Who is Responsible for the Garden of a Rented Property?
As the warm weather returns, many homeowners and tenants will be looking to make use of their gardens as they enjoy the limited sunshine we receive.
Whether it be simply enjoying the summer weather, making the garden more aesthetically pleasing or hosting a social event, it is important that during this time a tenant is aware of what they are allowed and restricted to do.
When it comes to the gardens of a rented property, landlords and tenants can get easily confused with what’s required from both parties. Subsequently, many disputes occur due to the withholding of deposit money as a result of garden issues.
What can and can’t be done to the garden by the tenant? What is the minimum (if anything) that the landlord is expected to do? What is the tenant required to do? How can landlords protect themselves against damage/neglect by the tenant?
These and many more questions are asked on a regular basis by landlords throughout the country.
What is expected of the Tenant?
Firstly, a tenant is expected to abide by the terms in the Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST) agreement that were agreed prior to them moving into the property. The minimum that is generally expected of the tenant throughout the tenancy is that they keep the garden litter-free, reasonably tidy and not overgrown. This will usually be a standard clause in an AST agreement.
The tenant is only responsible for returning the garden in the same state that it was in when they moved in. This means that a landlord cannot expect a tenant to carry out improvements to the garden if it was already in a mess.
Tenants cannot be expected to perform tasks that require expertise. For example, a landlord can’t penalise a tenant for failing to prune a tall tree – it would be the landlord’s responsibility to make the relevant arrangements for this.
Social events in the garden (such as BBQ’s) are permitted unless it is otherwise stated in the AST agreement. Therefore, if a landlord wishes to forbid such activities, it is important to include a clause in the AST agreement prior to the tenant signing. It is also worth noting here that tenants are responsible for any noise and nuisance or damage to the property caused by themselves or their guests.
If the tenant wishes to change the garden in any way (even making improvements) they are required by law to gain the landlord’s approval beforehand - this also includes planting their own garden. Failure to do so could allow the landlord to charge the tenant the cost of returning the garden to its original state.
What is the landlord required to do?
The landlord is required to maintain areas of the garden which would otherwise be unreasonable to expect from the tenant. It is also the landlord’s responsibility to ensure that action is taken should the tenant report an issue which is not their fault.
For comfort and ease, it is not uncommon for portfolio landlords to hire a full-time gardener to maintain all of their properties. This cost can be applied to a tenant’s monthly rent if they have previously agreed. However, please note that if it states in the AST agreement that the landlord will provide a gardener, they are then obliged to do so for the length of the tenancy.
Steps a landlord can take:
1. Landlords should ensure that they are taking a sensible deposit from the tenant before the tenancy begins. This can then be used to recover some of the costs that might occur due to damage or neglect by the tenant.
2. It is imperative that landlords clearly state within the AST agreement what is expected of the tenant and also any restrictions that may be imposed.
3. It is recommended to embed dated photographs of the garden in the inventory check-in report. These can then be compared with the check-out report when the tenant is leaving to establish differences to the original state of the garden.
4. Regular property inspections should be performed throughout the tenancy which will allow the landlord to assess the condition of the garden and potentially spot any issues early therefore reducing the extent and cost of damage.
5. A landlord should have an adequate buildings insurance policy in place that covers malicious and accidental damage by tenants and their guests.
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