If you’ve ever lived in an apartment, you know that the number one thing that a complex will ding you for post move-out is cleaning fees. Especially carpets. Unfortunately, these fees are basically unavoidable. My mom told me that right after she and my dad got married, they lived in a condo for a year. They scrubbed the place from top-to-bottom, to the point that my mom said it was cleaner when they left than when they moved in, and, yet, the complex still charged them a major cleaning fee. My mom said that was the last time they rented an apartment or condo – ever.
So, while you will probably get charged for something after you leave your rented small space, there are a few things that you can do to avoid the larger end of the fee spectrum.
The first time I ever rented an apartment on my own, I was desperate for a place to live that would take my dog, and ended up renting a cheap 2 bedroom on a whim. The entire apartment was carpet, save for the bathroom and small kitchen area. Having never rented a place on my own before, it did not occur to me that having a dog in a 99% carpeted home would not be the smartest decision. And THEN I ended up getting a puppy. HINT: do NOT get a brand new puppy when you are living in a rental. It is NOT smart. If you are dying to get a dog, adopt one that is already house-broken.
When my lease was finally up, I was so fed up with my complex and so eager to leave that I literally just packed everything and left. I didn’t even attempt to clean a single centimeter of the place. Well, it cost me. A LOT. Even with my initial deposit, I still ended up having to pay $1700 on top of that. Because I got a puppy that chewed up and peed and pooped on the carpet, they had to rip up ALL of the carpet in the ENTIRE apartment, along with the pad underneath, and then replace it all with brand new pads and carpeting. THAT was where my biggest costs came from. TIP NUMBER 2: if you absolutely HAVE to rent an apartment, find one that has as little carpet as possible. It will save you LOADS of money. And, on that note, if you are stuck with any sort of carpeted area, I highly HIGHLY recommend investing in a steam cleaner. I purchased one for my current apartment (which is only carpeted in my bedroom), and it has worked WONDERS on stains left from shoes (and the occasional puke from one of my dogs – even when they are housebroken, they STILL find ways to stain your carpet!).
Okay so back to moving out – you should DEFINITELY try and clean your space before you leave it. The cleaner it is when you move, the less they can charge you for to clean it themselves. That said, even a one bedroom, one bathroom apartment takes A LOT of work to clean. Things you don’t think about (fan blades, baseboards, refrigerator, etc.) have to be taken care of, otherwise you will get charged. The best tactic I’ve found for preparing to move is to take a portion of the space every weekend (or whenever you have a day off) and work on cleaning that. For example, a couple of weeks ago I was in one of my deep-cleaning modes – I went to work on the entire place like I normally do, I cleaned the kitchen counters and floors, the entire bathroom, and perfumed, vacuumed, and steam-cleaned my carpet. This time, though, I noticed that my baseboards and the fan blades were abnormally disgusting – and so I ended up cleaning those as well. My point to this story is.. If you start cleaning portions of your home ahead of time, there will be less dust and grime accumulated by the time you are getting ready to leave. Once you get your furniture moved, the cleaning process will be much less painstaking because you’ve already done the initial preparations. To that point, my lease is up at the end of September – I’ve already started my cleaning prep, and will probably do another round before my final move-out deep clean.
Sidenote: make sure you take a really good, hard look at every single corner, every inch, every nook-and-cranny of the rented space to make sure you tally up everything that needs to be cleaned. I noticed the other day that my doors are really dirty from fingerprints and from my dogs tapping on them to be let in or out. Doors are also sneaky places that carry dust so be sure to check for that if your doors have “fancy” indentations on them.
Another thing to remember: if your complex has a maintenance team, be SURE to have them see to any problems you may be having before move-out, and also be sure to note if they have caused any issues in trying to fix something you’ve called about. For example, my washing machine hose has had a leak for about 5 months now. About twice a month it floods the poor man’s apartment below mine, and maintenance has to come and replace the hose (well, SUPPOSEDLY they fix the hose). Just last week they came again because the man’s apartment was flooding – turns out they HADN’T fixed the hose properly (shocker!), and while trying to maneuver my washer and drier so that they could access the hose, they busted the machines and created all these dents. I guarantee you they didn’t make a note of that, so now I have to call the complex and be sure to tell them that maintenance broke my washer, NOT ME.
All-in-all, just BE SMART about moving out. Think about the place as if YOU were renting it to a tenant. If you had to come in after someone moved out, how would YOU want the place to look? Would you want to deal with having someone clean it and then having to charge the tenant more money because they left in a rush?
DO NOT, by any means, think that this will get you out of paying fees. IT PROBABLY WON’T. Unless you paid some humongous deposit that would no doubt cover any and all cleaning fees, you should probably expect to pay a little something. But just take heed, do a little bit of work every time you have a couple of free hours, it will save you time and money in the end.
HINT ON CLEANING PRODUCTS: I am a psycho clean freak, and I feel it is completely necessary to have at least one of every cleaning product. For example, I like Windex for some things, and I like a product called Glass Cleaner for other things. Both work effectively for glass and mirrors, however, they can also work great for cleaning surfaces. I have all kitchen and bathroom spray cleaners, as well as powder bleach for tubs and sinks. I always cross-over products and use whatever works best. Accumulate as many products as you can – every single one will come in handy!