Apartment move-out cleaning question
September 22, 2014 2:13 PM   Subscribe

Moving out of an apartment with no security deposit - how responsible do I need to be about getting it cleaned up for the new tenant?

Hello! I have been rattling this question around in my head for the past couple weeks and decided to ask it here.

I'm moving out of a one bedroom apartment in Chicago. My move-out date is Saturday 9/27, and the new tenant is moving in Sunday 9/28. I've lived here for six years and I haven't always kept the greatest cleaning standards. I keep things tidy but I'm not good for the regular deep cleanings, so there's a lot of dust and cat hair and general grime in the corners and all the hard wood floors need a good scrubbing. I'm also finding, as I take down pictures from the walls and fridge, some discoloration that shows where the pictures were.

I didn't pay a security deposit when I moved in. The rental association for the courtyard building required a movie-in fee of $200 or something like that. There is no money from them at stake. But I do feel it's my obligation as a tenant and person to leave the place in a decent state of cleanliness. Originally I was going to have cleaners come in on Sunday 9/28. (My lease ends 9/30 but I was able to move into my new place early.) However, the new tenant of my space wants to move in on Sunday. My movers are coming in the afternoon Saturday and I don't think it's feasible to try to schedule a cleaning company to come in after the movers are done, as sometimes they show up late and there's no way to know how long it'll take - also I'll be wanting to spend time dealing with unpacking the main necessities in my new apartment after the movers are done. The place is not filthy - it just shows a good bit of wear and tear. I honestly expected the rental agency to spend a month or two doing some rehabs after I left rather than leasing it right away.

Given the time constraints, there's no good chance to get cleaners in after all my shit has been moved out, and I don't think it makes sense to have cleaners come before everything is gone. The property manager for my building put the new tenant in touch with me directly to schedule turning over keys and whatnot. I am considering letting him know I had intended to bring in cleaners and giving him cash to schedule them himself. I don't care if he schedules them or not, at that point.

Is this a stupid idea for one reason or another? Cleaning the place to the standards I feel this requires is out of the question due to time constraints and general moving stress. This entire issue is giving me weird anxiety, mostly because I feel self-conscious about letting the place get grimy around the edges and because I keep chewing over the scenarios in my head. Argh!!! Thanks for any rental etiquette input.
posted by norrington to Human Relations (24 answers total)
Response by poster: I should have included my other decision option: since there's no security deposit at stake I'm under no obligation to clean it to pro-standards, and I have the time to mop the floors (but not scrub all the corners, necessarily) and sweep up/wipe down countertops/leave it looking presentable. I'm having a hard time sorting out standards of cleanliness, here.
posted by norrington at 2:18 PM on September 22, 2014

I think you're an amazingly good person and should carry out your plan.* I would be extremely pleased to get a cleaning allowance from the previous tenant.

*and have kids so you can breed that attitude into the human race
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 2:22 PM on September 22, 2014 [3 favorites]

Best answer: This is really your property management company's problem. Get it as clean as you can and don't sweat it. Signed, former property manager and current landlord
posted by rabbitrabbit at 2:23 PM on September 22, 2014 [11 favorites]

It should be free of grime, dust, and stains when you leave.

Since it sounds like that won't be possible, your idea to give the new tenant some cash in lieu of actually cleaning is IMO a good idea.But I'd talk to them and explain the situation and give them the option of either having cleaners come in on the 28th or cash in lieu. Also, if you do give cash you'll want to get that documented, just in case.

Also, the management company will owe you 3 days of back rent. You paid for that place through the end of the month and you are 100% entitled to full use of it until then, whether you technically live there or not.
posted by zug at 2:24 PM on September 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

Are the new tenants aware of what a quick turn-around time this is? I'd be more than peeved if I showed up to move in somewhere with all my furniture and there was still cat hair, etc. in the unit, although that irritation would be directed at the management company, not you as the previous tenant. If the new tenants are aware and don't care, a quick cleaning (floors, counters, bathroom and fridge) should be enough; if you don't think they are aware, I'd either let them know myself or ask the landlord to do it, since there's still a little time to do something about it.
posted by stellaluna at 2:24 PM on September 22, 2014

Given that they're moving in before the end of your lease, you're doing them a HUGE solid. At that point as long as it's empty that's as much as they can expect.

Get in touch and tell them, "I am moving out on 9/28, I was going to have cleaning done the day you plan to move in. I'll do my best, but you know how moving day is."

They pay their money, they take their chances.

While giving them a couple of bucks is awfully nice of you, it's not necessary. You're giving them two free days in the apartment, and the ability to move on the weekend, rather than on a weekday, which is HUGE!

Their early arrival supersedes the cleaning. I'm sure they'll be fine with it.

If you want to do something nice, Leave them some bottles of water in the fridge or maybe a nice 6-pack.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 2:25 PM on September 22, 2014 [18 favorites]

I think the generally-accepted standard here is that you'll leave the unit "broom clean" when you move out. Managing the normal wear and tear of a rental unit is 100% on the landlord, and it probably says as much in your lease.

That said, I salute your good conscience and wish more of the world was as concerned with the state in which they leave things as they move on.
posted by jesourie at 2:27 PM on September 22, 2014 [5 favorites]

Yeah spell it out for them: the consequence of them getting in early is that the place will not be professionally cleaned. If they choose to keep to this schedule, they have to accept the consequences. I wouldn't give them money to clean, but I would do the best you can to give the place a basic tidying once the movers are done.
posted by BlahLaLa at 2:29 PM on September 22, 2014 [5 favorites]

I'm with Ruthless Bunny and rabbitrabbit on this one. It's the landlord's responsibility to clean the place in-between tenants (here in NYC they are also supposed to paint and do general maintenance), and you are doing the incoming tenants a major solid by giving them the last three days of your lease for free. I would just send them a note and say that it's not possible for you to do the cleaning you wanted to get done after you had removed your stuff from the apartment because of their early arrival. They should take due notice thereof and govern themselves accordingly. You might suggest that they engage the services of a cleaning service for Saturday AM before their belongings get moved in, but there is no reason you should do so. Frankly, it is commonplace that most apartments are filled with "behind and under the furniture dust" and even pieces of abandoned furniture after a tenant moves out. When Mrs. slkinsey's former landlord saw me sweeping the floor of her former apartment after the movers had taken away the last box, she practically keeled over in surprise.
posted by slkinsey at 2:34 PM on September 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

I have to say, that while it seems pointless to have the cleaners in while your stuff is still there, I actually did this before a similar move and it was surprisingly effective. When you think about it, most housekeeping/cleaning services are used to working in fully furnished spaces and they still do a really great job.

Plus it means that THEY, and not YOU, find all of the secret spiders that have been living in your apartment for six years.

Nonetheless, you're not obligated to do more than a cursory clean and make sure that the keys work and whatnot. Giving them money for cleaners would be well above and beyond.
posted by like_a_friend at 2:37 PM on September 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Agreed that you're not obligated to have the place sparkling clean when you move, that's the landlord's problem.

Story time! The last time I moved out of a place (I'd been in there for 3ish years) I cleaned up to the extent I thought was proper: ie I swept and vacuumed, but didn't do anything else. After I moved out I was talking to the property manager about something unrelated, and she thanked me effusively for leaving the place so clean, and said that most people don't tidy up at all when they leave.

So basically if you sweep things after you move your furniture out and don't leave your crap and garbage lying around, not only will you be doing your responsibility, you'll already be above and beyond what most tenants do.

(that said, a lot of landlords aren't great about doing their part to clean in between tenants. The good ones are, but I've definitely moved into places where I had to throw out the previous tenant's trash and there was food left in the cupboard etc.)
posted by quaking fajita at 2:46 PM on September 22, 2014

Now, I, like you am a person who would never leave anything a mess if there's anything I can do to help it.

If it's not too upsetting to your plans and it's not a bother. Pay to have someone come in and deep clean the kitchen and bathrooms sometime this week (this assumes you're mostly packed.) That way all you have to do is vacuum and hand over the keys.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 2:47 PM on September 22, 2014

I think it would be nice of you, but not really required. Particularly if you paid a $200 "move in" fee-- surely some of that should go to cleaning, right?
posted by geegollygosh at 2:49 PM on September 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: It is absolutely the management's responsibility to make sure the apartment is clean for the new tenants, not yours. If they are letting the new tenents move in the day after you move out I would not be surprised if they don't take this responsibility seriously, as many management companies don't. You are expected to clean to a reasonable standard, not to get it clean enough for handing over to the new tenants. The management should absolutely be doing a deep cleaning after you do your bit.
posted by Blitz at 4:15 PM on September 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

I'm assuming the new tenant is also paying a $200 (or more!) move-in fee, and I would think that should cover cleaning.
posted by shiny blue object at 4:18 PM on September 22, 2014

Also, the idea of handing over money to them for cleaners is nuts. Don't do that. You already gave them a $200 "move in fee", and if they are letting the apartment the very next day to a new tenant without expecting to do any major cleaning and renovations just because they can after someone has been living there for six whole years then they are obviously really crappy managers.
posted by Blitz at 4:28 PM on September 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

Ordinarily, I would say it's your responsibility to alleviate the grime that accumulated because you weren't a good housekeeper. That said, you're already gifting these people 2 days of your lease. I don't think you owe them cleaning money on top of that.

There's not anything you can do about the faded paint where the paintings were as a cleaning project anyway -- that'll require repainting, not cleaning.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:44 PM on September 22, 2014

Best answer: Because the new tenants are moving in three days early--those are the three days you WOULD have had to clean. I would just remind them that you are unable to bring in house cleaners because they are moving in three days early.
And that you will sweep/mop as best you can on Saturday.
posted by calgirl at 8:46 PM on September 22, 2014

Best answer: I would make sure there was no trash laying around and maybe sweep and vaccuum. But seriously I wouldn't spend more than an hour, if even, tidying up.

You absolutely do no owe them professional cleaning. I actually think it's bullshit that is now almost standard and basically a defensive move against unscrupulous landlords trying to get every penny from their tenants by finding some dust in a corner. If you keeps your place in reasonably good shape then you should be fine.

Also the nicest thing you can do for the new tenants is leave some toilet paper behind. Seriously that has been a lifesaver for me everytime I moved.
posted by whoaali at 4:22 AM on September 23, 2014 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Hello! Thanks for the answers and input. I'm feeling a lot less stressed about the situation - if I can manage to bring in some cleaners on Friday or something then I'll make it work but the truth is I am stressed and feeling the pain on my bank account of movers and everything else, so the corroboration that getting the place spotless isn't my responsibility makes me feel so much better about everything. Most likely I'll mop the floors and get things looking as good as I can before Sunday. The new guy is coming by on Friday to pick up keys so I'll do the, "Yeah, since you're moving in early I won't have time to get the space spotless" comment and he'll know what to expect.

Moving is stressful. :)
posted by norrington at 6:00 AM on September 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

Is the new tenant paying you anything for the early move-in? If not, then I think you are already doing a HUGE favor by allowing them to move in multiple days early when your lease presumably goes to the end of the month. I think that changes the cleaning calculus a LOT.

I would just mention something to the effect of "Hey, I was originally planning to do cleaning on Sunday but now it looks like that will not be possible because of your early move in. I'm happy to do the cleaning on Sunday if you would like to delay the move-in date, but otherwise it simply will not be possible with my schedule." (Don't mention cleaners/money. All of this would still be 100% relevant had you been planning to personally do the cleaning on Sunday.)
posted by rainbowbrite at 9:50 AM on September 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

What did the $200 "move-in" fee you paid when you arrived supposedly cover?
posted by Nerd of the North at 10:46 AM on September 23, 2014

Response by poster: @rainbowbrite - no, I'm not getting money from anyone for moving out early but the owner of the condo I'm moving to is not requiring me to pay anything pro-rated for the September days so I'm just happy to be moving on a Saturday and calling it a wash.

@nerd of the north - It was a very vague "administrative fee." I did find a statement on the property management website saying that "Tenants are responsible for cleaning all appliances and surfaces at end of their lease."

So, yup, I am responsible for it but the early move-in of the new tenant complicates it a bit.
posted by norrington at 2:12 PM on September 23, 2014

I'm not saying you should ask the person moving in for money...just that in theory you could ask for it, and you are doing them a favor by not making this an issue (just as your condo folks are doing you a favor). I definitely do think it changes the moral calculus here. If this were a standard move out, I would think it was firstly the landlord's responsibility to make sure cleaning happens, but also somewhat your job to not be a total asshole about it and leave the place trashed. In this case, you WOULD plan to make sure the cleaning happened, but cannot because this person is asking you the favor of moving in early. I don't think you should need to pay money in order for them to move into an apartment early. I think you could give the option of a) pay for cleaners to come Sunday or b) person gets to move in early. They are almost certainly going to choose the Sunday move in, and I think it's perfectly reasonable on your part.
posted by rainbowbrite at 3:29 PM on September 23, 2014

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