The company claimed that the tenants did not leave the premises (including lawns and garden) reasonably clean and tidy and did not remove all garbage. Section 40 of The Tenancies Act states, „The tenant shall ensure that the premises are reasonably clean and tidy and remove all garbage,“ but it does not specify exactly what „reasonably clean and tidy“ means. In her judgment, however, she clarified what she considers to be „reasonably clean and tidy.“ „There is no requirement that every item in the premises be left `adequately` clean and tidy, only an overall commitment to the leased space. The arbitrator stated that the words „reasonably clean and reasonably cared for“ do not impose an absolute standard. This standard varies according to the age and condition of the premises. In contrast, the final property inspection report showed mold on ceilings that should have been cleaned, dirty window sills, a missing bedroom door handle, garbage around the grounds, and neglected gardens and lawns. The Witters handed over the property on August 28, 2020. Both Philip and Janet Witter testified that the property was in a clean state as required by the contract. And they submitted several photos to support their claim. Phillip and Janet Witter sold their home to Daniel and Erin Nitschke, but remained on the site after completion due to an occupancy agreement. The Witters said they had restored the property to a clean state and were eligible for a $2,000 bond. The Nitschkes demanded $400 from the deposit to reimburse them for the cost of professional cleaning of the premises.
A hearing to consider the claim and counterclaim was held to determine the competing „small claims“ at Penfield Town Court. Both sides appeared without advice. Here, the parties, who both had lawyers, negotiated a contractual provision stating that the property must be in a „broom cleaning“ state when the property is handed over to the buyer. Although the term „cleaned“ has not been defined in the contract, it is often used in real estate contracts. The obligation to provide premises in a state of „broom cleanliness“ has been interpreted to mean that the premises must be free of garbage, garbage, garbage and other debris at the time of delivery. An occupancy agreement after completion provided that the Witters were allowed to remain in possession of the property until August 28, 2020. In addition, the Witters were required to deposit $2,000 when the agreement was signed, which was to be held in trust by the Witters` lawyer. The clean hands doctrine is based on the maxim of justice, which states that „he who comes to righteousness must come with clean hands.“ This doctrine requires that the court deny equitable relief to a party who has breached good faith with respect to the subject matter of the action. The purpose of the doctrine is to prevent a party from obtaining legal protection if the fault of that party itself caused the granting of the exemption to be contrary to a clear conscience. This is a positive defence that the defendant can invoke.[Last updated May 2020 by Wex Definitions team] The adjudicator noted the contradictory evidence of the landlord and tenants on the issues raised in the lawsuit. „But I further note that the owner bears the burden of proof to prove his claim according to the required standards.“ But too often, landlords and tenants have very different interpretations of what constitutes an acceptable condition for a property to be left at the end of the lease. Contracts for the sale of residential real estate often require the seller to deliver the „cleaned“ premises. And apartment leases almost always require a tenant to deposit the unit „in a clean state of broom“ at the end of the lease term. A current dispute over the condition of an apartment at the time of delivery also applies to the condition of an apartment at the end of a lease. The Small Claims Court was designed to provide litigants with a simple, informal and cost-effective procedure to adjudicate applications quickly. And while the rules of procedure can be relaxed, cases must still be decided according to the rules and principles of substantive law. The most specific question concerned the cleanliness of the premises. While a buyer would certainly prefer a home to be professionally cleaned and ready to move in upon transfer of ownership, there is no indication that a „broom cleaning“ condition required the seller to have the premises professionally cleaned before leaving. The cases where a court blamed sellers for the cost of professional cleaning were quite extreme. In this case, the Nitsche`s statement, which included complaints about hair in bathrooms, dust and crumbs in kitchen drawers, piston nets and a dead fly on a windowsill, did not meet the conditions that would require the Witters to reimburse them for the cost of professional cleaning. Oaks Property Management Ltd (acting on behalf of the landlord) took a group of Auckland tenants to court on a number of issues, including the condition of their leased property at the end of the lease.
In the end, the court ruled in neither the landlord`s nor the tenants` favour – because the adjudicator was not satisfied that the evidence presented by the landlord supported their claims to the extent necessary. The courts have found that the property is not „cleaned“ if sellers do not remove their property from the premises. Therefore, in order to meet a „broom cleaning“ condition, the seller must remove goods such as furniture and appliances, as well as debris such as empty paint cans from the premises. There was no serious accusation that the Witters had not removed their property from the premises. The evidence showed that they left a few pots and pans and a tray of cutlery in the kitchen. This was clearly a de minimis infringement which did not justify an award of damages. In short, „cleaning brooms“ does not impose an obligation on the seller to have the property professionally cleaned. If the parties agree on a „broom cleaning“ condition, buyers should expect to be required to hire professional cleaners before moving in. If buyers want the property to be professionally cleaned when handing over the property, they must have negotiated a „professionally clean“ condition and not a „clean broom“ condition. If the contract contains a condition of „professional cleanliness“, buyers can reasonably expect that the premises are actually ready to be occupied. It noted that the inspection report of the move-in property showed that the premises were in a fairly clean condition at first.
Daniel and Erin Nitschke both described the property as „dirty“ and testified that they observed hair in bathrooms, dust and crumbs in kitchen drawers, piston nets and a dead fly on a windowsill. They submitted several photos in support of their claim. The Nitschkes added that they felt it was necessary to hire a professional cleaning company to clean the property before moving in. The cleaners` bill revealed that the kitchen and three bathrooms had been cleaned at a cost of $400. The Nitschkes did not object to the release of $1,600 of the money held in trust. For example, in Holy Roman Catholic School v. Boley, the defendant opened a pharmacy account in favour of the plaintiff so that he could receive medication for his work-related injuries. The Applicant calculated elements that had nothing to do with work-related injuries. The defendant closed the account and the plaintiff filed a lawsuit to keep the account open. The court held that the plaintiff`s misuse of the account required a finding that the plaintiff had dirty hands and that it would be contrary to good conscience to compel the defendant to keep the account open.
The tenants disputed the claim, arguing that the property was not in a reasonable state of cleanliness when it was handed over to them. They also said they had carried out extensive clean-up work at the site prior to the eviction. Now, a new tenancy court ruling provides advice to landlords in this area. The Witters signed a purchase agreement with the Nitschkes for the residential property in Saint Ebbas Drive, Penfield, New York. The parties agreed in the purchase agreement that the Witters „have the right to retain possession for 18 calendar days after completion.“ The contract also stipulated that the property would be in a state of „broom cleaning“ when the property was handed over to the Nitschkes. To support the claim, the company submitted a series of information, including the inspection report (with photos) and the final property inspection report (with photos). Reports of polluted rental properties, with piles of trash everywhere, could be at the end of the spectrum. The court was satisfied that the Witters had fulfilled their contractual obligation to return the premises to a state of „broom cleaning“ – free of garbage, garbage, garbage and other debris. As a result, the Witters` request to force the release of $2,000 from the escrow account was granted. And the Nitschkes` counterclaim, which demanded $400 from the escrow account to reimburse them for the cost of cleaning up the premises, was rejected. Since the adjudicator felt that the landlord had not done so to the extent necessary and that some of the problems were due to the general detoriation, the tenants were ordered to pay the landlord only $100 to clean the lawns and garden.
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