• QUESTION: Do I Have To Pay For Professional Carpet Cleaning ?
  • ANSWER: In New Zealand, tenants aren’t legally required to pay for carpet cleaning, unless they have caused enough stains and damage that the carpet looks worse than when they moved in.  In short, if you’ve had a few spills during your tenancy then you are required to pay for professional carpet cleaning, otherwise a good vacuum is all that’s legally required.

Every few months local news sites in Auckland & New Zealand run stories about the outcome of disputes between landlords and tenants at the Tenancy Tribunal.  These arguments often arise from the interpretation and enforcement of the rules and laws that govern the relationship between property owners and the people leasing that property.

One of the most common areas of confusion for both landlords and tenants, are the rules around cleaning the property when the tenancy has ended. This is commonly referred to as “exit cleaning” or “end of lease carpet cleaning“.   

The law says “The property must be left in a reasonably clean and tidy state.” The problems with this vague legal definition arise because we all have very different interpretations of what “reasonably clean” actually means.

A landlord may have thought that reasonably clean means that a tenant would get professional carpet cleaners in at the end of a tenancy. The tenant could just as fairly assume that a good vacuum would meet the standard of reasonably clean and tidy.

The truth, as always, lies somewhere in the middle…


When Does A Tenant Have To Pay For Professional Carpet Cleaning

As a Tenant you do have rights, but you also have obligations.  Your key obligation is to leave the property in a “reasonably clean and tidy condition”.  As such, you should be able to give your rental a thorough clean after moving out and expect to get your bond back.

However, if after you clean & vacuum the property there are still a few dirty stains and marks on the carpet then this is when you could be on the hook to pay for professional carpet cleaning.  Again, there is a grey area and this is open to interpretation, but the Tenancy Tribunal generally requires tenants to pay for carpet cleaning when it’s easy to see in photographs that the carpet is visibly dirtier than before the tenant moved in.   

A simple rule of thumb for tenants is if you had pets in the home, caused more than 2-3 stains, or can smell food and cooking odours in the carpet then you should pay for professional carpet cleaning and the landlord is within their rights to require it.


Pro Tip For Tenants:

If you know you caused a few carpet stains during your tenancy then it’s much smarter to hire a professional carpet cleaner yourself. This way he’s working for you and your interests (read: saving you money)  If your landlord is using your bond to pay for carpet cleaning he will not be concerned about the price!


When The Landlord Has To Pay For Professional Carpet Cleaning

If your tenant has left the property in a fair and reasonable condition and everything in the property looks close to the way it was when they moved in, then chances are your tenant would not be legally required to pay for carpet cleaning.

Even if your rental contract stipulates carpet cleaning must be carried out, this is actually invalid.  The tenancy tribunal regularly rules against landlords trying to enforce these clauses. As the landlord and property owner you’re the one most likely to be footing the bill for carpet cleaning… unless your tenant has left some decent smells, dirt or stains behind which would make it their responsibility.

The law and the judges at the Tenancy Tribunal are mostly reasonable. They understand that even careful tenants will cause a little damage so they make plenty of allowance for general wear and tear in rental properties.  

As such, the tribunal regularly sides with tenants in cases where the rules, contracts, and expectations of the landlord are deemed to be excessive, illegal, or petty.  This includes unreasonable expectations of flawless stain free carpet after a 2 year tenancy.


Pro Tip For Landlords:

To try and keep some protection in place and limit the possible problems and damage that tenants can cause to your carpet then it’s best to be proactive.

Provide your tenants with a quality encapsulating stain remover spray for carpet.  Ask them to kindly use it on any spills or messes to prevent them from becoming set in. (test it’s safe for your carpet first)

Although you can’t force your tenant to pay for professional carpet cleaning you can prevent them from making things worse by FORBIDDING the use of Rug Doctor machines.  Most people do not use a rug doctor properly and leave behind, soapy residues, moisture, smells and carpet damage from incorrect stain removal. Keeping Rug Doctor machines well away from the carpet in your rental property will add 10 years to it’s life span.  It also means your professional cleaners can remedy issues your tenants would have made worse with sub standard equipment..


So, to sum it up clearly…

Legally speaking, tenants don’t have to pay for professional carpet cleaning UNLESS they made the carpet visibly dirtier during their tenancy.  Landlords should expect to do some cleaning between tenants and can’t require professional carpet cleaning UNLESS the carpet has sustained enough significant wear and stains that it could not be considered reasonably clean and tidy.