Do Tenants Have to Clean When Moving Out in California?

When it comes to moving out of a rental property in California, tenants may wonder if they have to clean the premises before leaving. The answer to this question depends on various factors, including the rental agreement and state laws. In this article, we will explore the cleaning obligations of tenants in California and provide an overview of their rights and responsibilities. Whether you’re a tenant preparing to move or a landlord seeking clarity on the matter, read on to discover the essential information you need to know.

Understanding the Lease Agreement

Before discussing cleaning obligations, it is essential to review the lease agreement you signed with your landlord. The lease agreement typically outlines the terms and conditions that govern your tenancy. It may specify the cleaning requirements that tenants must adhere to before moving out.

State Laws and Minimum Requirements

California has minimum habitability standards that landlords must meet, including providing a clean and safe living environment for tenants. While the state does not explicitly require tenants to clean the property before moving out, they are expected to leave it in a reasonably clean condition.

Normal Wear and Tear

It is crucial to understand the distinction between normal wear and tear and damage caused by negligence. Tenants are not responsible for normal wear and tear, which refers to the natural deterioration of a property due to ordinary use or aging. However, tenants can be held accountable for excessive damage or neglect.

Security Deposit Considerations

One key aspect related to cleaning when moving out in California is the return of the security deposit. Landlords can deduct cleaning fees from the security deposit if the property is not left in a reasonably clean condition. However, any deductions must be reasonable and cannot exceed the actual cost of cleaning or repairs.

Tips for Cleaning and Moving Out

While the extent of cleaning may vary depending on the landlord’s expectations and specific circumstances, here are some general cleaning tips to consider:

  • Thoroughly clean the property: Clean the floors, walls, windows, and fixtures, ensuring they are free from dirt, dust, and grime.
  • No trash left behind: Remove all personal belongings and dispose of any trash or unwanted items properly.
  • Repair any damages: Fix any damage you or your guests have caused during your tenancy, such as broken appliances or holes in the walls.
  • Clean appliances and utilities: Clean and defrost refrigerators, ovens, and other appliances. Also, ensure utilities are disconnected, and necessary arrangements are made.
  • Document the condition: Take photographs or videos of the property before leaving to have evidence of its condition in case of disputes.

Remember, communication with your landlord throughout the move-out process is vital to ensure a smooth transition. By understanding your responsibilities and taking appropriate actions, you can fulfill your obligations and maintain a positive relationship with your landlord.

In conclusion, while tenants in California are not explicitly required to clean the property when moving out, it is generally expected that they leave it reasonably clean. It is crucial to review your lease agreement, comply with state laws, and communicate with your landlord to ensure a successful move-out process.


Can a landlord charge for cleaning fees even if the property is clean?

Landlords can only deduct cleaning fees from the security deposit if the property is not left in a reasonably clean condition. However, if the tenant has cleaned the property thoroughly and met their obligations, the landlord should not charge for cleaning fees.

What happens if the tenant fails to clean the property before moving out?

If tenants fail to clean the property before moving out, landlords can deduct reasonable cleaning fees from the security deposit. The deduction should reflect the actual cost of cleaning required to restore the property to a reasonably clean condition.

Are tenants responsible for professional carpet cleaning?

Tenants may be responsible for professional carpet cleaning if it is mentioned in the lease agreement. However, ordinary wear and tear on carpets is not the tenant’s responsibility, and they should not be charged for routine cleaning that is part of regular maintenance.

Can a landlord charge for repairs in addition to cleaning fees?

Yes, landlords can charge for repairs in addition to cleaning fees if the tenant has caused excessive damage beyond normal wear and tear. The charges should be reasonable and fairly reflect the cost of repairs required due to the tenant’s actions.


When it comes to cleaning responsibilities for tenants moving out in California, the specific requirements can vary based on the lease agreement and state laws. While tenants are generally expected to leave the property in a reasonably clean condition, it is crucial to review the lease agreement, understand your rights and obligations, and communicate effectively with your landlord. By fulfilling your responsibilities, you can ensure a smooth move-out process and the return of your security deposit.

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