#AskTDS: Maintaining gardens in rented properties – what are your responsibilities as a tenant?

Gardening accounts for more than a quarter of all deposit disputes claimed by landlords using our TDS Custodial tenancy deposit scheme. As the third most popular reason for deposit disputes, it makes sense that all parties do what they can to avoid disagreement.

From a tenant’s perspective, a garden can be an appealing feature of a rental property, especially in light of the recent lockdown situation. But whose responsibility is it to maintain the outside space? Yours or your landlord’s?

Much of the basic garden maintenance will likely fall with the tenant unless the property comes with a gardener (the specifics of that will come down to what is agreed in your tenancy agreement when you move in). With that in mind, here are a few ways you can ensure the outside space of your rented property doesn’t end up digging away at your deposit when you come to leave:

  1. Take note of the condition of the garden when you move in. This is a standard part of the check-in and inventory process carried out by your letting agent or landlord, and it is up to you to agree to the current condition at the start of the tenancy. It is your responsibility to return the garden (and all aspects of the property) in the same condition at end of tenancy, considering wear and tear. We see many deposit disputes arise because the tenant and landlord disagree on the initial state of the garden and therefore can’t agree on what has changed during tenancy.
  • A standard tenancy agreement will require the tenant to keep the grass and bushes trimmed, remove rubbish and regularly empty bins. It is up to the landlord to make any repairs to the external areas of the property such as fencing, walls, paths, roofing, etc. unless specific damage has been caused to these areas as a result of tenancy. In that case, if the tenancy agreement allows, deposit deductions could be made to remedy the situation. It is also the landlord’s responsibility to carry out more complicated tasks such as tree pruning, unless the relevant equipment has been supplied and it is included in the tenancy agreement. If the landlord requires you to mow the lawn and keep weeds at bay, they should provide the necessary equipment to enable you to do that, too.
  • If you are a keen gardener or plan to make good use of the outside space, you will need to clarify with your landlord or agent what you can and can’t do in the garden. Make sure you get any agreements in writing. If you want to make improvements to the garden, such as adding planters, vegetable patches, trees, or pathways, you will need to ask your landlord for permission first. Any permanent change must be explicitly agreed first, in writing, even if you do think it would improve the space.
  • It’s always best to beautify the garden space with temporary or semi-permanent improvements, such as pots and garden furniture, that can be removed at the end of tenancy if required. The most important point to remember is that you return the garden to its original state.

There are of course cases where the line of responsibility can be blurred. Make sure you read through our case studies to see why dispute claims were made and how they were resolved. This will help you to ask the right questions at the start of tenancy and also help you prepare for end of tenancy and deposit return.

About TDS

Tenancy Deposit Scheme (TDS) is a Government-approved scheme for the protection of tenancy deposits; TDS offers both Insured and Custodial protection and provides fair adjudication for disputes that arise over the tenancy deposits that we protect.

Your landlord or letting agent can protect your deposit using our TDS Custodial Scheme where TDS hold the deposit for the duration of the tenancy. Join TDS Custodial for FREE today

Alternatively, they can protect your deposit using our TDS Insured Scheme where a TDS member can hold the tenancy deposits as stakeholder during the term of the tenancy. Join TDS Insured today.

We provide invaluable training in tenancy deposit protection and disputes for agents and landlords through the TDS Academy as well as joining with MOL to provide the Technical Award in Residential Tenancy Deposits.

TDS Academy: TDS provides property professionals with invaluable training in tenancy deposit protection and tenancy deposit disputes. Click here to see upcoming TDS Academy’s.

TDS can only comment on the process for our scheme, other deposit protection schemes may have a different process/require different steps. Content is correct at the time of writing.

These views are those of the author alone and do not necessarily reflect the view of TDS, its officers and employees.