Are Landlords Or Tenants Responsible For Garden Maintenance?

Garden Maintenance - Tenant Vs Landlord

You’d think ‘the powers that be’ would have all bases covered, making our lives easier. Alas, the gaping holes in the rental market quickly become evident if you ever have the misfortune of grappling with garden maintenance related issues. Never fun.

The issue of where the responsibility lies when it comes to garden maintenance in a rental property is seemingly a blackhole, and that naturally means going fist-to-fist over unmanaged lawn, broken tools, and other garden related dilemmas (Landlord Vs Tenant) aren’t terribly uncommon. Oh, the horror!

The problem is, there doesn’t seem to be any specific law(s) in place that covers garden maintenance, so that means the following questions often get asked (and squabbled over):

  • Is my tenant responsible for garden maintenance?
  • Can my tenant make major alterations to the garden?
  • What is my landlord responsible for?
  • Does the landlord need to provide gardening tools (e.g. lawnmower)?

While there is a lack of clarity (because there are no direct answers to the questions in law), fortunately it’s not one gigantic free-for-all, because there are overarching and broad regulations in place that can apply to garden maintenance issues, which allows us to police space, so there’s no need to soil yourself!

Fair warning: this blog post is likely to contain a horrendous amount of awful garden related puns, because I won’t be able to help myself. I literally have no shame or discipline when something is served on a plant.

Just to clarify, I’m not a legal professional, so I’m certainly not providing legal advice or any information that may resemble it. I am but a mere humble and experienced landlord that has gone through more thorny issues over the course of several years than I care to remember, and consequently spent an obscene amount of time researching. Yes, obviously it’s been a bloody blast.

Needless to say, if you’re looking for landlord legal advice, you’d be wise to contact qualified professionals.

Now I’ve covered my behind, let’s pro-seed…

Table of contents:

General rules of garden maintenance in rental properties

The reality is, almost every aspect of garden maintenance is up for debate, which means it’s up to the landlord and tenant to both agree on who is responsible for what, and then clearly reflected in the terms of the tenancy agreement.

Tenants are usually responsible for the basic maintenance of the garden, which includes mowing the law, weeding, pruning shrubs and watering plants.

landlords are usually responsible for the maintenance of large entities, like trees and climbing plants (making sure they are safe), large shrubs, tall hedges, and repairing/replacing boundary fences/walls.

To clarify, that’s how the responsibilities are most commonly arranged (and specified in most standard tenancy agreements). It’s not set by law, so it is possible to make other arrangements if you wish. Although, the “norm” seems sensible for most cases.

Landlords garden maintenance responsibilities

While the finer details of garden maintenance is absent from the Housing Act, there is one particularly relevant overarching regulation that is not open for negotiation:

Section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 does specifically state that it is the landlord’s legal responsibility to “keep in repair the structure and exterior of the dwelling-house (including drains, gutters and external pipes)”, which means landlords should repair and maintain fencing, walls, paving and decking (unless the damage is caused by the tenant or their guests, in which case they will be responsible). Basically, any structural feature.

Tenancy agreements & garden maintenance responsibilities

This is where the magic happens, and where all the answers should lie. Your fate will be determined by your tenancy agreement.

Like I said, everything other than the landlord’s legal obligations to maintain the “structure and exterior of the dwelling-house” can be negotiated and should be clearly stated in the tenancy agreement.

So if you’re trying to find out who is responsible for what, your first port of call should be to refer to your tenancy agreement. Most standard (and useful) tenancy agreements will include variations of the following clauses:

  • clearly state that the property (including the garden) should be left in the same condition as at the start of the tenancy
  • specify how the borders, lawn and paved areas should be maintained
  • make it clear that the tenant cannot make any alterations to the property/garden without the landlord’s consent

For example, the tenancy agreements available from this website include the following nifty clauses as standard:

9 Repairs, alterations and maintenance of garden

  • 9.2 Subject to section 11 of the LTA 1985, the Tenant shall keep the drains, gutters and pipes of the Property clear from obstruction.
  • 9.3 The Tenant shall not make any alteration or addition to the Property, or redecorate the Property or any part of it.
  • 9.4 The Tenant shall maintain the garden (if any) at the Property in a neat and tidy condition and keep the lawn (if any) mowed and will not remove any trees, plants or shrubs from the garden.
  • 9.5 The Tenant shall report to the Landlord promptly any disrepair or defect in the structure or exterior of the Property or in any installations in the Property.

Garden maintenance tools and equipment (and do landlords have to provide gardening tools?)

First and foremost, landlords are not legally obligated to provide gardening tools (e.g. lawnmower, trimmer etc.) even if it’s the tenant’s responsibility to maintain the garden. At least, there isn’t anything mentioned in the Housing Act about it. Similarly, landlords are not obligated to provide a vacuum cleaner, even though it’s commonly the tenant’s responsibility to keep the property clean.

To my amusement, during my research I stumbled upon an old forum thread on Property118.com by Mark Alexander. He had been brainwashed into beleafing that it was legally required for landlords to provide their tenants’ with a lawnmower, so he went out and purchased 11 of those suckers. To add insult to injury, he hired a van to hand deliver each and every one of them. Great service. But unfortunately, his tremendous effort was in vain, and that was highlighted by the pushback he received by fellow landlords in the comments section, many of which were baffled by his actions, and demanded to know where this non-existent piece of legislation resided. In short, nowhere. It doesn’t exist.

Even Tessa Shepperson of Landlord Law chimed in, and I quote, “as I am aware it does not specifically say in any act of Parliament or regulation, that lawn mowers MUST be provided if the landlord wants the tenant to maintain the garden. Statutes generally do not go into this degree of detail or they would be even more impossibly long than they are now.”

I personally don’t provide my tenant’s with gardening tools because it reduces my liability. I expect my tenants to obtain all the necessary equipment to reasonably maintain the garden. However, I’ve heard the argument that providing tools such as lawnmowers is a good idea because it encourages tenants to maintain the garden. I understand the argument, but I personally believe the cons of doing that far outweigh the pros. But I’ll leave it in your capable hands to decide what’s best for you.

In any case, many landlords are considerably more generous (and open to punishment) than I am, so they happily provide gardening equipment, in which case the following will apply:

  • Powered tools must be compliant with current health and safety standards.
  • Landlords should repair/replace any damaged equipment unless the damage is caused by the tenant. Needless to say, this opens up a lot of potential for disputes.

Dealing with garden maintenance disputes with tenants

Garden maintenance, or lack thereof, is a common bone of contention between landlords and tenants at the end of a tenancy. According to this article on nrla.org.uk, between 12 – 15 percent of all disputes that mydeposits.co.uk deal with are garden related. Of course, it’s not uncommon for disputes to break out mid-tenancy either. So if you’re currently in the midst of a garden related dispute, for example, over shrubs that have been allowed to become unruly, then don’t worry, because you’re probably not alone.

When it comes to disputes – any type of dispute – I’ve always believed that reaching a compromise is usually the way to go, even if meeting somewhere in the middle feels unjust (which it often does if you feel like you’re in the right). I personally always thrive for this outcome, otherwise the situation can easily get very messy.

Although, I appreciate it’s not always possible to be amicable when bush comes to shove, especially when dealing with piss-taking assholes. Pardon my French, won’t you?

Deposit scheme mediation

If it’s not possible to berry the hatchet (shhhhhh, you know I had to) and resolve matters in-house (and the Lord knows you’ve tried), and you believe you have a legitimate claim for damages (e.g. to repair damage and/or return the garden to the same condition it was in at the start of tenancy), then the next logical step is to raise the issue with your tenancy deposit’s resolution service to determine whether the tenant’s deposit can be used to cover the costs. The assigned adjudicator(s) will look at the case objectively and conclude with a verdict based on the evidence you and your tenant provide.

The outcome of any garden related dispute will usually be dictated by what’s in your tenancy agreement (which is why it’s critical to have a clause(s) that clearly states who is responsible for what in terms of garden maintenance). If you don’t have a written tenancy agreement (if that’s the case, what were you thinking?) or if there is nothing about garden maintenance in your tenancy agreement, then it’s very unlikely you’ll be able to claim for damages.

A thorough and thoughtful property inventory will also come in handy at this point, to help fight your corner.

Routine inspections & property inventory

Before I say farewell and drive off into the sunset, I feel obligated to flag the importance of regular routine inspections and property inventories. Both will help limit garden maintenance issues from surfacing and escalating further than they need to.

Routine inspections will help weed out (last one, I swear) any early signs of negligence or miscommunication, which will give you the opportunity to address any concerns. For example, if you notice your tenant isn’t properly maintaining the garden.

A good property inventory will detail the exact condition of the property (with descriptions and visual aids), including all aspects of the garden (front, back, and side). This will help limit disputes at the end of the tenancy when it’s time to checkout time, because it should clearly show in what state the garden should be left in.

Conclusion

Always use a tenancy agreement that clearly reflects who is responsible for what in terms of garden maintenance, otherwise you’ll stand little chance of winning any garden related disputes with your tenant should they occur.

Hope this has been useful.

If you have any questions, or want to share your story, please drop a wonderful comment!

Right, I’m outie! xoxo

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