Many tenants wonder who is responsible for cleaning the windows in their rental property. The renter may want to improve their view, let more light in or just have a spiffy place. But cleaning the windows of a rented property can have costs as well as safety issues.
So who should do it?
Rental property maintenance requirements are decided by state law, but you are not likely to find any mention of cleanliness of windows. Therefore the following guideline should be used when deciding if renters or landlords should clean windows.
Tenants are responsible for cleaning windows in a rental property unless otherwise stated in a lease. This is typically the case for single family dwellings. For multi-unit and larger buildings, there can be many issues with a renter cleaning the windows such as safety and privacy. In these cases, the property manager would typically be responsible for the maintenance, but it would be up to them to decide when to clean the windows.
Of course there are many issues with a tenant being responsible for cleaning windows, so let’s take a deeper look.
Numerous issues with a tenant cleaning windows
There are many different types of landlords from very experienced, to those who don’t know what they are doing. A landlord who thinks they will rent a property and not maintain it is clearly the latter.
Unless an apartment is professionally managed, regular cleaning of the windows is not usually a forethought.
So when a tenant approaches a landlord on cleaning the exterior windows, the conversation could be awkward. A landlord should understand there are plenty of reasons they would not want a renter to clean the windows.
Here are a few things to consider:
Safety – when a tenant feels they need to get on a ladder to reach a window it creates a safety risk. A lot of renters will be inexperienced at proper positioning and techniques to do this safely. If someone falls from a ladder it can lead to insurance issues or lawsuits.
Damage – it is often not easy to reach windows even with a ladder. This can lead to damaged shrubs, broken windows, loose gutters, or scratches in paint.
Privacy – if a rental property has more than one tenant, it can lead to privacy issues.
Lack of equipment – tenants often won’t have access to equipment needed to properly clean windows.
While this list shows some important issues when a landlord assigns responsibility to a renter to clean the windows, there are some times when it may be prudent.
Are tenants expected to clean windows of their rental
The golden rule of being a landlord is to never have an expectation of anything. In other words, everything should be included in a written lease.
A lease should include who is responsible for cleaning the windows, how often they will be cleaned, and any steps in the process that make it crystal clear. For example, will the landlord furnish a ladder if needed.
While contemplating this clause, here is a guideline to consider based on the type of rental.
Single family home – when a single family residence is being rented, there can be a gray area as to who should clean the windows. The concerns outlined above could signal that the landlord should just do everything.
But in many cases, the landlord is renting the entire property, and the tenant is expected to complete all of the maintenance. This may include cutting the grass, shoveling snow and yes cleaning the windows.
Usually when a single family home is rented, the tenants take possession of the entire property. This includes use of the yard, driveway, and patio or deck. If leaves fall on the deck and you’re having friends for a cookout, would you call the landlord to clean them? No, you get a broom and brush them off.
Multi-family home / duplex – with a multi-family rental, you will have to deal with privacy issues, damage to a neighbors property and scheduling (neighbor could be having guests when windows are getting cleaned).
Only when the units are completely separate is it reasonable to expect a renter to clean the windows.
Larger buildings / skyrise – any type of building that requires more than a simple ladder to reach the windows should be using a professional window cleaning company. Better managed properties will have this done on a regular basis.
But using a professional service to clean windows on a high rise building can be expensive, and require a lot of coordination. So some apartment owners may put this off as long as they can.
Short-term rentals – when a property is a short term rental such as a beach house or lake home, expecting a renter to clean the windows is out of the question. They are there to vacation and that is it.
Does a tenant HAVE to clean windows?
There are a few times when a renter has to clean the windows.
- If the rental lease signed by the tenant says they are responsible for cleaning windows, then the renter must comply.
- If the renter caused the windows to be dirty, then they should be responsible for cleaning them.
When a renter takes possession of a property, it is expected that it will be left in the same condition when they move out. While some minor wear and tear is natural, a tenant should maintain the residence as their own home.
A good idea for both landlords and tenants is to have a property condition report completed upon move in. Both parties agree to the exact state of the rental before anyone moves in. This can be reviewed when the tenant vacates.
Any damage such as dirty windows can result in a charge to the security deposit.
TIP: Take photos and even video of the rental prior to move in so there is no confusion.
Keep in mind that if the tenant is not capable of cleaning the windows themselves, then a professional should be hired to do the task.
If a renter does have to clean windows themselves, here are a few tips on how to do that.
How to clean windows if you live in an apartment
Fortunately most modern windows are easy to clean. But here are a few tips in case you are stuck. Make sure you check with your landlord before beginning any window cleaning project.
Tilt back windows – if your rental has tilt back windows, they are very easy to clean. First open the latch that allows them to tilt inward. Then clean the exterior part of the window with a window cleaning solution or a mixture of vinegar and water. Use a squeegee or wipe with a microfiber cloth.
Then shut the window to clean the interior. You may have to slide the top window down to clean the other half of a standard casement window.
Exterior window cleaning solution – there are lots of products you can buy that you can hook up to a hose and spray the window from the outside. When they dry it is usually clean and streakless. Pick a warm day!
Window cleaning pole – you can also buy an extendable pole with a squeegee and scrub pad that allows you to reach high windows. This is a convenient tool that is easy to store and use.
Use a ladder – you may have to use an extension ladder to reach exterior windows. This is often true with older homes. Make sure the ladder is level and secure on the ground.
Hire a professional – when all else fails, hire a professional to clean the windows. It will cost a few bucks but your windows should be spotless and you save time along with having less risk.
How often should windows be cleaned in a rental?
Windows in a rental should be cleaned when they are dirty. Some websites indicate that windows should be cleaned twice per year, or during Spring cleaning. But honestly, there is no set schedule.
Some windows just get dirty faster than others. If you live near a major roadway there could be lots of road dust. If there are lots of trees you may get pollen stuck to the windows. Lawn mowing often stirs up dirt that can cause a mess.
A good measure may be to look at the window sill to see how much dirt is there. If is it fairly visible, it may be time for a cleaning.
While tenants may be responsible for cleaning windows, it does not mean a landlord can neglect them.
Here is a sample of what various state laws say about the responsibility of maintaining windows on a rental property
Window regulations for rented properties
In New Jersey, the law states that all rentals should include properly working screens to prevent insects from entering. There is also a clause on window guards for multi-unit apartments with minors. But no mention of cleaning windows.
The state of Florida only says that windows should be maintained in “good working condition”.
In Virginia, the law requires locking devices on all exterior windows, but no mention of cleaning.
The Arizona landlord tenant law discusses proper operation of windows, missing windows, and broken windows, but nothing about a landlord keeping them clean.
As you might expect, California has the most extensive guidelines for window maintenance. The state requires:
- Natural lighting in every room
- Windows that open at least half way
- No broken windows
- Operable locking or securing devices on all windows
They go so far as to provide an example of a landlord being able to deduct an amount from a security deposit to cover the cost of windows left unclean by tenants. But again, no requirements for a landlord to clean the windows.
Landlords responsibility for windows on a rental:
As you can see, most states do have laws on rental property maintenance. This includes keeping the windows in good shape. When a renter takes possession of a property, here are a few things they should look for:
Broken windows – there should be no visible cracks or holes in the windows of a rental property. This type of damage can cause a safety issue as well as allow elements to enter the property.
Working window locks – when a rental has windows that can open, there should be a working lock on each one. If the window cannot be properly secured it causes a security issue which should be fixed by the landlord or property manager.
Working screens – a window screen prevents bugs and vermin from entering a home. Any windows on a rental property that open should have effective screens that prevent entry of critters. This should include missing screens, torn screens, or misfitting screens.
Draft from windows – windows in a rental or apartment should not have a draft. Small openings can allow hot or cold air to enter the unit causing an issue with temperature control. There are many ways to repair a drafty window from full replacement to simple weather stripping.
While a landlord may not be required to clean the windows, it certainly is a good idea. Anything within reason that can be done to keep tenants happy will help to avoid vacancies.
Should a landlord clean the windows of a rental property?
A responsible rental property owner will provide exterior cleaning at least once per year. This is a great opportunity to inspect the property for other issues such as insect infestation, gutter damage, or peeling paint.
This could be done in a few hours with a pressure washer and some cleaning solution. Alternatively you could hire a softwash service for a few hundred dollars.
At the very least, landlords should consider cleaning the windows at the end of tenancy. It can help get a property rented faster and give new tenants one less thing to complain about.