How Clean Should You Leave Your Apartment When You Move Out?

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I recently got a question from a reader: “Do I have to clean everything in my apartment to get my deposit back?”

The answer is, unfortunately, not too clear. In general you’re expected to leave your apartment in “broom clean” condition when you move out, but there is no consistent definition of “broom clean” that applies to all landlords. (And no, it doesn’t mean that you just sweep your apartment!) Some expect to have to do a full repaint and maid-service level scrubbing of every apartment after a tenant moves out. Others expect that outgoing tenants will leave their apartment in move-in ready condition for a new tenant.

The best way to figure out your landlord’s definition of broom clean is to ask them. After all, they may be planning to do a gut remodel of your apartment after you move out, which would make heavy duty cleaning pretty pointless. But if for some reason you cannot reach your landlord or don’t want to speak to them, here’s what I would suggest as a rough guide:

Do:

  • Remove all your furniture and belongings. (This includes food in the fridge, hangers in the closet, and all your cleaning supplies!)
  • Remove nails, hooks, tape etc. from walls. Wash off any smudges. You can use water on painted walls provided that you go sparingly with it – don’t hose down the room, but a damp sponge should be fine.
  • If you have changed the paint colors in any of your rooms, put it back to the original color. You should be able to obtain matching paint from your landlord or at least find out what brand and color of paint they use.
  • Clean counters, appliances and kitchen & bath fixtures.
  • Sweep the floor, remove cobwebs from ceiling fans, vacuum the carpets.
  • Restore any fixtures you may have installed in the process of customizing your apartment to their original state. This can include closet organizers, ceiling fans and fancy thermostats.
  • Replace any burned out light bulbs and put the smoke detector back on the wall/ceiling if you’ve taken it down. (Tsk!)

Don’t:

  • Wash the windows
  • Repaint any rooms that are still their original color.
  • Wash the walls, unless you have been smoking in the apartment.
  • Clean the dryer vent, chimney or furnace
  • Replace blinds, switchplate covers or outlet covers.
  • Do not use toothpaste to patch holes in the wall. Repeat, do NOT use toothpaste.

Special Note for Smokers:

If you have been smoking in your apartment, it will take your landlord a lot of extra effort to get rid of the odor. They will need to wash the walls and possibly repaint them with special odor-resistant paint, and replace any textiles like carpets and curtains that will have absorbed the smoke odor. Indoor smokers will want to make a special effort to leave the place in good condition. Consider washing down the walls before you go. Any of the following combinations should work:

  • Wet Swiffer & Windex
  • Ammonia, Vinegar & Water
  • Trisodium Phosphate (TSP), Bleach & Water (use gloves and a face mask for this one.)

DO NOT combine ammonia and bleach. It can cause a deadly chemical reaction.

What is the strictest definition of broom clean you’ve ever gotten from a landlord? Have you ever lost money from your deposit for an apartment you thought was spotless? Let us know in the comments!

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Published by

Kay Cleaves

Founder and owner of RentConfident. She's the primary developer of the website and research engine code. She's spent over 10 years working in the Chicago rental industry and has assisted with over 1200 leases.

Buff Up Your Rental Application with a Renter’s Resume

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Apartment hunters in Chicago have faced a tough market lately. The best apartments receive many applications within their first 24 hours on the market. While good landlords choose their renters on a first come, first serve basis, others say that they will choose the “best renters” out of their applications. In many cases, the best renters are not the ones who offer the most money – although that certainly helps! Rather, they are looking for reliable, quiet people with good jobs who are not likely to wreck the place.

So how do you prove that you’re the best renter? How do you show that you’re taking this apartment hunting thing seriously? Come prepared with a renter’s resume! Just like the resumes you make when you’re looking for a job, a renter’s resume shows all of your experience in a tidy and concise format. However, instead of listing all of your work experience, you’re going to be showcasing all of the qualities that make you an excellent human being. Continue reading Buff Up Your Rental Application with a Renter’s Resume

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Kay Cleaves

Founder and owner of RentConfident. She's the primary developer of the website and research engine code. She's spent over 10 years working in the Chicago rental industry and has assisted with over 1200 leases.

Six Smart Smoke Detector Upgrades That Work in Apartments

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Your landlord must provide you with a smoke detector. If your apartment is connected to any room where fossil fuels are burned, they also have to provide you with a carbon monoxide detector. But the detectors they provide are usually the cheapest ones they can find at the hardware store. The batteries wear out frequently, they tend to give false alarms if you take a hot shower or burn your toast, and they’re just generally not the best option available.

Fortunately, modern innovators have brought a lot of products to the market that are upgrades to the average $20 Home Depot special. Today we’ll be featuring six options that renters can consider for their apartments that require little to no alteration to your apartment and won’t break your budget.

Note: We have not been paid or contacted by any of the companies that manufacture these devices. We also haven’t gotten our hands on any of them to test them, so this isn’t a recommendation, it’s just a list of options that we think are nifty.

Roost (getroost.com) – $35

This isn’t really a smoke detector. Rather, it’s a replacement smart battery for your existing detector. It’s the same size and shape as a 9-volt battery. Stick it into your smoke or CO detector and it will gain the ability to communicate with an app on your phone over wifi, notifying you of any alerts. It’s got a 5 year lifespan, too, which means it’ll probably last longer than your lease. Continue reading Six Smart Smoke Detector Upgrades That Work in Apartments

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Published by

Kay Cleaves

Founder and owner of RentConfident. She's the primary developer of the website and research engine code. She's spent over 10 years working in the Chicago rental industry and has assisted with over 1200 leases.

10 Questions to Ask Before Renting a Condo

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Renters who want high end appliances without the corporate trappings of luxury landlords have recently turned to renting condominiums from private owners as an alternative. Other condo renters are seeking a more mature living environment away from the stereotypical rowdy young renters that live in traditional apartment buildings. Rented condos can offer them the fixtures and styling normally offered only to homeowners without the long term commitment and up front cost of a down payment and mortgage.

However, condos have their own unique problems that can make renting them a challenge. Unlike standard rentals which are usually run by experienced property managers, condo buildings are collectively owned by the residents. These residents may or may not have experience in taking care of big structures like multi-unit buildings. Like many situations where a businesses are run by volunteer committees, organization and communication within a condo building can be limited. I know that in-unit washer and dryer looks pretty sweet, but before you jump into renting a condo here are some questions you should ask of the agent, landlord or manager.

1. Is the landlord current on their assessments?

Owners of condominiums must pay into a general fund managed by the condo association, used for the upkeep of the common areas and exterior of the building. It’s just like rent, but it’s called an assessment. In some cases these assessments even cover utilities like heat and water. If your landlord isn’t paid up on his assessments, he can be evicted by the association, and you’ll go right along with him. Continue reading 10 Questions to Ask Before Renting a Condo

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Published by

Kay Cleaves

Founder and owner of RentConfident. She's the primary developer of the website and research engine code. She's spent over 10 years working in the Chicago rental industry and has assisted with over 1200 leases.

Renters, Your Landlord Is Laughing At You for Using A Word Incorrectly.

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I spend a lot of time reading landlord-tenant discussion boards online. When you run a business like RentConfident, it goes with the territory. These discussion boards are full of tenants complaining and being dramatic about their terrible landlords and sub-standard housing. They like to use the term “slumlord,” which someone decided at some point should be the extremely offensive equivalent of the “n-word” for landlords. And in some cases the tenants are totally right for complaining.

But they also tend to claim that they’re being “evicted” on dubious grounds. And a lot of them have indeed been asked to leave by their landlords. But a lot of the time they’re using the word “evicted” incorrectly. And when they do, the readers with legit property management experience giggle behind their screens at the obvious ploy for sympathy.

Eviction is an emotionally loaded term, and renters like to use it every time they are forced to leave an apartment at a time other than one that they chose themselves. For landlords, eviction refers to a very specific process: a courtroom trial followed by a visit from the sheriff. It isn’t an eviction until the county judicial system gets involved.

According to Dictionary.com, eviction has two definitions:

1. to expel (a person, especially a tenant) from land, a building, etc., by legal process, as for nonpayment of rent.
2. to recover (property, titles, etc.) by virtue of superior legal title.
Note the use of the word “legal” in both of those definitions.

Here are some situations that are legal, but not evictions:

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Published by

Kay Cleaves

Founder and owner of RentConfident. She's the primary developer of the website and research engine code. She's spent over 10 years working in the Chicago rental industry and has assisted with over 1200 leases.