Is the carpet-cleaning clause in this lease shady?
July 23, 2008 4:11 PM   Subscribe

I'm about to sign a lease with a peculiar clause about carpet cleaning. I have had a lot of leases before and I don't recall ever seeing anything quite like this. I'm wondering if it's just a standard thing I haven't seen before, or if it's unusual or even unlawful.

The term goes like this:

"Carpets must be PROFESSIONALLY CLEANED by a Landlord approved cleaner at the end of the lease term. All belongings/furniture must be removed prior to the cleaning. Carpets may not be cleaned with rental cleaning equipment or any unauthorized cleaning firms.
CHARGES: $50.00 service charge plus carpet cleaning expense. Hard surfaced floors must be swept, then cleaned with proper cleaners.
CHARGES: $35.00 per hour."

Those last two lines are referring to what will be deducted from the security deposit if the term isn't satisfied by the tenant.

Is this just a case of the management company pushing costs onto the tenant? I'm used to having the management company do a professional cleaning between tenants rather than making the outgoing tenant responsible. I seem to remember when I was living in Michigan I read something about it being illegal for a landlord to require a tenant to pay for cleaning services, but this is in Iowa, so it may be different. Here's the response I got from the management company when I asked about it:

"Yes, we do require that you have the carpets professionally cleaned at the time you move out. We also require tenants to clean the carpets at least once each year that they reside with us. This is standard practice in this area with all the property management companies that I have come into contact with.

"Most tenants who have lived with us for an extended amount of time usually have their carpets done once a year, on or around the date that their lease would normally expire. We do require a copy of the invoice from the cleaning company as proof that the carpets were cleaned, otherwise, we would charge the tenant a service fee for setting up the service plus the tenant would be charged the actual cost of the carpet cleaning.

"I am surprised that this is the first time you have come across this; this is not uncommon in this area."
posted by Cogito to Work & Money (24 answers total)
I rented two different places while living in Southern California. The carpet cleaning clause was standard at both places.
posted by matty at 4:18 PM on July 23, 2008

Where are you located? In the Bay area I've run across carpets must be professionally cleaned if they are not in good condition when you move out as part of my lease agreement, but never a mandatory paid cleaning. IMO that's what the landlords pay for (or take out of your lease if you're a slob).
posted by stewiethegreat at 4:19 PM on July 23, 2008

I have that seen that in Florida as standard.

I personally think it sucks, but its pretty small beans.
posted by stormygrey at 4:28 PM on July 23, 2008

This was in my last lease, but without a statement of the amount -- but assuming 1 hr, it matches the amount I was charged. Not in Iowa.

Note that this is just the carpet. They can still charge you for anything else that isn't clean and will probably even expect you to vacuum.

It's definitely not unheard of, but if you're annoyed and it's not in every lease you're looking at, maybe just add it to the effective cost for comparison?
posted by ecsh at 4:30 PM on July 23, 2008

I've seen it before and talked my landlord out of it when I left. Try negotiating with the landlord to see if you can strike that part of the lease out. They may go for it and it never hurts to ask.
posted by k8to at 4:37 PM on July 23, 2008

This was standard at my first apartment out of college.
posted by Ostara at 4:38 PM on July 23, 2008

I've seen it, but I've never seen them require a professional service. I've always been allowed to rent a cleaner and do it myself - as long as the carpet looked fine it was never a problem.
posted by joannemerriam at 4:44 PM on July 23, 2008

While rent has skyrocketed over the last few years, cleaning costs haven't risen as much. My suspicion would be that the cleaners are wanting some of the action, and (as is often the case) are giving real estate agents and landlords "incentives" to require frequent cleaning as done by specific firms. Cui bono?
posted by aeschenkarnos at 4:49 PM on July 23, 2008

Getting the carpets professionally cleaned at the end of your tenancy is pretty much standard, at least here in Australia.
posted by turgid dahlia at 4:54 PM on July 23, 2008

I've seen that as standard here in North Carolina.
posted by konolia at 4:55 PM on July 23, 2008

That seems pretty standard here in San Antonio, unfortunately. Another hidden cost to renting, I guess.
posted by muddgirl at 5:13 PM on July 23, 2008

wow. does the lease specify that you have to clean the carpets once per year, or is that only something management told you when you talked to them? if it's not in the lease, then i'd disregard it.

i have seen leases that have similar cleaning provisions you listed above, but nothing mandating a yearly professional cleaning. the fact that they are asking you to pay for an annual professional cleaning makes it more of a maintenance issue, which i think they're responsibile for, as opposed to the end lease cleaning. if that annual cleaning provision is in the lease, and they wouldn't take it out, i'd walk.
posted by lester at 5:17 PM on July 23, 2008

I had a similar thing in Nova Scotia. It's the landlord protecting themselves from having to clean up after you - nothing to worry about.

Incidentally, my superintendent recommended a cheap carpet cleaner - RotoStatic - to me, and in addition to being the cheapest, they also turned out to be the most amazing carpet cleaners I've ever seen. I think they're a widespread thing. They're not steam cleaning - they have some rotating pad thing, but they got out stains that I thought I'd be charged for for sure. They made my carpet look like it was when I moved in. Absolutely incredible. I'd use them over steam cleaning any day. If they operate in your area, I would strongly recommend them (on the assumption that the technology is the same).
posted by Dasein at 5:23 PM on July 23, 2008 [2 favorites]

Having the carpets cleaned professionally at the end of the lease: Every place I've rented.

Having them professionally cleaned once a year: Never heard of it before, and if it was in my lease agreement, I didn't notice it, do it, or suffer for it.
posted by LionIndex at 5:24 PM on July 23, 2008

Cleaning at end of lease is reasonably common.

Requiring it once a year, though - that I've never even heard of, much less encountered. I'm also unclear on how you're supposed to do it - if the whole apartment's carpeted, where exactly do you put your stuff while it's being cleaned? Even if it's just the bedroom, that seems like a really astounding amount of inconvenience every year.
posted by Tomorrowful at 5:24 PM on July 23, 2008

The once a year thing is also in there under a separate section. I'm not too concerned about it though as I don't plan on being there more than a year.

Thanks for all the helpful responses.
posted by Cogito at 5:29 PM on July 23, 2008

If you're in Iowa City or anywhere near there, try calling up the university. They have a tenant union type office that will be able to tell you whether this is standard practice or not. I've encountered similar clauses while I was living in the Midwest.
posted by jujube at 6:55 PM on July 23, 2008

The apartment I lived in most of my time in Iowa (City) required the end-of-lease professional cleaning. Luckily, they were supposed to replace the carpet before I moved in and didn't, so I got away without having to have it cleaned. The carpet in my New Mexico apartment also required cleaning (but not specifically by a professional), and deducted it from my security deposit when I didn't.

I've never had a lease that required yearly professional cleaning.
posted by dirigibleman at 10:47 PM on July 23, 2008

Annual carpet cleaning: Yeah, normal.
Charges anticipated: Sound kind of steep, mine are usually $50 total.
Tenant contracts for it: Would have been nice. More usual in my experience, management arranges it and gives tenants very short notice, or management doesn't arrange it but pockets the money anyway.
Gotta use the approved cleaners: Hmmm? Landlord's brother-in-law owns the company, I'm guessing? I can understand "no DIY" because some people are dorks and would slough it. I can understand "don't use these firms" if they have experience with a lousy job. But an approved list? *scratches head*
posted by eritain at 11:10 PM on July 23, 2008

I've rented several apartments and I've never seen that. You can always try crossing it off, initialing and dating the crossout and returning the lease. If they don't catch it, you win!
posted by electroboy at 5:06 AM on July 24, 2008

For the record, I believe that such a clause in a lease is illegal in NY state. I can't speak about the rest of the country.
posted by Citrus at 6:07 AM on July 24, 2008

I've rented half a dozen places over 10 years in MN and WI and I've never heard of this.
posted by look busy at 6:37 AM on July 24, 2008

"by a Landlord approved cleaner"

Sound fishy to me. What if this cleaning company has a deal with the land lord and pays him a commission for your business. In that case that will be the only cleaning company that the land lord will approve and knowing that the cleaning company can charge whatever amount they wish from you.
posted by WizKid at 8:51 AM on July 24, 2008

In my market it is pretty standard to just tear out the carpet and charge the outgoing tenant. I guess in Atlanta the carpet installers bribe better than the carpet cleaners.
posted by Megafly at 4:05 PM on July 24, 2008

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