Who Is Responsible For Cleaning The Communal Areas In A HMO?

You're responsible, probably

Determining who is responsible for cleaning the communal areas in a HMO can, surprisingly, be a bit of a tricky issue.

One thing is for sure, it’s either the tenants or the landlord. But which one?

The answer is – as always – in the details. Let’s go through them…

I think I’m going to have to chop this blog post up into a couple of sections to cater for the different possible scenarios. At least, the one’s I’m aware of, which are probably the most common.

But, before I go any further, I just want to air my “I’m not of a trained or competent legal mind” disclaimer: *clears throat* I’m just a simple landlord blogger, I am not qualified to give legal advice. Any advice I provide is my opinion based on my experience, and is never legal or professional advice. You should always get professional advice on any legal matters!

I think I’ve made myself clear, right? Cool.

What does the Regulations say?

First, let’s take a look at the regulations that cover the issue of cleaning communal areas…

Here’s the first section of The Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation (England) Regulations 2006 says about maintaining common parts:

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.

So, it clearly states it is the manager’s (i.e. the landlord) responsibility to maintain common parts “in good and clean decorative repair”, which I believe is always the case.

It’s important note that the landlord can delegate the task of cleaning to the tenants, but ultimately the landlord remains responsible for ensuring the communal areas are clean.

What type of tenancy agreement do you have?

While I think it’s ultimately always the landlords responsibility for ensuring communal areas are clean, here are a few common scenarios based on the tenancy agreement type in play:

Separate ASTs

If you are letting each room to individual tenants (i.e. each tenant has a separate AST for their bedroom), 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. However, as said, the landlord can delegate the task to the tenants, but the success of that definitely depends on what type of tenants you have. What I’m trying to say is, the success rate of that working out is puny.

I wouldn’t even bother making tenants responsible for cleaning if they each have a separate AST. It usually just ends in disappointment, tears and urine on the toilet seat that goes unwashed.

Joint ASTs

If you are letting the entire property to a group of friends and there is one joint tenancy (i.e. all tenants are jointly liable for the property), then usually the tenants are given the responsibility to clean the communal areas, and arranging a fair schedule among themselves.

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 which 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 actually 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 right of access 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 Vs Regulation

I just want to make it clear what I’m saying here: I believe the issue actually 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 landlords 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 with in his 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 cleaning services.

What’s the ideal scenario and who should you make responsible for cleaning?

In my opinion? Regardless of what type of tenancy agreement you have, use a regular HMO cleaning service, and factor the cost into the rent. It’s what most HMO landlords do, and it’s really the only sensible option.

Leaving the cleaning of communal areas in the hands of your faithful 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, it’s also a pretty decent way of ending up with a house that looks and smells like dog-shit. Pardon my French.

On a final note, don’t forget, cleaning services are fully tax deductible expense :)

If anyone can shed any further light or share any experiences on the matter, please hit up the comment box below…

8 Comments- Join The Conversation...

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Mike 21st August, 2019 @ 22:09

So am I required to wash up for them or is it ok for them to leave dirty plates, cups ect all over the communal areas?

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Mike 20th May, 2020 @ 07:50

What happens when a landlord has a cleaner and the cleaning workload changes from different H.m.o residents changing where some tenants are more tidy than others and clean up after their selves and tenants fall out with each other and start being less considerate caring and respectful to their fellow housemates by leaving greasey washing up in the sink and on worktop for days or weeks, leaving blood in communal sinks,leaving nose matter on shower screens,not emptying bins when full and letting flies a mass, storing of bicycles and personal belongings in communal areas,smoking bad smelling substance outside,not flushing the toilets and leaving ships in the bend and up the pan on purpose, to name just a few.

2
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Birgit 5th July, 2020 @ 20:47

I totally understand what Mike is talking about... On top of that I am a live-in Landlord which makes our tenants think I'm responsible for everything... Sometimes I feel like a child minder, I wonder if there are really grown-ups living in our house... And our tenants are all professionals over age 30!
I can understand that tenants need to be protected from greedy irresponsible landlords. But landlords need to be more protected from nasty, ignorant, lazy and selfish tenants, too. That's missing!
I wonder why cleaning is such a problem here anyway. I can't help mention that in Germany e.g. it's absolutely normal that people renting rooms in shared flats and houses also have to share and organise the weekly cleaning amongst themselves. I mean, come on... with 4 people... that means you anyway only have to clean every 4 weeks. What's the flippin' problem? They all want a clean bathroom and kitchen but most of them don't wanna do anything to keep it that way. Sorry, but that doesn't work.
However, after reading the advice given here, I guess we'll put up the rent and get a cleaner in. They could have saved themselves a bit of money but it seems they all have enough...

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Birgit 5th July, 2020 @ 21:02

Oh and a question: we had a terrible blockage in the waste water pipe... It cost us a few hundreds to sort out that mess plus some broken tiles that needed to be fixed again.
And guess what came out the pipe? Big fat tampons and stuff like that. The first thing my parents taught me when my menstrual cycle started was not to flush any of that stuff down the toilet. But of course none of them did it. It magically slipped from the bin into the toilet...
Now my husband thinks we should charge them all and make them share the cost.
Are we allowed to do that?

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Mike 24th July, 2020 @ 06:41

Birgit.......you are very much right about Hmo drains, shower drains, drain hoppers, kitchen sink drains, hand wash basin u bend drainage, toilet swan neck bends, the thing we have extracted and flushed out from Hmo drains, large bath towels,enough hair to make a wig,ping pong balls,a t spoon,bic razor,wipes,razor plastic safety covers,tweezers,plug hole chain, sanitary towels,wall mirror screws,wedding ring,china cup handle.....all got down and in there by accident I guess. Not cheap and time consuming to rectify.

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Mike 17th August, 2020 @ 11:05

I have come to the conclusion Rent to Rent hmo's should be more tightly regulated than ever due to the grey areas where cleaning and repairs come into question with tenants, the landlord manager seems to have more of a free hand to fob off major and even minor remedial repairs than a Mr Responsible look after you tenants manager, after all most rent to rent landlord managers are short term adventures.....Sorry Ventures.

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Mike 16th September, 2020 @ 08:19

While unblocking a hmo drain we traced the blockage down to a deflated rugby ball...I must say whoever put it there or how it got there, it was a quality Gilbert Ball....I think we were the only one's that scored a try.

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Mike 8th October, 2020 @ 07:04

We have introduced a daily hmo communal area cleaning regime in a managed house, from being a twice monthly clean,except for the weekends,the housemates all chip in the extra revenue.

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