Dealing with Dirty Tenants

Updated 4/18/24

Dealing with dirty tenants at your rental property can become a real nightmare. It can quickly drive the value of your rental property down. It is worth noting that having dirty tenants can be severely harmful to the property as the likelihood of having a bug and rodent infestation increases exponentially. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you can identify dirty tenants before making the decision to rent to them? The truth is, no one can be 100% certain. So this begs the question, can I evict a tenant for being dirty?

Learn important tips on how to deal with dirty tenants

The short answer is yes. We must understand a few things before we start sending out eviction notices, however. There is an easily distinguishable line between dirty and filthy. Let’s start there.

Table of Contents

What is considered dirty vs filthy?

We all have our own opinions about dirty, messy or filthy. We must think about how things can pan out in a court of law, however, where your eviction case will eventually be decided if it gets that far.

“Dirty” can be considered “messy” and will include situations such as:

  • Clothes on the floor
  • Messy beds or linens
  • Untidy items left on tables, kitchen table tops, etc
  • Dusty appliances

“Filthy” can be considered as a situation where bad cleaning habits can become a serious health hazard or where the tenant’s failure to keep the rental unit clean can cause damage to the property. Some situations can include:

  • You identify the presence of rodents, roaches or other infestations
  • Mold starts accumulating on bathroom walls or in the kitchen
  • Stains or odors from not properly trained pets
  • Garbage hasn’t been thrown out
  • The rental unit starts to smell terribly
  • There are hazardous chemicals left carelessly around the property
  • You can see dirty dishes or rotten food in the kitchen
  • Appliances appear to be dirty and performance is affected
  • Air circulation is hindered by blockage of furnace intake due to junk

Can I evict a tenant for being dirty?

Yes. Before considering evicting a tenant, however, you should consider a few things first.

Review the lease agreement

Check the lease agreement for any clauses regarding cleanliness and maintenance of the property. Use these clauses as a basis for your conversation with the tenant.

Communicate clearly

Reach out to the tenant to express your concerns about the untidiness of the property. Be respectful and non-confrontational, and specify the areas that need attention.

Set clear expectations

Let the tenant know what you expect in terms of cleanliness and upkeep. Provide specific examples and explain how keeping the property clean benefits both parties.

Offer solutions

Suggest ways the tenant can improve the situation, such as regular cleaning or organizing schedules. You could also recommend professional cleaning services if needed.

Follow up

After discussing your concerns, give the tenant some time to address the issues. Follow up after a reasonable period to check on the progress.

Document everything

Keep a record of your communications with the tenant regarding the untidiness, including dates and details of your conversations.

Consider mediation

If the tenant does not improve the situation despite your efforts, consider mediation as a way to resolve the issue without escalating to eviction.

Take legal action as a last resort. If the tenant remains uncooperative and the untidiness violates the lease agreement or poses a health and safety risk, you may need to consider legal action such as issuing a notice to quit or pursuing eviction.

A landlord will win an eviction case when it comes to dealing with dirty tenants if you can prove that the tenant’s negligence to cleanliness directly interferes with either the health, overall safety or the enjoyment of the property by either you, the landlord, or their neighbors. Another way a landlord can win their case is if the rental agreement between you and your tenant has specific clauses for cleanliness expectations and the negligence of the tenant has caused damage to the rental property itself.

What are landlord rights with dirty tenants?

A landlord has a right to enjoyment of their rental property. Your other tenants also have the right to their enjoyment of their home. Dealing with one dirty tenant can hinder those rights.

Landlords have the right to enjoyment of rental property

Dealing with dirty tenants can be a potential risk for your property. If you are in a situation where either their dirtiness causes health issues or damage to your property and your lease allows it, you can start by serving a notice to comply. This will most likely fix the situation. In the case where it doesn’t, you can then proceed to file for an eviction.

Once the eviction process is complete and you legally repossess your rental property, it’s important that you use an experienced biohazard cleaning service to properly dispose of any potential health threats. Remember that you can deduct any and all extreme cleaning expenses from the tenant’s deposit. Just be sure you follow proper procedure.

It’s important that you do as much as you can to prevent these situations from ever happening. If you haven’t done so already, you should check and make any necessary revisions to your rental agreement so that it includes verbiage on expected cleanliness and how it can affect the tenant if they fail to do so. In the case where this would happen and your rental agreement fails to specify what would happen if the tenant’s dirtiness causes damage, there isn’t much you could do and would have to wait until their lease expires to get them out.

How to prevent dirty tenant situations

One of the easiest ways, as mentioned above, is to make sure your rental agreement covers consequences of unhygienic habits. Make sure you explain how they can affect others and their health for being dirty.

Explain tenants cleaning requirements before they move in

Another great opportunity for preventing this situation is at the pre-move inspection. When going over critical areas where filthiness issues can arise, make sure you take your time to explain how you expect these areas to be kept clean. How mold can accumulate around show areas if not cleaned properly. Explain how rodents and bugs can become infestations if they accumulate dirty dishes and if food is not disposed of properly. How the situation can become even worse if they allow trash to pile up and if a hoarding situation would occur.

Demonstrate cleaning practices

Lead by example! If you have a building of multiple tenants, make sure you are constantly keeping the public areas clean and neat. Provide trash cans where applicable and keep your gardening on point.

Other methods

Other methods can include providing contact information of local businesses that clean homes. Maid services, if you will. This can be a good idea if your tenant has a difficult schedule and can afford such services.

Make sure you are constantly inspecting your rental unit to avoid dealing with dirty tenants. The landlord has the right to inspect their rental unit for maintenance issues. Make sure you are complying with local, state and federal ordinances and are following California’s 24 hour notice procedure before using a key to enter your tenant’s rental unit.

Video: Dealing with Dirty Tenants

At Fast Eviction Service, help on any of the issues discussed in this article is simply a click or phone call away. Email or call our office at (800) 686-8686 to discuss your questions for a free evaluation of your case.

As a landlord, you will find there are many tenants who fail to abide by the contract rules. What is the best way to deal with these tenants? Here are the steps through which you should proceed if a tenant violates the contract. Read More...

Tenant-related problems bug the landlords almost every day. It is due to this that many landlords reduce their rents for maintaining good tenants. However, reducing the rent or evicting the tenants might not always the best course of action. This article lists 7 of most common tenant problems and how you can solve them. Read More...

Though only about 20% of your tenants will actually cause disputes, they will account to nearly 80% of your problems. The figures may surprise you, but that is regarded as a rule of the thumb regarding landlord tenant disputes in the California rental market. Read More...