You may see the phrase 'broom clean' included in many leases, rental agreements, and real estate contracts. It's a catch-all phrase that describes how a tenant or seller should leave the residence upon move out.
The problem, however, is that there is no clear legal definition of broom clean. Is it spotless and disinfected or merely neat and tidy? These questions can leave homeowners and renters worried since not meeting the stipulations in a binding contract can leave you facing the consequences.
In this article, we’ll take a look at what it means to ‘broom clean’ and how it affects landlords, renters, sellers, and buyers.
Broom Cleaning for Renters Moving Out
For renters, the concept of broom clean condition is typically more than just sweeping up dust and dirt. Tenants should remove all of their belongings and repair any damages that they made. Ultimately, you should leave the property in the same condition as when you first moved in. This means that things like holes from wall hanging or similar modifications should be patched to match the initial look.
Landlords and apartment complexes usually have tenants fill out a move-in form or perform a walk through in-person with the tenant. This documentation gives renters a chance to go room to room and note any defects or damages that were present upon move in. When their lease is up, the landlord won’t add these defects to their final costs.
When cleaning, be sure to sweep, wet mop, vacuum, and dust the building's hard-to-reach surfaces. These surfaces may include decorative parts of the structure, including blinds, fans, and shelves. Give surfaces a quick wipe down to remove any grime and ensure stovetops and refrigerators are free of gunk and buildup.
If you have any questions as to what may be required, it’s better to ask your landlord than to get charged for something relatively easy to fix or clean.
Normal Wear and Tear
It would be unreasonable for a landlord to expect a property to be in the exact condition at move-out as when the tenant moved in. After all, this building has served as your primary residence for at least a year.
It is rational and reasonable for materials and appliances to wear out over time naturally. Property code in the state of Texas prohibits landlords from keeping a security deposit or charging a person for repairs and replacements needed due to normal wear and tear.
But where’s the line between wear and tear and actual damage? Landlord and tenant law defines normal wear and tear as “deterioration that results from the intended use of a dwelling, including...breakage or malfunction due to age or deteriorated condition”
However, it does not include “deterioration that results from negligence, carelessness, accident, or abuse of the premises, equipment, or chattels by the tenant, by a member of the tenant’s household, or by a guest or invitee of the tenant.”
Common examples of normal wear and tear include:
- Gently worn carpets
- Cracks in the wall due to settling of the foundation
- Faded flooring or wall paint due to sunlight exposure or deterioration
- Sagging or warped cabinetry from use over time
- Old plumbing issues like stoppages or rust
- Things that are NOT covered under the definition of normal wear and tear include incidents like:
- Stained or burned carpet
- Holes in the wall from abuse or neglect
- Damaged paint jobs from owner-caused water damage or negligence
- Cabinet doors that are broken or ripped from hinges
- Plumbing issues due to misuse like pouring grease down the sink, flushing non-flushable items, etc.
Broom Cleaning for Sellers Moving Out
For sellers, broom clean is a little different. For one, the buyer doesn’t have any security deposit, nor can they bill the seller for any costs associated with having the home cleaned. Because of this, the cleaning is seen more as a courtesy. It’s always best to leave the house clean and tidy, and hiring a professional to get the space ready for the new owners is a nice touch.
But unless directly stated in the contract, there is no specific condition to meet before the house changes hands. That being said, not meeting a buyer’s expectations during the final walkthrough can hold up the sale, causing a headache for the seller. That's why it's important to detail any atypical cleaning expectations in the initial contract or in an addendum.
Sometimes sellers feel that moving large objects and appliances are more hassle than they’re worth and decide to leave them. It’s always best to check with the buyer before leaving major appliances or furnishings behind. You may think that a buyer will be grateful for an extra fridge. In reality, though, you may be giving them responsibility for something they don’t even want.
Use this as a rule of thumb: if the buyer hasn’t explicitly said they are okay with you leaving the object behind, take it with you.
Wanting More than A Broom Clean
Don’t assume that broom swept is the condition that your landlord requires. Some lease agreements call for professional cleaning, carpet steaming, and more. If this is the case, you may be required to leave behind a receipt from professional cleaners as proof.
Unfortunately, adding a little extra elbow grease will get you off the hook. Failure to do so may result in you footing the bill for the cleaners that the landlord or apartment complex decides to hire. This decision can sometimes be more pricey than if you hire a cleaning service yourself.
On the flip side, if you are a buyer who wants to move into a spotless house, this can be a point that you negotiate in the sales contract. If a seller agrees to it, they must deliver on the expectation or risk the sale not going through.
Not everyone has the same idea of clean, but when in doubt, put forth your best effort in getting the space ready for the next inhabitant. Use common sense, courtesy, and communication to determine what is an acceptable condition, and all parties will come away satisfied.