How to manage garden maintenance in a rental property

How you manage the garden maintenance of your rental property is important, not only as it is a common cause of dispute between tenants and landlords, but also because keeping your property looking good is in your interests more even than it is in the tenant’s in the long run. A neglected garden both ruins the kerb appeal of your property and can be expensive and time-consuming to rectify.

Take care of the basics

Pick your tenants carefully: If your property has a garden, you may, for example, be better focusing on longer term tenancies, who are more likely to take care of the garden, than shorter term ones.

Design a low maintenance garden: go for slow growing, drought tolerant flowering shrubs and perennials combined with hard landscaping. Aim for a garden that will attract tenants without breaking the bank or requiring too much effort to maintain.

Consider outsourcing the garden maintenance: If you have a number of properties with gardens, it may be cost effective to take responsibility for the gardening yourself by employing a specialist gardener to take care of the upkeep and including a gardening charge in the rent.

Ensure that any gardening equipment you supply is in a good state of repair and stored in a locked outbuilding/shed: If you decide to provide your tenant with gardening equipment, particularly power tools, make sure it is in good condition and compliant with current health and safety standards. If you don’t have a Residual Current Device (RCD) built into your fusebox, you should use a plug-in RCD – any socket that may be used to plug in a lawnmower, hedge trimmer or other power tool should have RCD protection.

Get the tenancy agreement right

It may seem obvious, but the first thing to ensure is that the tenancy agreement covers the garden and stipulates whether the tenant is responsible for maintaining it. Without a clause written in the tenancy agreement, the landlord will be unable to make a successful claim for garden maintenance should an issue arise.

Unless otherwise stated, the tenant is usually responsible for the basic maintenance of the garden – keeping on top of weeding and mowing the lawn. However, what about watering the lawn during a dry spell, trimming the hedges or pruning the shrubs? Most would agree that it is unreasonable to expect a tenant to cut back tall trees,
and there are many garden maintenance jobs that are best not done at all than incorrectly.

Landlords are therefore usually responsible for pruning and maintaining trees, shrubs and hedges and removing the cuttings. The landlord should also be responsible for ensuring that any trees are safe.

Tenancy agreements are often not specific with regards to the landlord’s requirements when it comes to the finer details of garden maintenance and this can increase the likelihood of a dispute.

A good standard tenancy agreement will:

  • Define that the garden should be left, at the end of the tenancy, in the same condition as at the start
  • Ideally describe the requirements for the maintenance of borders, lawn and paved areas
  • State that the tenant cannot carry out any alterations to the garden, or remove any plants without the landlord’s consent
  • Highlight any costs that the tenant is expected to incur in association with the garden ahead of time if applicable

If you as a landlord have additional specific requirements or expectations, you must set these out in the agreement.

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Prepare a solid inventory, check in and check out report

In the event of a dispute, an adjudicator will review the dispute evidence, including whether there is a well detailed inventory, check in and check out report showing the exact condition of each area. While the landlord should take all reasonable steps to avoid a dispute from arising in the first place, it is important that you ensure you prepare a solid inventory, check in and check out report as evidence should it be required at a later date.

Remember

  • To take an inventory at the start of the tenancy which details the exact condition of each area
  • To make sure that the tenant is present at check in and check out and that they sign both reports as evidence of their consent
  • To embed dated colour photographic images of the garden, referenced to the relevant area of your property, in your check in and check out reports
  • That you, the landlord, should not expect to end up in a better position than at the start of the tenancy so be sure to take into account ‘seasonal growth’ and reasonable wear and tear

Carry out regular inspections and ensure good communication with your tenant

Carrying out regular inspections is a good way to track the condition of your property, including the garden. Even if you have a great tenant, routine inspections can help prevent problems from escalating at a later stage. Inspections also indicate to your tenant that you care about the property and expect it to be returned in good condition. Ideally, your tenant should be present during inspections so that they are made aware of any issues as they arise and in turn, they have the opportunity to raise any concerns with you. You must provide at least 48 hours’ notice prior to carrying out an inspection.

A good landlord-tenant relationship is based on cooperation and communication throughout the tenancy:

Attract good tenants, get the tenancy agreement right and ensure that you prepare a solid inventory, check in and check out report. But don’t forget to carry out regular inspections and keep channels of communication between you and your tenants open in the meantime so that any issues can be addressed before they escalate.

You can get off to a good start by sharing our top tips for tenants:

Top tips for tenants:

  1. Ensure that you are present at check in and check out and that you agree with the content of the check-in report at the start of the tenancy and the check out report at the end of the tenancy before signing them
  2. Read the tenancy agreement thoroughly and make sure that you understand any maintenance implications before signing it. If in doubt seek clarification from the landlord
  3. Check with the landlord (in writing) before carrying out any alterations to the garden – alterations would normally require the landlord’s consent
  4. If you have any concerns about the garden, raise them with the landlord rather than attempting to rectify them yourself
  5. Be open to inspections by the landlord, who should provide at least 48 hours’ notice before carrying out an inspection. Inspections are an opportunity for you to raise any concerns about the garden with your landlord before they escalate
  6. You will be required to return the garden in the state it was at the beginning of the tenancy, so get into the habit of carrying out regular maintenance on the garden so that problems don’t escalate. Mow the lawn once a fortnight during summer and weed little and often

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