'Reasonably clean' is an ambiguous term, which confuses landlords and tenants alike.
The most crucial documentation to back up the property condition at the commencement of the tenancy is the property condition report. Completed at the beginning of the tenancy by the agent, the document is given to the tenant at move in for any additional comments to be completed within three business days. Domain then makes the fully completed condition report available to the landlord on the ‘Domain 24-7’ landlord application; being fully transparent with each party on the same page from the very beginning ensures minimal disputes.
With the exception of standard property wear and tear and depreciation, as detailed in each state's legislation, every single room and its condition should be detailed in the report. Domain completes a thorough property condition report with photos, which is given to the tenant when the property keys are collected. Where possible, the electrical appliances are checked to confirm working order, the property is generally professionally cleaned by the outgoing tenant or landlord and the garden is neat and tidy. Starting the tenancy on the right foot, with the property in the best possible condition at handover, ensures minimal issues when the time comes for tenants to vacate. This sets the tone for mutual respect and also assists in cementing a good working relationship going forward.
Certainly Domain has tenancy disputes; they are rare, yet they do occur. Generally the disputes relate to when a property is taken over from another agent with a less than adequate condition report and missing photos. In other instances, a tenant may be rushed to complete the vacate clean and miss items. To assist, Domain has negotiated a great rate with trusted cleaning companies for tenants to use for vacate cleans. The affordable and thorough clean adheres to Domain’s property cleaning check list – a guaranteed way to ensure there are no issues with the property's cleanliness, with the added bonus that Domain will liaise directly with the cleaning contractor in the event an item has been missed, freeing up the outgoing tenant's time to settle into their new home without a worry.
From time to time a tenant cannot see the value in using the Domain-approved cleaner, either going with a cheaper cleaner or attempting the cleaning themselves. In the midst of moving and trying to organise two households as well as maintain their daily lives, items are invariably missed – causing grief to not only the owner and property manager, but also to the ingoing tenant.
Going back to what is reasonable, what does it mean when relating to property cleanliness? Here in Victoria, in the event of a property dispute, agents, landlords and tenants can use the service of the Victorian and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT), where a member makes the judgement call on the evidence presented on the day. You can see how a detailed and thorough condition report can save a lot of time and assist in having monies awarded from the bond. However, while the VCAT members are objective, their decision making can be subjective, based on the experience of many cases they have heard over time. The outcome of a matter at VCAT cannot be forecasted and, at times, it simply isn't worth the time and cost of attending for either party.
Domain landlords are savvy and highly educated, understanding that paying for a 'gap' or 'top-up' clean between tenancies is sometimes a necessity, to ensure the ingoing tenant can move in and enjoy the property straight away and not spend their time feeling let down when handed a less than satisfactory property. An experienced property investor knows that the 'gap' clean will likely mean the tenant will feel inclined to pay for a professional cleaner at the end of the tenancy. Moreover, the pristine condition of the property is reflected in the thorough property condition report and photos – a picture paints a thousand words and when an outgoing tenant’s memory is fading in the chaos of moving home, the photographs go a long way to reminding them of the original property condition, limiting disputes.
When a property is presented to a new tenant in as clean as possible state, it is appreciated at one of the most stressful times in their lives – moving! If it is appreciated at the start of the tenancy, it is much easier to have it returned that way. 'We made the effort for you, so you can make the effort for us.'