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Landlord Tenant Q&A with SCHERRY “SCHER” WEBB (R), E-PRO, GRI

Property Manager
Woodstock Properties, Inc.
2013 President, Oahu Chapter
National Association of Residential Property Managers

Q. I am a tenant and am going to be checking out of my rental apartment soon, and the Property Manager is telling me that I have to have all my furniture and personal items removed from the apartment before I schedule the carpet cleaning & professional cleaning. They state this in their Rental Policies and I knew this before I signed the Lease, and I realize I did agree to these terms and conditions by signing the Lease. However, my question is: Can a landlord or property manager legally expect me to pay rent for the days all my furniture & personal items have to be removed, and I am in “transit” cleaning the unit while there is no furniture in it? This represents 2 days as they ask that the carpets be steam cleaned first, and then allowed to dry 24 hours before I schedule the professional cleaners to come. These are 2 days I cannot live there as all my furniture will be gone. It just doesn’t seem like it would be legal to charge me rent when I can’t live there- am I correct?

A. This is a logical question that a tenant would ask. I understand that you feel you should not have to vacate the property until the very last day you paid rent but it would be impossible to expect someone to clean the unit with your items still there.

Assuming the Landlord and Tenant have signed a Hawaii Association of Realtors Standard Rental Agreement, the Standard Term 16-I INVENTORY & CONDITION form states:

“Whenever TENANT moves out, TENANT must take all TENANT’S personal items with TENANT. If TENANT leaves any behind, TENANT must pay for any storage and other costs, including advertising costs, involved in selling or getting rid of them. TENANT must leave the Unit in the same condition as when TENANT moved in. It is TENANT’S duty to have the unit in clean and proper condition ON THE DAY TENANT’S TENANCY ENDS, NOT ON ANY OTHER DAY. TENANT must have the same items in the unit that were there when TENANT moved in; and TENANT must leave these items in the same condition as when TENANT moved in, except for normal wear and tear. If there is any disagreement, the signed PROPERTY CONDITION FORM will be treated as correct.”

Upon checking into your rental unit the landlord and/or management company followed the same guidelines that are in your rental agreement. In order to complete a proper and thorough cleaning all items must be removed. It is not possible for a carpet cleaning company to come in and clean around your furniture. Dust and debris often accumulate behind couches, entertainment centers, beds and dressers and all these areas have to be thoroughly vacuumed before any carpet cleaning can begin. It is not possible to clean the entire carpet with anything still in the room.

This also applies with any other areas in the home besides the carpets. For instance your kitchen and bathroom cabinets are full of items that must be removed for proper cleaning. You can’t just clean around these items and expect it to be in the same clean condition as it was upon your check in. The last tenant did exactly what you have been asked to do; they were moved out completely before cleaning commenced.

You many consider this an inconvenience and unnecessary expense but this is the only way a proper cleaning can be completed. Just consider how your next rental would be if the last tenant remained in the unit and had the cleaning done “around” their items.

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