The first from a tenant who wants me to cut back the front garden to allow their two small children to have an area to play in. The other is from a tenant who was flagging up an issue regarding a bush that is just about to engulf their satellite dish. So is the gardening maintenance the tenant or the landlords responsibility?
Who is responsible for the gardening?
Well the starting point for any disputes on who is responsible for the gardening comes from the tenancy agreement. In the case of Property Hawk's free tenancy agreement it is clear as stated in para 3.13 that The Tenant agrees with the Landlord to:
Keep the garden and/or drive of the Premises clean and tidy and to mow the lawns asHowever, many tenants conveniently 'overlook' this aspect of their tenancy agreement but legally it's there in black and white and it's a good position for a landlord to 'negotiate' from.
often as necessary and to keep the flower beds free from weeds and hedges trimmed,
and not to lop, top, cut down, remove, or otherwise injure any trees, shrubs, or plants
growing upon the Premises, or to alter the general character of the garden.
The practicalities of tenants with a gardens
Whilst I'm aware that legally the responsibility of the garden maintenance falls on my tenants. The practicalities are often somewhat different. The tenants frequently claim that they don't have the time or the resources to keep the garden under control. Of course my thoughts are: "and I do!?" Clearly, if the garden required a sit on mower for the tenant to keep an acre of lawn cut then no unreasonably the tenant could claim they don't have the necessary equipment. But how much does a set of garden shears cost? If necessary I'd offer to buy them for the tenant.
The reality is that many tenants like the benefits of enjoying some outside space with their rental property but don't like the inconvenience associated with maintaining it. They consider wrongly that it's the landlords responsibility just as in the case of decoration to keep they garden pristinely manicured.
A landlords options on maintaining the garden
Legally, as I've already stated above the tenancy agreement is clear that with a Property Hawk tenancy agreement as most others standard ASTs will put the onus on the tenant. If they don't want to undertake maintenance then a landlord is clearly within their rights of having first given the tenant reasonable notice to carry out the work, then to employ a gardener and charge the tenant for it.
Legalities vs management
The challenge for any landlord such as myself is to balance the legal rights and wrongs with the fact that you want to keep your long-term reliable tenants on side. To fire off an email stating the contents of paragraph 3.13 of the Assured Shorthold Tenancy Agreement (above) would probably do little to endear me to my tenant. So how do I proceed? In reality the cost of a gardener to go round a cut back a litter bit of vegetation will cost me not much more than £50 quid. This has to be weighed against the tens of thousands of pounds of rent I've received from this tenant to date. I might have to swallow my pride along with the gardening bill; but sometimes the practicalities of keeping your long-term tenants happy have to be balanced against their clear legal responsibilities.
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