Dirty Tenants: Can Landlords Tell Them To Clean Up?

Owning rental properties is one of the most profitable streams of passive income. While it may seem like it’s only sunshine and rainbows, owning a rental property comes with unfortunate relational struggles. After being in the property management industry for over 40 years, we’ve seen our fair share of landlord and tenant conflicts. One of the most common occurrences we run into is landlords who are frustrated with dirty tenants. What can be done about messy tenants?

With our expertise, we’re answering common questions regarding dirty tenants. In this article, we’ll address the difference between dirty tenants and dangerous messy tenants. We’ll also give our advice on how to handle dirty tenants and what you can do to prevent messy tenants. To start, here are cleaning practices you can implement today to avoid dirty rental properties in the first place.

3 Cleaning Practices to Practice at Rental Properties

Before we dive into what to do about dirty tenants, we have some tips and tricks both tenants and landlords can follow to keep a clean environment. If you follow these practices, you can avoid conflicts and maintain positive relationships wherever you go.

  1. Tenants can take the time to clean before moving out
    Let’s say you’ve been living in a rental for a while now and you feel the itch to move somewhere new. Before you go, it’s a basic courtesy to clean up before moving out of a rental. This could mean doing a deep clean in the bathroom or kitchen, vacuuming every room, sweeping and taking out the trash, wiping the windows, and more. Set aside time to clean up the rental property before leaving. Not only does this leave a great impression on the landlord, but it sets you up for success in your next rental.
  2. Set the example as a landlord and clean between tenants
    Now we’re going to talk to the landlords. It’s not only up to the tenants to maintain a clean space. As a landlord, you have the responsibility to set the tone of how your rental is maintained. While you’re not legally bound to clean between tenants, it’s a good idea to do so if you want to be a successful rental owner. If potential tenants visit your property and find a mess, they’re highly unlikely to want to make it their new home. However, if you do a deep cleaning of your property between tenants, it’s much easier to find reliable tenants who will keep your property up to cleanliness standards. Create the right clean atmosphere from the get-go, and watch your tenants follow in your footsteps.
  3. Don’t let small cleaning tasks pile up into a mess
    As a tenant, it’s easy to let day-to-day stress pile up and forget about taking care of the home you live in. Whether you’re a naturally clean person or you don’t mind a bit of mess, we encourage you to keep a cleaning schedule for your rental property. Clean the kitchen and bathroom on Sundays, wash all the laundry on Saturdays, or set aside a full day to clean every room. More importantly, learn to pick up after yourself throughout the week. In the long term, you’ll thank us for it. Cleaning as you go prevents you from running into landlord conflicts, and it will put your mind at ease knowing you’re coming home to a clean rental property.

Dirty vs. Unsafe-Level Filthy Tenants

Now let’s get onto the reality of owning rental properties with dirty tenants. We hate to say it, but some tenants are just plain messy. They won’t clean up after themselves and might not care about your rental property’s cleanliness as much as you do. However, there is a big difference between a tenant who doesn’t consistently clean and a renter who causes a threat to safety due to their filthy habits. We’re here to help you differentiate these two types of tenants. Below are a few situations you’ll experience from somewhat harmless dirty tenants:

  • Clothes on floor
  • Objects strewn about in the kitchen, living room, etc
  • Unmade beds
  • Dusty appliances

While these messy tenants may not keep your property in tip-top shape, some renters could neglect your rental to the point of it becoming a dangerous environment. These types of tenants can create massive destruction due to their careless nature. Property damage, possible physical illness, and horrible odors are just a few consequences these tenants leave behind in rental properties. Here are some of the unsafe circumstances you may encounter due to filthy tenants:

  • Tenant-caused intrusion of rodents or cockroaches
  • Mildew
  • Damage to flooring, walls, or fixtures
  • Feces and urine residue
  • Hoarding habits that lock doors and windows, creating a fire hazard

As a landlord, you’ll have to deal with these types of tenants differently. While you may not have control over one, there are a few things you can do about the dangerous messy tenant. Here’s how to deal with dirty renters:

What Can the Landlord Do About Dirty Tenants?

Now that we’ve outlined the difference between dirty renters and dangerous filthy renters, what can you as a landlord do about it? For your average messy renter, there’s not a lot that you have control over. While some landlords want to include a rule in the lease demanding the tenant to clean the home each week, this idea isn’t very enforceable in the long run. It’s generally a bad idea to include unenforceable things in a lease agreement, and you can’t legally tell the tenant to clean up if the issue isn’t creating a dangerous space. A friendly reminder to the tenants—like we said before, it’s a good idea to keep a consistent cleaning schedule if you’d like to keep a positive relationship with your landlord.

On the other hand, if a tenant’s dirty habits have reached an unsafe level, this could qualify as a lease violation. For example, if your renter leaves food out for weeks on end and rodents begin to intrude and tear apart your rental, it’s time to issue a notice of a lease violation. This is also known as a “notice to cure.” In simpler terms, you’re giving the renter a written notice that they are violating the lease agreement by creating an unsafe environment. After you’ve written the notice and sent it to them, you’re required to give them 3 business days to fix the filth problem at hand. If they fail to fix the problem, you now have the right to perform a court eviction or “unlawful detainer.” Court evictions are expensive, and we recommend going through with it only in very extreme situations. The next best you can do is wait until the lease term expires and give the tenant a notice to vacate. In this case, the tenant will have to move out and you’ll have a long list of cleaning chores to take care of.

How To Prevent Messy Tenants

It sounds like it’d be much easier if you could just avoid dirty tenants in the first place, right? Here are a couple of tips from our team to prevent messy tenants and keep up with a clean rental property:

  1. Explain to tenants the consequences of filthy rental properties. It could be a possibility that tenants just don’t know how their dirty habits can lead to negative effects. When signing with a tenant, explain how messes can lead to rodent infestations or damaged property. Make it a priority to communicate to tenants how constant cleaning can prevent your rental property from becoming a dangerous environment both for themselves and for you.
  2. Set an example from the start. Like we’ve said before, first impressions matter. When showing potential tenants your property, make sure it’s in top-notch shape. Elements such as gardening, landscaping, and high-quality cleaning products can make the world of a difference when it comes to setting an example for your tenants.
  3. Conduct consistent inspections. This is the #1 way to find unreported maintenance issues and check on possible lease violations. While the purpose of an inspection is not to check whether your property’s kitchen is clean, these checkups are important to ensure your property is being taken care of. Inspections can also be used to communicate with your tenants about cleaning habits and give yourself the peace of mind you need.

Preventing messy tenants or dealing with already dirty renters is intimidating. It takes an investment of your time and energy as a landlord to run inspections, deal with conflict, or handle lease violations (in extreme situations). What if we told you that you don’t have to do it alone? TrueDoor’s property managers will take charge of dirty tenants from the start so you don’t have to waste time with them.

Hire TrueDoor Property Management to Maintain a Clean Rental Property

TrueDoor Property Management’s team located in the Inland Empire and Orange County is experts at tenant and landlord relationships. When you partner with us, we’ll run rental property inspections, take charge of tenant conflicts, and handle legal matters if needed. All you have to do is sit back and reap the profitable rewards of your rental without the stress of dealing with dirty tenants and more. What’s even better is you’ll have access to TrueDoor’s 24/7 online portal where you can check on maintenance updates, property performance, and more.

Are you ready to experience a stress-free property management experience? Contact our team to receive our five-star property management services, and stop dealing with dirty tenants on your own!