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Corrupt Landlords, Cleaning Fees, the Residential Tenancies Act and You

Many university and college students, like me, choose to rent an apartment rather than living at home or in residence.  Although many landlords do business honestly and legally, there are some who choose to take advantage of students and particularly international students who are unfamiliar with the legal rules surrounding rentals and play things fast and loose with the law.  A classmate and friend from overseas recently ran into such a problem with a landlord who attempted to charge a $300 ‘Cleaning Fee’ when she moved out.  This fee is of course an example of a landlord trying to do exactly what I just described (otherwise I wouldn’t be writing about it).  After checking with the Landlord and Tenant Board’s brochure on the matter my friend wrote a letter explaining to her landlord explaining why she won’t be paying the fee and why the landlord is not allowed to charge it.  With her permission I have included a modified version of her letter below.

To whom it may concern: WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE?!?
“Dear Sir or Madam, I received a notice to pay $300 as the cleaning fee for Unit ###.  I have several concerns about your notice: 
1) According to Ontario’s Residential Tenancies Act, tenants need to keep the unit clean “up to the standard that most people would consider ordinary or normal cleanliness” (2006, C.17, S.33).  We keep the apartment in a situation that most people consider clean; there is not any damage or obvious stains on the wall, carpet or other facilities. If we need to pay a cleaning fee, please provide a document showing how we do not me the “normal cleanliness” requirement and in which you give evidence to demonstrate where we do not meet this standard.  Further, please provide the definition your company uses for “normal cleanliness”. 
2) According to Ontario Residential Tenancies Act, the tenant is not responsible to repair damage caused by normal “wear and tear”. We have lived in the apartment for about two years and the carpet and appliances were not new before we moved in.  It does not make sense that you asked us to pay a cleaning fee for the carpet, toilet or refrigerator. There are no obvious stains on the carpet (if you think there are, please provide documentation) and the refrigerators, toilet and sewage system all work well, though they show signs of long-term use. These signs are in the range of normal “wear and tear” (again, if you disagree, please provide documentation including evidence as well as your company definition of “wear and tear”). In this case, we are exempt from paying the amortization fee of the apartment based on Ontario Residential Tenancies Act. 
3) It is reasonable that you need to clean the unit thoroughly to welcome the next tenant. No matter how clean the house is, you are still obligated to clean it again due to health and hygiene considerations. It is however your duty as a landlord under the Ontario Residential Tenancies Act.  Why should we pay for this?  In this case, it could be assumed that the main purpose of your cleaning the house is to attract new tenants, and it is part of your operational fees. Why should we bear this cost of business as your previous customers? 
4) There are no sections in the Ontario Residential Tenancies act or City of London by-laws that require tenants to pay a cleaning fee after moving out. What legislative grounds do you have on which to demand a cleaning fee? 
5) Your notice of the fee just gave a flat payment amount; you have not explained why the payment is necessary or what formula you have used to calculate the $300 amount.  According to local statistics even for a heavy duty cleaning, the fee for a 900 square foot house in Ontario is only $200 on average and the charge for a normal cleaning is only about $74.  Our unit has no furniture left behind and as stated above, there is no obvious damage or stains on the carpet, walls, fixtures or appliances.  If you hire someone to clean the space it will only require a normal cleaning, nothing heavy-duty.  Yet, you are charging more than $300: three times the market value for such work.  It makes no sense to charge this amount for a two-bedroom unit with no furniture.  According to the Landlord and Tenant Board, I have the right to see the receipts for the costs of any cleaning you did in the apartment after I left. 
Based on the above, I do not see why I should pay the cleaning fee.  If you insist on pursuing the matter, please provide me with: 
1) A copy of the lease agreement with my signature highlighting any section about a cleaning fee. 
2) A copy of your company’s regulations about the charge of the cleaning fee, which should include the formula you use to calculate the fee. 
3) A document showing how we have not met the standard of “normal cleanliness”, providing evidence and showing your company’s definition of “normal cleanliness”. 
4) A document showing any damages to the unit fixtures and appliances beyond “wear and tear”. 
5) An itemized bill of cleaning fees with the official seal of your company including which cleaning services were required and the cost of each service. 
6) A full apartment evaluation report included the cleanliness of the apartment noting where there are damages or marks to the unit or the fixtures and appliances as well as the severity of any problems.  
7. All receipts for any costs you incurred while cleaning the apartment.”
If you are a hoarder then nothing in that letter applies to you; move on.

If you or anyone you know finds yourself in a similar situation, keep in mind that as tempting as it may be to simply pay the fee to make the problem go away it is likely that the landlord has no right to demand these charges from you.  If of course you are an animal and have actually caused damage or left a pile of garbage in the apartment when you left then not only are you in the wrong but should also be ashamed of yourself.  Assuming however that you are a normal, reasonable person remember that there are a number of tools and support systems available to help you out of this sort of situation if a simple letter doesn’t work.  Some of these are listed below.  Please, if you know anybody who would benefit from the letter above, pass this blog post on to them.  If we can make sure that everyone knows their legal rights, we can prevent corrupt landlords from taking advantage of tenants.
Dammit Billy, I know you have a Hotel on Park Place, but do you really need rent three turns in advance?

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  1. Wish I saw this before.. My first landlord I ever had was a horrible one. Charged us for many things such as garbage not properly put out, some idiot putting garbage in the recycling bins, a dirty drawer, etc.

    I think in the end my 4 roommates and I lost out on $50 - $70/person for that one year because he took it out of our key deposits =.="


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