I just moved into a property in England, and the place is absolutely filthy. For instance, the bathroom has not being cleaned, the walls, carpets, kitchen and so on are proper dirty, And there are various items (like a shopping trolley) abandoned in the garden.

I contacted the letting agency, and basically they told me that if the property is "habitable" and "safe" then I can sort these things myself.

I find this pretty insane, that only in the case of the absolute uninhabitable-ness they are prepared to do something.

I will push back but I fear that it will take some time for them to respond and do something about the cleaning and removing of objects.

Is there a law about this? Can the letting agent drag on the cleaning process? Can I make them pay for something?

Thank you very much.

  • 1
    What does your lease contract say? They often contain a clause under what conditions you have received (and must return) it in and that you confirm, with your signature, that that was the case when signing. Sep 15, 2023 at 13:25
  • That it needs to be habitable. But what that means is open to interpretation. Having rubbish everywhere, still mean you can live in, but you need to take time away to clear it.
    – giac
    Sep 17, 2023 at 21:35

1 Answer 1


Certainly there are laws that say the property must be "habitable".

The question is likely to be simply whether it is or not.

A sole shopping trolley in the garden isn't likely to have an impact on whether the dwelling is habitable.

General filth and soiling of floors isn't likely to make the property uninhabitable either, unless the condition is so bad (and the scale of the cleanup so large) that you couldn't reasonably be expected to move in and occupy the property at the commencement of the tenancy.

For example, a kitchen smeared widely in grease and a cooker fouled with stale grease, is different from having a few coffee cup stains on the counter and the paintwork needing a new coat.

Compelling cases of unfitness for habitation, are where ordinary fittings and fixtures are out of order or missing. No running water, no working toilet, no energy supply, that kind of thing.

I think if a habitation case came down to dirtiness alone, it would have to be shown that the existing interior condition was revolting to the ordinary person, and inconsistent with moving in.

  • Thank you @Steve; what surprises me is that the responsibility seems to fall on the renter, not the landlord or the agency. Literally, the house was not cleaned but simply cleared. I had to take the whole weekend to clean it. This does not seem right to me. When I complained to the agent, they told me unless "there was a dead body in the house", I had to deal with it. The trash was not taken out, the toilet was not cleaned, there was mold on the bed, etc. This can't be right.
    – giac
    Sep 17, 2023 at 21:34
  • @giac, unfortunately there's no specific standard of cleanliness required by law. Mould spores do directly threaten health, but some amount of cleaning is to be expected. The more obvious control would be tenants ability to refuse overly dirty properties before accepting the tenancy, but landlords currently have the upper hand.
    – Steve
    Sep 17, 2023 at 21:53
  • What is interesting is that I actually had a chat with the cleaners, and they reported widespread malpractice from the agency, such as being asked to dispose of rubbish onto neighbour's properties, and evidence that they were only paid to clear the property, not to clean it as such. I am going to look into going to a small court claim.
    – giac
    Sep 19, 2023 at 10:33

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