Do you own or manage a block of flats? Or maybe you’re responsible for maintaining office buildings? 

Either way, one of your biggest bugbears will be … how to keep communal areas clean.

You might find it hard to believe, but your tenants are normal human beings. It might not seem that way, but it’s true. Not all, but certainly, many of them have a natural interest in keeping their own house in order. To a greater or lesser degree, they’ll keep their own place relatively clean and tidy. But the rest of the building? Not so. They’ll happily drop litter in the stairwell or spill coffee in the corridors. Yet they’ll be the first to complain when the communal areas aren’t sparkling clean.

That’s not the only problem. Neglected shared areas are no good for the look and value of the property either. Dirty stairwells and hallways can ruin its value. They can be a significant health hazard too.

Some tenants take the view, ‘I pay the rent and the service charge. I can leave litter and rubbish where I like.’ One of the difficulties is that what one tenant might consider sufficiently, another may regard as being unacceptably dirty.

The point is that, ultimately, you’re in charge. You’re the owner/manager. You must decide what’s ‘good enough’. It’s up to you also to decide whether your cleaning contractor is doing a sufficiently good job.

Communal area cleaning – what are your responsibilities?

This depends. It’s all to do with the lease – especially the management contract. Almost always, service charges cover the expense of cleaning communal areas. But what exactly counts as a ‘communal area’? You’ll find this usually in the small print – and it’s worth checking.

More often than not, leases state that the landlord or property management company are responsible for cleaning the following areas
– stairs
– lifts
– shared hallways
– shared parking areas
– paths
– gardens

Cleaning shared areas – how clean is ‘clean’?

This is just the kind of question that you probably won’t find an answer to in the lease. It depends on so many factors. For example, what about the design of the block? What materials are used in the construction and fitting of the shared areas? Are the floors tiled? Are they bare concrete? Are they carpeted? Does glass feature in the areas’ construction? After all, glass can easily become grubby and smeared. How many occupiers – residents or workers – use the communal areas? How busy are these areas? Are the shared areas used for storage? We’re talking buggies or bicycles. And what about bins? Are they kept in shared spaces?

In order to plan your cleaning regime, you need to be sure of the answers to these questions. Here’s our suggested approach to a communal area cleaning strategy.

1. A detailed communal area cleaning schedule

To manage your building correctly, you need to develop a detailed cleaning schedule. You would do this in consultation with your professional cleaning contractor. You’d start with a site visit and would take into account all the specific needs of the property and the tenants. You’d agree together which areas need to be cleaned, how often and when.
Rather than just leave the agreement set in stone, it should be regularly reviewed. You need to consistently check how effective your communal area cleaning schedule is and whether the needs of the tenants of the building have changed.

2. Regular cleaning of communal areas

When it comes to effective cleaning of communal areas, consistency is the key. Without regular cleaning, the build-up of litter or dirt can get out of hand. It can begin as just an annoying inconvenience, but can quickly escalate into a health and safety matter. For example, if rubbish or food waste is allowed to build up, it will start to attract rats, mice or other vermin, as well as insects. Also, dirty floors and door handles can become a fertile breeding ground for any number of bacteria or germs.

Don’t worry – we’re not suggesting the entire property should be sterilised every single week of the year! Some communal area cleaning, such as windows, might only need carrying out once every few weeks or months. What matters is that the right jobs are carried out at the right time … and consistently.

Are you unsure whether the property you own or manage is receiving the right amount of communal area cleaning to the right standard? Arrange to hold regular meetings with your cleaning company. Check over the schedule together and check that each job is being carried out efficiently and to the required standards.

This isn’t only in case the cleaning standards aren’t sufficiently high. Occasionally you might both agree that the frequency of cleaning could be reduced. You could then re-negotiate the cleaning contract and save yourself on cleaning costs.

The important thing is to hold your cleaning reviews regularly so that underlying issues don’t have the chance to build up.

3. Communal area cleaning record

Sometimes your tenants won’t be around when the communal area cleaners are at work. So it’s possible for them to believe they’re not carrying out their cleaning obligations. That’s why you must insist that your cleaning contractors pin up a visible signed record of the cleaning work carried out. Make sure this obligation is part of the signed contract between you and the cleaning company.

What if your communal area cleaning doesn’t reach your required standard?

Purely from the contractual point of view, it’s unlikely that under the terms of your lease you will be obliged to keep communal areas free from clutter and rubbish. That is almost always your tenants’ job.

There’s a good reason for this. Not only should tenants keep communal areas clear for reasons of health and safety. It’s also important so that cleaners can carry out their work efficiently. If there are concerns about the efficiency of the cleaning work being carried out, your first job should be to check whether your tenants are keeping to their side of the bargain. Can the cleaners actually access the parts of the building that require attention?

What if communal clutter isn’t the problem and the cleaners are simply not doing the required work? Now’s the time to raise the issue with your professional cleaning contractor. Before you hold the meeting with them, take some photos. Your meeting will go far more smoothly if you can provide clear evidence of inadequate cleaning.

Addressing communal area cleaning issues promptly

This is really important. As the owner or manager of the property, you’re legally obliged to keep the communal areas reasonably clean. This is for health reasons, safety reasons, and in order to maintain the value of the property. After all, your tenants have the right to live or work in a property that’s safe and in a sound state of repair and cleanliness.

If you’re slow to respond to issues, then you could fall foul of the environmental health department of your local council. If they believe the standards of cleanliness in your communal areas have fallen beneath stator requirements, they’re within their rights to take legal action.

Are your communal areas as clean as they should be?

Here at Stardust Cleaning Services, we take our cleaning obligations seriously. Our cleaners are expert and highly trained. We trust them to carry out a superb job with your communal area cleaning. Do you feel the standards of cleanliness in your communal areas aren’t what they should be? Call us.

Protect your property and your tenants with thorough, regular communal area cleaning
Take the first step – today! Let’s get talking