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End of Lease Cleaning in Chicago

Leases are fixed terms, and sometimes you choose not to renew when they run out. Other times, the choice is made for you by market pressures or by a landlord choosing to look for another tenant. These changes can happen to residents, but they can also happen to businesses in commercial real estate.

If your business is closing, you need to clean out a space, or if your lease is ending and you’re moving to a new location, you need to clean up what you leave behind. Alternatively, if you’re a landlord and your tenants are vacating, if they leave stuff behind, you need it removed before you can clean, repair, and lease the space to new tenants.

You may have questions about end-of-lease cleaning and where the line falls on your responsibilities. In Illinois in general and in Chicago specifically, there may be rules you need to follow. What are they?

Does Chicago Have End of Lease Cleaning Laws?

Chicago has relatively robust landlord and tenant behavior rules, specifically for residential leases. It covers rental properties and units, except for owner-occupied buildings with fewer than six units, short-term leasing in hotels/motels, dorms, employee quarters, and owner-occupied condos and co-ops. It’s a significant ordinance – the summary is three pages of fine print – but it doesn’t apply to everyone.

Cleaning Laws for Leases in Chicago

The rules have a lot of protections for both landlords and tenants, as well as a lot of responsibilities. Still, the majority of them are all quite reasonable expectations of behavior. There must be working smoke detectors, tenants can’t deliberately damage a unit, landlords must comply with the municipal code, and so on. The full text of the ordinance, rather than just the summary, can be found here. You’re free to read it all yourself, of course.

What does this have to do with cleaning? Not a whole lot! There’s a reasonable expectation of cleanliness, but there aren’t many regulations regarding cleaning in between leases at the city level. There’s a reason for that, however:

Does the State of Illinois Have End of Lease Cleaning Laws?

Chicago doesn’t have specific laws about the end of lease cleaning because the state as a whole does. The Illinois Attorney General specifies two things.

  • The tenant must leave the property clean when they’re done with it, and it must be done before and move out.
  • The landlord must ensure the property is cleaned before a new tenant moves in.

Ideally, these two duties will overlap. Tenants will remove their things from the building, do a reasonable cleaning job on appliances, walls, floors, and other surfaces, and leave the unit in relatively good condition. The landlord will then pick up where the tenant left off, make any minor repairs and improvements necessary to keep the property in a good state and perform any additional deep cleaning necessary.

State of Illinois Laws

Of course, things don’t always work out in an ideal way.

  • If a tenant passes away, there’s no one to handle their stuff or take care of the cleaning.
  • If a business fails, the responsibility to clean the leased property slips through the cracks.
  • When a tenant is evicted and abandons their property, you might be stuck with their belongings and have to remove them yourself.
  • A tenant’s definition of “clean” and the landlord’s definition of clean may differ.

There are plenty of reasons why this sort of situation might happen. Some are reasonable; some are not. State and local laws offer legal remedies for pursuing damages in court, but that doesn’t solve the problem of junk piled up in a property you’re trying to lease out.

Preparing for End of Lease Cleaning as a Tenant

First, we’ll look at what you might need to do as a tenant before your lease ends and it’s time to move out.

Preparing as a Tenant

To start:

  1. You want to pack up and move out all of your stuff. If there’s junk you don’t need anymore, the furniture you’re leaving behind, or other items, you’ll want to ensure they won’t violate the terms of your lease or your agreement with your landlord. Sometimes, some furniture can be left behind without issue, like a dining table. Other times, the landlord doesn’t want anything left behind and will require you to clear it all out.
  2. If you have a lot of junk that needs to be removed, we can help. All you need to do is identify what needs to be removed and call us to do the deed. To make things easier, you can move anything you want to keep into one room, or conversely, anything you want to be removed into one room, and we can clear out everything you want to go.
  3. It’s not your responsibility to replace carpet, for example, but you’ll need to wash down walls, vacuum (at least; maybe use a carpet cleaner as well), and clean the various appliances and surfaces. You’ll also need to do a deep cleaning pass. You can find checklists of what to clean, but they can vary from place to place. You may be responsible for cleaning windows, for example, or the exterior of a unit, or maybe not.
  4. You have plenty of rights and protections, but you do have to make your best effort to clean.

Many companies around the Chicago area do end-of-lease cleaning to help ensure that you get your full security deposit back and that a landlord won’t pursue you for leaving a unit in poor condition. You can, of course, hire a deep cleaning service as well.

Preparing for End of Lease Cleaning as a Landlord

As a landlord, you have a reasonable expectation that your tenants will clear out and clean a unit when their lease ends. You’ll need to do minor repairs, cleaning, and upkeep tasks, which are all part and parcel of owning a property. In most cases, simple cleaning and maintenance is not something you can pursue a tenant for compensation for; it’s your job to keep the unit in a livable condition.

The tricky part is when a lease ends, and your new tenant signs their new lease, you often have a very narrow window – possibly only days – in which to perform various cleaning and maintenance tasks. That’s fine if you have a company you can call to deep clean an empty unit, but it’s a lot harder if your tenant left behind a bunch of junk.

End of Lease Cleaning as a Landlord

If a tenant leaves behind unwanted junk, there’s a specific legal process you’ll need to follow. To the best of your ability, you need to notify them that they left stuff behind and generally give the tenant seven days minimum to claim the property. After that week, you’re typically free to dispose of the junk left behind. You can read more about this responsibility here.

If you have a unit that needs to be emptied out on short notice, your best option is to call us. At Junk Relief, we’re experts at junk removal, and we can haul away anything you need to be gone, no matter what. Just give us a call or reach out with a description of what you need to be removed, and we’ll give you a quote and work with you to pick a day and time to do it.

Once all of the leftover junk is hauled away, you’ll need to do any maintenance, repairs, and deep cleaning necessary to bring the property up to a pristine condition. You can hire companies like those linked above, or you can do it yourself, of course. Incoming tenants expect their new property to be in good repair and cleanliness, after all.

You may be inclined to replace the carpet, paint walls, and refresh the unit’s setting. That’s all fine, and improvements to the property are, of course, your prerogative. You can’t use the tenant’s security deposit to do it unless it’s something you need to do because of damage from the tenant. That steps beyond our expertise and into legal territory, so you may want to consult with a lawyer on this one.

Special Considerations for Commercial Property

If you’re a landlord with a commercial real estate portfolio, you’ll have the same considerations as a residential landlord. The difference is that businesses have different needs, different scales, and different scopes. If an office closes and a company moves out, it’s not a matter of moving away a couch and a table and some boxes of junk; you’ll have desks, office chairs, and other fixtures you may need to remove.

Likewise, if a business closes and needs to be cleaned out, there may be all kinds of tasks that you need to consider. For example:

  • Kitchen equipment, bar equipment, drains, and other fixtures may need deep cleaning, snaking, and repair.
  • Commercial freezers may need thawing and deep cleaning (especially if a previous restaurant went under and left food behind. One of the most horrid things to clean is a deep freeze that was shut off with food still inside!)
  • Specialty locations (like medical offices) may need a deeper level of sanitization than a typical commercial property.

All of this heavily depends on how well and regularly your previous tenants kept their units clean. You will, of course, need to perform maintenance on the building. Don’t forget to check the roof, any plumbing or boilers that need care, furnaces and their filters, other aspects of HVAC, and so on.

Considerations for Commercial Property

This process is predicated on clearing the unit when the previous lease ends. If your last business tenants left behind junk you need to be removed, one of your best options is to call us at Junk Relief. Sure, we do residential cleanouts, but we also do business cleanouts. No matter how large or small your property, how much or how little junk you need to be cleared out, or what that junk is, we can do it for you.

Yes, that even extends to construction and demolition debris. Maybe when your previous tenants moved out, you decided you wanted to remodel the entire interior and tore it down to studs, leaving a ton of debris behind. We’ll haul that away, too; give us a call and let us know what you’re dealing with.

Preparing Ahead of Time for End of Lease Cleaning

You don’t know what you’ll need to do to clean out a unit until the previous tenants are gone and it’s time to get to work. Unfortunately, that means you may be in for a nasty surprise if a tenant chooses to leave a bunch of junk behind.

Of course, that doesn’t mean you can’t prepare ahead of time.

Preparing Ahead of Time

We recommend three things.

  • First, have a process outlined and ready to go. Start with an inspection to see what you’re dealing with and determine if you’ll need to hold on to anything for the tenant to reclaim. Then, proceed to junk removal, deep cleaning, and maintenance tasks.
  • Second, line up companies ahead of time. We’re always available for short-notice junk removal, but if we have some idea of when you’ll need our services, we can ensure we’re available on the day you need us. The same goes for various cleaning companies; having foreknowledge is always a good idea.
  • Third, know what needs to be done and have your supplies on hand. Whether you’re cleaning by hand or need a stock of light bulbs and furnace filters, it pays to have all your extra consumables in stock.

As long as you can prepare ahead of time, end-of-lease cleaning (whether commercial or residential) shouldn’t be a bad experience. Just remember, if you have junk you need to be removed, contact us at Junk Relief, and we’ll be more than happy to take care of it all for you. Most projects don’t take longer than a day, but if you have a specific timeline that you’re working with, we’ll work hard to get your building cleaned out and ready to rent to your next tenant on time and on budget.

Get in touch with us, and we’ll recommend the best course of action for your specific situation and provide you with a free quote.

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Joe Weidman

Joe is a Chicago native, born and raised in Elmhurst. He founded Junk Relief more than 10 years ago and has worked with more than 20,000 homeowners and businesses throughout Chicagoland. His passion for starting a business in junk removal stemmed from seeing the need to do things differently. He prides himself on his company's model to provide unexpectedly professional service.

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