Can a landlord tell you how clean to keep your house?

In this article, we will discuss the rights of the renter and the landlord in keeping the house clean. Plus some ways on how to clean your house or rentals the proper way.

Can a landlord tell you how clean to keep your house?

The landlords cannot tell you how to clean your house, and when for the matter. Unless they have a valid reason to do so. If the landlord thinks that the tenant is violating health or fire codes, causing damage to themselves or to the property, or other people, then yes, the landlord can certainly tell you to better clean the house.

Certainly, this has caused many disputes between a tenant and a landlord because the tenants believe that cleaning the house should be their autonomy and convenience. However, some landlords have rules that they want their tenants to abide by.

To avoid conflicts with your landlord, best to check the lease agreement before you sign and seal the deal.  

What is considered dirty or a messy rental apartment?

Tenants who don’t clean their rented space can certainly create an unsanitary and unsafe living condition, and might damage the property in the long run.  These damages can devalue the property and will incur significant costs of repair to the landlord.

Here are examples of unacceptable and dirty living conditions?

  • Presence of bugs, rodents or cockroaches;
  • Uncollected garbage that has been piling up for days or weeks;
  • Unpleasant smell coming from any part of the property;
  • Molds growing in bathrooms, laundry room and other parts of the house;
  • Toxic chemicals around the house;
  • Uncleaned dishes and rotten food that haven’t been touched for days or weeks;
  • Animal feces that is outside the litter box;
  • Blocked air circulation due to tenant’s possession stowed improperly or blocked furnace intakes;
  • Clutter. Having too many pieces of unused items in your home can collect dust and become a source of infestations and a lot of disadvantage to your health and the property.

Can you get evicted for being messy?

If the apartment or rental house that you are occupying are already in these conditions, your landlord can very well tell you to rectify it immediately. Otherwise, your landlord can start the eviction notice and process. It is only reasonable to protect further damage to the property to do so as soon as possible.

In many ways, once you borrow something, it is just as well to take care of the things or property that was loaned to you in good faith. If it cannot be done, or rectified, then the lease agreement will be taken up and fines may be imposed.

It is best for both parties, the lessor and the lessee, that the expectations of keeping the rental unit or house clean is clearly stated in the lease agreement.  The agreement should be referred to for any disputes to the fine prints. 

For example, if the lease agreement states that you will receive three warnings to clean a mess to “satisfactory condition” or an acceptable condition before the landlord can evict you, they cannot just do so without the three warnings as a proof of eviction.

That is why it is tantamount to read up contract agreements or lease agreements before entering into one. Make sure that everything is clear before signing it. If in doubt, do not hesitate to ask and clarify the provisions of the contract.

How to keep your home clean:

Whether you live by yourself, with family and kids, or pets, keeping the house clean is not always an easy job. There are several ways to keep your house clean.

  • Hire a cleaning service

In some cases, there are clauses in the lease agreement that gives the right to the landlord to hire a cleaning service at the expense of the tenant. Be sure to communicate this well to your landlord if you agree to this or not. As this is an added expense to the tenant, it is best to have this discussed first.

However, if the tenant agrees to this as some people do not have time to clean, it will be best for both parties. This will ensure that proper and deep cleaning can be done to the property each time. 

  • Declutter your home

As mentioned earlier, clutter is definitely a sign of a dirty house. It makes your home look dirty and it collects dust which can be harmful to your health. Best to get rid of the things you don’t use or barely use and can do without so that you’ll have a functional house that is easy to clean.

Remember that a cluttered house is a valid complaint from your landlord that can evict you. Clutters are also fire hazards, and it attracts rodents that might stay hidden in the clutter. And certainly a cause of infestations that might terminate your contract with your landlord.

  • Plan or assign the cleaning chores

As daunting cleaning might be, it is best to plan it ahead or allot a time and a day to do simple and general cleaning of the house.  If you have other members of the family that can help out, assign those cleaning tasks so it can be done efficiently.

If more people will help with the cleaning activities, it will be less tasking and time consuming. This way you can ensure upkeep of the house is maintained.

  • Clean as You Go

A best practice wherever you are and everywhere you go, most specially at the home where you’re staying the most. It will help you save time and effort in general cleaning of the house. This is called a basic cleaning habit.

When cooking, ensure that spills are wiped down, and dishes are done right after. Do not leave to clean if after the end of the day. Otherwise, it will pile up later on and make it harder to finish off. 

  • Use machines that will make your cleaning easier

Technology has brought many advantages, and one of those is to make our life easier. Take advantage of those machines. For example, a vacuum cleaner. There are many types of vacuum cleaners that will help you in cleaning the house. 

One of the hottest trends right now is the use of a robot vacuum cleaner. If you do not have much time to spend cleaning the house top to bottom, this might just be an answer for you. This one will clean without any intervention and can even be controlled remotely.

A dishwasher is also a lifesaver when doing the dishes. This reduces your time spent in the kitchen cleaning up after cooking and eating. Simply pop in all the dirty dishes, push the button and wait until it’s done.

  • Keep your things organized in storage areas

Another way in keeping your house clean and clutter free is by having an organized storage area. This will keep your items in a safe place away from the dusts and ensure a tidy house at all times. 

Just ensure that you return the items to its storage boxes after use. And remember that those storages should not be blocking any ventilation or exits that might be of hazard to you in emergencies.

Your Rights as a Tenant:

If your mess is minimal and not really an eye sore, you should be fine. If it’s not breaking any provisions in your contract, then your landlord has no right to force you to clean the mess.

It is important that you have a copy of your lease contract as well the clear expectation of your landlord to the rented space. For example, if you are a plant enthusiast and your backyard is crawling with overgrown plants. Unless it is stipulated in the contract that you cannot have overgrown plants, then you can’t get in trouble for that.

If in any case that it is clearly written in your contract, you will need to ensure that the garden and gardening tools do not become a nuisance to the property.

Signs that your landlord is harassing you?

You should be wary if your landlord is already harassing you in telling you to keep your house clean and other matters too.  Some signs that will give a red flag that it is already harassment are:

  • Enters your house without permission;
  • Shuts off your utilities even if you are paid or unpaid they have no right to shut if off without prior notice;
  • Does not allow certain amenities that are included in your lease agreement to be used;
  • Refuses to make major repairs or provide maintenance as needed;
  • Removes your personal belongings;
  • Shows up for unexpected check ins;
  • Verbally or physically threatens you.

If this happens, even though the landlord is the ultimate owner of the property, does not give him the right to harass the tenant. File a complaint immediately and protect yourself. Each state has its Landlord-Tenant laws, and it’s up to you to learn the facts.


Keeping a house clean whether it’s your own or a rental is a good habit to make in our daily lives. Having a clean house will keep you looking organized and tidy and reflects your inner personality.

In this article, we have discussed the rights of the landlord in your rental property and maintaining it at the highest level is of advantage to both of you.

FAQ’s on “Keeping your house clean (so your landlord doesn’t have to tell you so):”

Can my landlord evict me for being messy?

If the mess is unacceptable, then yes, your landlord can evict you. However, if the mess is taken care of right away or rectified, then you can appeal to your landlord to reconsider the eviction.

What can a landlord not ask you?

A potential landlord should not ask you question that violate federal or state discrimination laws. These includes question pertaining to your race, national origin, sex, religion, status, or disability.

What happens if you leave an apartment a mess?

In most cases that the apartment is vacated in an unacceptable condition that it will cost the landlord more than the normal turnaround cost, or the cost of cleaning the unit in preparation for the new one), then it might be justified to take it out from the deposit or keep the deposit entirely.

Can a landlord tell you who can be at your house?

There should be no rule on who or not to accept guests unless that person broke the local, state or federal law. Unless the property is an exclusive one that has the owner or landlord living nearby, and they explicitly impose on the lease agreement.

How clean should a rental house or unit be before moving in?

For the landlords, ensure that the unit or house is thoroughly cleaned before accepting any new tenants. Especially areas such as tub, toilet, kitchen, laundry area. Make sure that the area is exterminated before a tenant moves in even if there is no noticeable problem yet.