vacuumed at least once a week. Hardwood floors or tiles must be swept once a week. Bathrooms must be cleaned regularly, and as frequently as needed, to prevent the formation of mold and mildew. If the tenant(s) does not clean adequately and regularly, the tenant(s) will be liable for reasonable cleaning charges – including charges for cleaning carpets, draperies, furniture, walls, etc. that are soiled beyond normal wear and tear. The landlord reserves the right to hire a recurring professional cleaning service if the tenant(s) are not keeping the premises clean and sanitary. This expense will be the responsibility of the tenant(s). Continued failure to abide by this clause may result in the eviction of the tenant(s).
You may add more specific tasks to the clause that will be helpful for your rental unit. You should also include a Tenant Move Out Checklist with the lease agreement to give the tenant a better understanding of what items they are responsible for keeping clean.
Once a tenant has begun their lease, you can help ensure the cleanliness of the rental unit by conducting periodic inspections. Not only can they help maintain cleanliness, but they can also be used to keep up with repairs and help ensure your tenant’s rental unit is prepared for the upcoming seasons.
Depending on the state your property is located, there are specific requirements for notifying a tenant that you will be entering their premises. You must follow these requirements to avoid any violations. See the chart below for your state’s requirements before entering a tenant’s property.
|State||Amount of Notice||Form of Notice|
|Alabama||2 days||None specified|
|Alaska||24 hours||None specified|
|Arizona||2 days, unless to make a repair at the tenant’s request||None specified|
|California||Reasonable notice (24 hours is presumed reasonable)||Written|
|Colorado||48 hours (only related to inspection and treating of bed bugs)||Electronic or Written|
|Connecticut||Reasonable Notice||Written or Oral|
|Florida||Reasonable notice(12 hours for repairs)||None specified|
|Hawaii||2 days||None specified|
|Indiana||Reasonable notice||Written or Oral|
|Iowa||24 hours||None specified|
|Kansas||Reasonable notice||None specified|
|Kentucky||2 days||None specified|
|Maine||24 hours||None specified|
|Minnesota||Reasonable notice||None specified|
|Montana||24 hours||Email, hand delivery, certified mail, or posted on the main entry door|
|Nebraska||24 hours||None specified|
|Nevada||24 hours||None specified|
|New Hampshire||Adequate under the circumstances||None specified|
|New Jersey||Reasonable notice (one day under normal circumstances) unless a rental property has fewer than 3 units (must have tenant’s permission)||None specified|
|New Mexico||24 hours||Written|
|New York||None||Not applicable|
|North Carolina||None||Not applicable|
|North Dakota||Reasonable notice||None specified|
|Ohio||24 hours||None specified|
|Oklahoma||1 day||None specified|
|Oregon||24 hours||None specified|
|Rhode Island||2 days||None specified|
|South Carolina||24 hours||None specified|
|South Dakota||None||Not applicable|
|Tennessee||None (consent is required)||None specified|
|Utah||24 hours (unless the lease agreement has different terms)||None specified|
|Vermont||48 hours||None specified|
|Virginia||72 hours||None specified|
|Washington||2 days||Written (unless emergency or impractical)|
|Washington D.C.||48 hours||Written or Electronic (if the tenant does not respond to an electronic notice a written notice must be provided)|
|West Virginia||None||Not applicable|
|Wisconsin||12 hours||None specified|
If no specific timeframe is provided by your lease or state, you should still provide reasonable notice to the tenant, unless the situation is an emergency.
Be aware that in some states such as California, landlords are not allowed to conduct periodic inspections. It is recommended that if you are going to conduct periodic inspections you state this clearly in the lease agreement. For a helpful tool in conducting periodic inspections please see our Landlord Inspection Checklist.