Garden Maintenance at Rental Properties - Practical Advice for Landlords
Since Lockdown, Tenants’ ideas about what makes a desirable rental property have shifted to include a green space. People are still swarming to view properties that have a private garden – in fact, we often see them off the market inside of one weekend!
With gardens beings such a hot commodity, it’s only right for Landlords to want to keep them in tip top shape. You would think that Tenants would share that sentiment, but disputes for compensation relating to garden maintenance account for approximately 15% of observed claims (according to the National Residential Landlords Association).
It’s important to outline the roles that parties will take at the start of a Tenancy – what does the Landlord expect from the Tenant and vice versa. Remember, garden maintenance is not like keeping a house clean – plants grow and change; seasons wear and weather.
Our advice is to try and get things right from the beginning:
Choose your tenants carefully: Think about the Tenants you’re placing in the property. People who settle into a long term let are usually more likely to tend to an outdoor space, as they’ll want to continue to use it, season after season.
Design an easy to care for garden: Think about the plants in the space and try to select slow growing, drought resistant species that are interspersed with hard landscaping (or decking).
Avoid Astroturf: Some Landlords are making the decision to go with fake grass but our recommendation is to avoid this. It seems like a great choice but the material requires “vacuuming” during leaf season (with a special bit of kit), kills the natural food sources for mini-beasts (and bees) and is searingly hot underfoot in the summer. Trust us, it’s easier just to mow a lawn.
Have a gardener lined up: This is music to the ears of most Tenants! Hiring a gardener during the spring, summer and autumn will ensure that your investment is protected. Thinking it’s too expensive? We recommend that the cost is rolled into the lease itself – increasing the rent to offset the outgoings.
Gardening Equipment: Let’s be clear, there is no legal requirement for Landlords to supply Tenants with gardening tools or mowers. You’ll need to weight the pros and cons to both. Supplying a Tenant with tools should (in theory) promote garden care but you’ll then be responsible for re-supplying new tools if they break (or go missing) during the Tenancy. Also remember, if you don’t have a Residual Current Device (RCD) built into your fuse box, 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.
Getting the Garden Maintenance Clause Right
After you’ve selected your tenants and decided the best way to organise and care for the garden, you’ll need to write these details into the Lease Agreement. Without a garden maintenance clause written, it will be far more difficult to make a claim at the end of the Tenancy.
It’s important to be fair when drafting this – it’s not reasonable to ask Tenants to cut back established 40’ trees or prune topiary hedges shaped like Alice and Wonderland characters. 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.
Be sure to include as much detail as possible about the garden when creating a lease:
Define the state of the garden at the start of the tenancy and how it should be left at the end. Also, include detailed photographs in the check-in inventory that clearly show the garden’s condition.
Detail the maintenance of borders, lawn and paved areas; explain what happens in times of drought and hosepipe bans.
Be sure to include a clause that prevents the Tenant changing the garden without written permission from the Landlord.
Highlight any costs that the tenants is expected to incur
As a Landlord, you should not expect the garden to be in a better position at then end of a Tenancy than at the beginning – but it is reasonable to expect it to be maintained in a responsible way.
Carry out interim inspections, with the Tenant’s permission
Checking the health of a rental property, both inside and out, is not you having a “sticky-beak” into your Tenant’s lives. It’s the best way to ensure that the property is being maintained and the most efficient way to catch issues early.
Maintaining a good relationship with your Tenants is the best way to do this. If people feel supported in their ability to make a home in a rental property then they’re more likely to be responsive to requests and more willing to accommodate visits from the Landlord.
Sharing tips (and we don’t mean ordering them to do something) with Tenants about the property is a great way to set expectations in supportive way. Remember, your role as a Landlord is one of a service provider to the Tenant, not the other way around. Setting clear boundaries from the start is the best way to do that.