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 to 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:
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.
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 arrange 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 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 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 within 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 expenses :)
If anyone can shed any further light or share any experiences on the matter, please hit up the comment box below…
Disclaimer: I'm just a landlord blogger; I'm 100% not qualified to give legal or financial advice. I'm a doofus. Any information I share is my unqualified opinion, and should never be construed as professional legal or financial advice. You should definitely get advice from a qualified professional for any legal or financial matters. For more information, please read my full disclaimer.