‘Reasonably clean’ is referred to in some of the duty sections of the Residential Tenancies Act 1997 but is not defined by the Act. These includes duties of the rental provider to provide the property in a reasonably clean condition [section 65] and of the renter to keep and leave the property reasonably clean [section 63].
The CAV guidelines provide guidance on the interpretation of ‘cleanliness’:
‘Cleanliness should be measured according to average standards in the community. It does not mean spotless or pristine nor does it mean terribly messy; the standard should sit somewhere in the middle and will depend on the nature, age, and circumstances of the rented premises.
‘Generally, an item or surface may be considered reasonably clean if it is free from marks, dirt, cobwebs, stains or dust etc. and cannot be further improved by additional cleaning to a reasonable standard (e.g. wiping down a benchtop again doesn’t produce a higher standard of cleanliness).’
Examples of cleanliness that would be expected in premises which are ‘reasonably clean’ included in the guidelines are:
- Cooking appliances, including the oven, stove and rangehood, to be free of oil, grease, and food stains
- Dishwasher to be clean, that is, free from grease, grime, food scraps and any strong odours
- Baths, showers, toilets, sinks and vanity units to be free from dirt, dust, stains, soap scum and mould caused by renter’s failure to take care
- Kitchen sink to be free from soap scum and food scraps
- Mirrors to be free from dust, marks, and smears
- Walls and skirting boards to be reasonably free of scuff marks, fingerprints, and dust
- Floors to be washed and free from dirt, dust, and stains
- Carpets free of pet hair, stains, and any strong odours (such as urine)
- Premises clear of personal belongings (at the end of the rental agreement)
- Garden beds and lawns to be weeded and neat
- Lawns to be mowed unless this is the specific responsibility of the rental provider
- Windowsills free from dust and dirt
- Windows, including the outside of any external ground floor windows, to be free from marks, smears, dust, and dirt
- Curtains or blinds free from dust and stains
- Cupboards emptied and free from dust and dirt
- Heating ducts and exhaust fans to be clean and free of dust. Note: cleaning at heights may often be considered maintenance which is the responsibility of the rental provider. Renters are not expected to access ceiling fans where access may be dangerous.
- Rubbish removed and disposed of correctly
- Shed or garage (where provided) to be kept neat, tidy and emptied at the end of the rental agreement
Leaving the property ‘reasonably clean’
When renters move out, they are required to leave the property, as far as practicable, reasonably clean and in the same condition as when they moved in, taking into account fair wear and tear [section 63].
The guidelines provide some further information on assessing the cleanliness of a property when a renter moves in that may assist in determining the condition it should be in on moving out.
Rental agreements entered into from 29 March 2021 may include a term about professional cleaning, or cleaning to a professional standard [section 27C, regulation 12].
Such terms are not intended to impose requirements for cleanliness over and above what is required under the law. The law only requires renters to keep and leave the property reasonably clean [section 63].
Where a professional cleaning term is included in a rental agreement it only applies if:
- The property was professionally cleaned or cleaned to a professional standard immediately before you moved in, and the rental provider told you this had been done, or
- Professional cleaning, or cleaning to a professional standard, is needed to restore the property to the same condition it was in before the start of your tenancy, taking into account fair wear and tear [section 27C, regulation 12]
See Consumer Affairs Victoria’s Cleanliness guideline for guidance on when professional cleaning, or cleaning to a professional standard, may be able to be requested by the rental provider.