Carpet Steam Cleaning – do I have to do it?

During your tenancy

Some landlords and agents ask you to have the carpets steam-cleaned once a year, or before or after routine inspections.  There is no requirement to do this under tenancy law. 

During a tenancy, you only have to take reasonable care of the premises and keep them reasonably clean having regard to their condition at commencement and the normal incidents of living (clause 63(c) of the standard tenancy terms).  There are no extra obligations during an inspection than on any other day of your tenancy.

It should be possible to meet your obligations by routine vacuuming and, if there is a specific spill or stain, using stain-removal products straight away.  The ‘normal incidents of living’ means you are allowed to have some dust and belongings on the floor during an inspection.

And if there are stains caused to the carpet during the tenancy, there is usually no benefit to either the landlord or the tenants to have the carpets steam-cleaned until the landlord has to re-let the property again.

When you move out

At the end of your tenancy you are obliged to return the property in substantially the same condition and level of cleanliness at it was at the beginning of the tenancy allowing for ‘fair wear and tear’ (clause 64).  This means that you do not have to return the property in exactly the same condition.  

Real Estate Agents sometimes tell you that you need to have the carpets steam-cleaned when you move out.  There is nothing in the Residential Tenancies Act or Standard Tenancy Terms that obliges you to have the carpets steam-cleaned.  Under the Act, you only have to leave the property in substantially the same condition as at the start of the tenancy.  The Act says nothing about who is to do the work or how.  If a tenant can return the carpet in substantially the same condition by vacuuming and using stain removers, or hiring a steam-cleaner and doing it themselves, then in our view they have complied with the legislation.

However, the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal says that you have to pay for carpet cleaning if you signed in your lease that you would have the carpets cleaned when you moved out, and if the carpets were steam-cleaned before you moved in.  In these circumstances, the landlord or agent should produce a receipt that the carpets were professionally cleaned before you moved in.

Despite the Tribunal’s general position, you also don’t have to steam-clean the carpets to fix damage you didn’t cause.  If the carpets are water stained from a leaky roof that you notified the landlord about, you aren’t responsible for the cost of fixing the stain.  If the landlord is going to replace the carpets, redo the flooring or bulldoze the house, get the landlord to confirm this in writing.  You don’t have to steam-clean the carpets if it would be of no benefit to the landlord – if the landlord is no worse off then they aren’t entitled to compensation if you don’t do it.

For more information see Tenancy Factsheet: Bond.

Reviewed: 3/12/13

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