Q: I recently moved out of a rental home. I know that I can be charged for damages to the property, but I am not sure about the cleaning. My understanding is that I can be charged for any cleaning that is reasonable. Of a $2,500 deposit, I was charged $1,600 for cleaning based on a $35 per hour rate. That seems rather excessive to me and very unreasonable. How is “reasonable” defined?
A: The tenant-landlord laws vary depending on the state in which you live. In some states you are responsible for all cleaning that is necessary to remove any dirt or debris that wasn’t there at the time you moved in. Nonetheless, in many instances there are various issues that arise in which a landlord or property manager deals with an element of what is considered a “reasonable” cleaning charge.
I can see two aspects to the concept of reasonable in your question. One is that you are likely referring to the fairly standard language that the tenant should be charged only for damage that is “beyond ordinary (or reasonable) wear and tear.” In the case of cleaning, generally there is no exemption or allowance for “ordinary or reasonable wear and tear,” and the tenant is responsible for all of the costs of cleaning.
Another aspect of your question is whether $1,600 is a “reasonable” charge for the cleaning of your rental unit. At an hourly rate of $35 per hour, this equates to more than 45 hours of cleaning unless there are some charges for removal of trash or other items that you left or abandoned at the property.