Who is responsible for cleaning HMO communal areas
Cleaning the communal area of an HMO is not only a battlefield but also a tricky issue. There are only two people that the cleaning responsibilities can fall onto – who is it, tenants or landlord?
First and foremost let us recap what The Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation (England) Regulations 2006 state:
Duty of the manager to maintain common parts, fixtures, fittings and appliances
7.—(1) The manager must ensure that all common parts of the HMO are—
(a)maintained in good and clean decorative repair;
(b)maintained in a safe and working condition; and
(c)kept reasonably clear from obstruction.
The law clearly states that it’s the managers (i.e. the landlord) responsibility to maintain communal areas in good and clean decorative repair, which, I am of the understanding is always the case.
That said, the landlord can delegate the task of cleaning to the tenants, though, the landlord remains responsible for ensuring the communal areas are clean to a satisfactory standard.
If you are letting each room to individual tenants (i.e. each tenant has a separate AST for their room), then, generally speaking, the understanding is that the landlord is responsible for ensuring the communal areas are clean. That may mean hiring a regular cleaning company such as Cheshire Cleaning Co. However, as said, the landlord can delegate the task to the tenants, but the success of that depends on what type of tenants you have. The success rate of this is almost rare.
On a personal note, I wouldn’t bother requesting tenants responsible for their cleaning if they’re on separate AST’s because it usually ends in disappointment, tears and crystallised urine underneath the toilet seat, not to mention stacks of letters in the hallway, beeping fire panels, grubby worktops and bean splattered microwaves, pubes on the bathroom sink and overflowing bins. Which look lovely when the letting agent conducts viewings – NOT!
If the tenants are on a joint AST and you’re letting the whole property to a group or company, then usually the tenants are given the responsibility to clean the communal areas and arrange a fair schedule between themselves as ultimately it’s their mess and nobody else. Though many UK property investors opt to send in an independent contractor to clean and conduct regular inspections of the property to ensure that all parts are clean and well maintained to a great standard.
However, in either case, I still don’t believe tenants have the overarching responsibility if it’s not being done properly. I’ve heard other landlords say that if the tenancy is joint, then the tenants are responsible. I disagree.
The reason for that is, the regulations don’t make any distinction between joint and separate AST’s on this matter, so unless someone shows me some other piece of regulation that does, I’m compelled to believe the landlord is always ultimately responsible. In other words, I don’t believe it’s possible to negate the property manager (landlord) from their responsibility of ensuring the communal areas are clean, regardless of what is written in the tenancy agreement.
What does the contract say you are letting?
It’s crucial to see what your HMO tenancy agreement says about what areas you are letting to your tenants because I’ve heard of some irregular scenarios that may impact this whole cleaning responsibility issue.
For example, if you are letting on a room by room basis, the tenancy agreement should NOT state that the communal areas are the tenant’s responsibility and that they have exclusive rights/access. In that case, it could mean that the landlord does not even have the right of access to the communal areas, and the first tenant to sign the contract has the exclusive rights, which would mean they are no longer communal areas.
Responsibility V Regulations
I just want to make it clear what I’m saying here: I believe the issue boils down to Responsibility Vs Regulation, and that’s the critical point that often gets ignored.
While the landlord can offload the responsibility of cleaning to tenants, the landlord is still legally required to ensure the communal areas are clean.
For example, if a tenant complains that other tenants aren’t pulling their weight, it’s the landlord’s responsibility to ensure the issue is resolved, which results in maintained and clean common areas.
Can I charge tenants for failing to keep communal areas clean?
Extending from my point about (Responsibility Vs Regulation), I do believe the landlord is well within their rights to seek compensation if the tenants are contractually responsible for keeping the communal areas clean but fail to do so. That could mean deducting money from the deposit to pay for HMO cleaning services.
Ideal scenario and who should you make responsible for cleaning
In my personal opinion, regardless of what type of tenancy agreement you have with your tenants, use a regular HMO cleaning service and factor the costs into the rent charged to the tenants. It’s what most UK property investors do and it’s the most sensible option.
Leaving the cleaning responsibilities in the hands of your tenants is more often than not quite frankly plain stupid.
Not only is it one of the best ways to increase the chances of in-house domestics, but it’s also a pretty decent way of ending up with an HMO that looks and smells like mould, mildew, cannabis and bin juice.
On a final note, don’t forget that cleaning services are fully tax-deductible expenses – so this shouldn’t cost you, it’s lowering your tax liability!
Whether you own one HMO or a portfolio of property, we are here to assist. Cheshire Cleaning Co has been presenting communal areas professionally since 2018 and has mastered systems in keeping them clean, safe and tidy. Contact us for more information, we’re only an email away: firstname.lastname@example.org
We cover the following areas for HMO Cleaning, basically from Wigan to Crewe, Wallasey to Oldham.
- St Helens
The featured image was taken at an HMO property where we had just taken over the communal cleaning and it had not been cleaned in at least 5 years – ingrained dirt on the bannister during the height of the Coronavirus pandemic (image taken 11th August 2020) and is shown to represent how communal areas can quickly deteriorate without proper cleaning.