Property owners want their houses to be kept in good condition so they do not have to spend unnecessary money fixing issues that could have been prevented with proper maintenance and care. If you are a renter, this may cause you to wonder, “Can a landlord tell you how clean to keep your house?”

In this article, we will investigate this question and provide some helpful ideas for how to keep your house clean without spending hours cleaning. We will also look at some common pitfalls to avoid.


Can the Landlord Set Expectations Regarding the House’s Cleanliness?

In short, yes, your landlord can tell you how clean to keep their house. The guidelines will be outlined in the lease agreement. The expectations of the tenants should be clearly outlined in the legally binding lease agreement which will often contain a cleanliness clause.

The lease agreement will also outline the cleaning expectations when you move out. Generally speaking, the landlord will expect the house or apartment to be in the same condition as it was when you moved in. While normal wear is to be expected, the house should be clean and ready for the next tenants to move in.

The cleanliness guidelines are in place to prevent more serious problems from developing that may significantly damage the property as opposed to prohibiting dust or regulating a weekly vacuuming schedule. For example, some cleanliness guidelines are in place to avoid problems with attracting bugs, ants, or rodents, such as when food is left out or kept in poorly sealed containers.


What Happens if You Don’t Follow the Cleanliness Guidelines?

If you do not maintain the property to the standards outlined in the cleanliness clause, you as the renter can be financially responsible for damages or professional cleaning services. If you opt not to maintain the property effectively, you may have to pay for the property to be returned to those standards.

For example, if your landlord has to hire a cleaning service because you did not properly clean the house before moving out, that amount will likely be charged to you or withheld from your security deposit.

While losing your security deposit is bad enough, the potential problems do not stop there. You can also be held liable for damages to the property that occurred because you did not follow the cleanliness guidelines. This means you may have to pay even more money upon move out.

Failing to maintain a clean living environment could also cause tension or disagreements between you and your landlord. This can cause stress while you are living in the property and could motivate the owner not to want to renew your lease.

If things get bad enough, your landlord may choose to serve you with an eviction notice. This is an extreme example of what is possible, but it could happen if you let the property deteriorate or cause significant damages to it as a result of your unwillingness to keep the property reasonably clean.


Cleanliness Clause

Many lease agreements contain a cleanliness clause. This clause is a specific section of the lease agreement that covers the expectations of the level of cleanliness maintained by the tenant.

The clause will also outline the specific areas of the property that must be cleaned often and well maintained. Clear guidelines are important as they will stipulate what the landlord expects, as well as what the tenant is responsible for.

If a house is continually found to be unclean, the landlord can evict the tenant. This is why it is important to read your lease agreement carefully to determine if there are cleanliness expectations while you are living in the house.

Some elements that might be included in the cleanliness clause are:


Trash Day

The designated trash day will likely be outlined in your lease agreement. At a minimum, you should clean and dispose of trash on the designated day.


Pest Control

The guidelines for pest control will be covered in the cleanliness clause as well. As a tenant, be sure to keep an eye on the property and look for any signs of pest infestation.

If you see pests or signs that they have been there, alert your landlord. While certainly not the only reason, pests are often attracted to dirty houses, hence why landlords hold tenants to maintaining a certain level of cleanliness in the house.


Landlord Inspections

A landlord expects to be able to access their property, even if a tenant lives there. Regular inspections will be outlined in the lease agreement. Landlords have to give notice before they visit the house to inspect whether the cleanliness clause is being followed. The rental agreement will stipulate how much advance notice is required. If a landlord tries to enter the premises without giving proper notice, you may be able to refuse their visit based on your local rental laws.


What is a Dirty House?

You and your landlord may have different views on what constitutes a dirty house. Cleanliness can certainly be subjective. However, there are some elements that would be considered a breach of a cleanliness clause in a lease agreement.



Mold growth can be one cause for a potential breach of the tenant’s responsibilities. This is because mold can pose a health hazard and can potentially cause serious problems. While mold can grow on food, it is not limited to just being in the kitchen. Mold can also grow in areas that are moist and not cleaned. Bathroom walls are one area at risk for mold growth.


Unpleasant Smells

If your house has an unpleasant smell, you are at risk of receiving a complaint from most landlords. Regardless of whether the smell is from old food or animals, unpleasant smells can be a health hazard, especially for people with respiratory problems.



The garbage should be removed from the house regularly and disposed of properly. Failure to do so can attract vermin, cause foul smells, be a fire hazard, and cause health problems for the residents. It is essential that the garbage be taken out at least weekly.



Too much clutter, whether inside or outside the house, may result in you receiving a notice from your landlord. The property owner may find excessive clutter to be cumbersome and unappealing. Removing clutter will help cut down on the amount of dust that accumulates as well.


Rodent Infestation

As a tenant, you have cleaning responsibilities. When you fail to adhere to them, rodent infestation may occur. Rodents, such as mice, are often attracted to food that is not properly stored.

If you do not keep the house clean, the property can be damaged and harmed. If you fail to adhere to the cleanliness clause as outlined in the tenancy agreement, the landlord can begin the eviction process.

Keeping the rental clean is important, or else you may be held liable for any costs the landlord incurs in order to repair or clean the house once it is vacated.


How to Keep Your Place Clean

Keeping a house or apartment clean is important for your health and livelihood, as well as staying in the good graces of your landlord. It does not have to be an overwhelming process if you develop a workable system to help you stay on top of the tasks. By combining a routine deep cleaning with regular ongoing cleaning, you are able to tidy up in a timely manner.

Cleaning chores may not be fun, but by implementing a cleaning checklist you will be able to keep your rental property clean with just a few hours of regular housework. Instead of letting everything get so messy that it is overwhelming, try to allocate a little time on a weekly basis to help maintain the house. Cleaning tasks can be broken into categories by room or area of the house, length of time they will take to accomplish, or even your level of tolerance for the task.


Room or Area of the House

One strategy to develop a system for cleaning and maintaining your house’s cleanliness is to divide the tasks by room or area of the house. If you use this strategy, you will tackle a specific room or area of a house on a certain day.

For example, clean the living room on Mondays, the bathrooms on Tuesdays, the kitchen on Wednesdays, etc. By dividing up the tasks, you can tackle a manageable amount of tasks and prevent the feeling of overwhelm from developing.


Length of the Task

If you organize the cleaning tasks based on their length, you can knock out cleaning based on the amount of available time you have. Instead of devoting a whole Saturday morning to cleaning a dirty apartment or house, aim to clean regularly using the available time to make progress in cleaning your residence.

For example, if you schedule 30 or 45 minutes for cleaning, you can look at your list of cleaning tasks to see what can reasonably be accomplished in that amount of time. Maybe you do not have time to clean the whole bathroom, but can you clean the sinks or sweep the floors? Making incremental progress is better than not making any progress at all.


Tolerance for the Task

When you think about cleaning, it may bring to mind an endless list of tasks you hate. However, there are likely some tasks that you do not mind as much. By categorizing the tasks based on your attitude towards them, you can easily see what tasks will take more motivation to complete and which ones are okay.

If you find yourself dreading cleaning, pick an easier task that you do not mind doing. If you are motivated and ready to clean on a certain day, choose a harder task or pair one less tolerable chore with something more palatable.


The Importance of Maintaining a Clean Space

Even though a rental unit is not your own personal property, it is still the place where you live, eat, and sleep. A messy tenant may start out as a minor inconvenience, but a variety of problems can arise if proper care is not taken for the rented apartment or house.

For your own safety and health, cleaning your place is important. Regularly go through your refrigerator to dump out any rotten food that may grow mold or attract unwanted rodents.

Vacuum carpets with a vacuum cleaner with powerful suction to remove dirt and dust that has settled in the carpets. Remove food debris from counters or cooking surfaces, which will attract bugs and ants.

If you find yourself with too many empty boxes in your house, take them to the garage or storage space until your trash day comes. Dump your garbage regularly to avoid unpleasant odors or critters from coming inside. While these tasks may seem simple, they can greatly improve your quality of life. Living in a dirty environment can cause health issues and affect your mental health as well.

Avoid having too much clutter that will just collect dust. Not only will having fewer things make a space feel more open and less cluttered, but it also cuts down on the number of surfaces you have to wipe down regularly to remove the dust. The personal belongings in your space should be practical, functional, or add value to your life in some way.

A clean house can help you feel more relaxed and calm in your living space, so you stand to gain personal benefits by keeping the place clean, in addition to keeping your landlord happy.


Report Problems Right Away

If you encounter problems with plumbing fixtures or a blocked sewer system, notify your landlord immediately. These problems can escalate over time. What started out as minor repairs could become a major problem if not taken care of in a timely manner. Necessary repairs are just part of maintaining a property, so the landlord should expect both minor repairs and major repairs the longer they own the home.

When you pay rent, you are paying for certain amenities as outlined in the lease contract. It is important that any issues be addressed in a timely fashion so that you can enjoy all the perks and amenities you are paying for.


Outsourcing the Task

If you do not have the time to maintain the cleanliness of your home, consider outsourcing the task. Regardless of whether you do not have time to do it or just do not want to spend your downtime cleaning, you have options when it comes to maintaining your space without getting in trouble with your landlord.

The easiest solution is to outsource the task. If you have a roommate, you can develop a system that works for both of you. For example, if you really dislike cleaning, maybe you offer to take on some other additional responsibility around the house in exchange for other tenants doing more of the cleaning in the common areas. Maybe you agree to take out the garbage, do laundry, and mow the lawn in exchange for not having to vacuum or mop.

Another option is to hire a cleaning service. If you would rather spend the money in order to gain back the time, this is certainly an option that is available to you. Many tenants may opt to have a company take care of deep cleaning on a regular basis, such as once a month, while the tenants themselves take care of minor upkeep in between the deep cleanings.


Can a landlord tell you how clean to keep your house FAQ

Can a landlord tell you how clean to keep your house?

Yes, it is possible for the landlord to outline their cleanliness expectations in a cleanliness clause in the lease agreement. Local laws will outline the specific rules pertaining to this, but the property owner has a reasonable expectation that their property will be cared for by those paying rent.


Can a landlord evict you for being messy?

The quick answer is that yes, a landlord can evict you for being messy. When a tenant agrees to a lease that has a cleanliness clause in it, if the tenant decides not to adhere to the guidelines, the landlord can serve an eviction notice. Normal wear on the property is acceptable, but negligence is not.

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