Should you fight for the right to be untidy?

QUESTION: We recently had our routine landlord’s inspection and a letter was left saying that the premises were in an “unsatisfactory condition” and would need to be re-inspected.

This was a complete surprise to us as we had cleaned up. When we contacted her, the agent, she said the place had been left in a state of “general uncleanliness” and that there was mould on the bathroom window.

Admittedly, our study desks were not neat and had books piled on them and pens and paper strewn over them.

Our open display cabinet had things packed into it (which made it look messy), books were piled on our dressers and our dining table chairs were stacked in the corner.

Can a landlord or agent instruct you on how tidy the apartment should be kept? – SD (edited from the Forum).

ANSWER:  Being of the “empty desk means an empty mind” school of thought, I reckon you can be as untidy as you wish as long as it’s clean underneath.

But the agent was probably influenced more by her overall impressions than a forensic examination of your flat’s cleanliness. I would tidy up next time.

However, if you are disinclined to re-organise your ad hoc filing system, under the terms of the standard residential tenancy agreement you only agree to keep the premises ‘reasonably’ clean.  What does ‘reasonably’ mean? Anywhere between a room in which you could safely perform open heart surgery and a bit of stray mould on a window would be my guess.

These periodic inspections are really there so the agent can reassure the landlord that you aren’t trashing the place. This response is based on their personal opinion and the impressions they get.

To some people a stack of books on a table is a sign of intelligence – to others it’s a display of poor domestic skills and student tendencies. I wouldn’t go to the barricades over this but, when they re-inspect, it’s worth (gently) making the point that there’s a big difference between untidy and unclean.

You’ll find the whole question and a full discussion (under some newspapers) HERE in the Forum. And you can get some good information about your rights and responsibilities as a tenant HERE.

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