'Clean & Tidy' - Leaving a Residential Tenancy

Under the Residential Tenancies Act 1986, when a person’s tenancy ends, they are required to, among other things;

“….leave the premises in a reasonably clean and reasonably tidy condition, and remove or arrange for the removal from the premises of all rubbish.”

Tenants are only required to leave premises in a condition that an average, reasonable person would consider clean and tidy. This does not mean spotless or what a landlord would consider acceptable to then get a new tenant in. In a recent decision of the Tenancy Tribunal, the Tribunal stated:

A tenant is not required to rigorously clean all walls, ceilings, lightshades, skirtings, behind appliances or the outside of the house. It is common that a landlord wishes to clean to this “extra” level so that they can re-tenant or sell. However, that is a business decision that a landlord makes at their cost.

Tenancy Services considers a clause in a tenancy agreement that “Carpets must be professionally cleaned at the end of the tenancy” is likely to be unenforceable as it goes beyond what is required.


It is important to remember that the requirement to leave a rental property clean and tidy applies to the outside as well as the inside. The property’s gardens do not need to be “prize-winning” but should not be wildly overgrown or so unmaintained as to make the premises appear unoccupied. Somewhere between these extremes is acceptable.

A good indicator of what may be considered clean and tidy can be gauged by comparing the property’s garden with other gardens in the neighbourhood. Generally it will be expected that lawns will be mowed, simple weeding will be done, leaves will be swept up, and any hedges or shrubs will appear “under control”.

General Advice

General advice for renters is to:

  • Take plenty of photos of the premises at the start and end of the tenancy to show that you did in fact leave it clean and tidy
  • If you have left the premises reasonably clean and tidy, you cannot be forced to pay for further cleaning costs above this and the landlord is not entitled to withhold the bond for this reason or use part of the bond to cover cleaning fees
  • If you think you have left your rental premises clean and tidy but your landlord disputes this, consider taking your landlord to the Tenancy Tribunal