Do your tenants ever give you problems with gorillas in the garden? Probably not – Disputes involving gardens appear in a little over 15% of the tenancy deposit disputes we manage but even fewer involve gorillas! Nonetheless they have occurred in the past which goes to show that considering all the details in a tenancy agreement and the inventory documents is so important. This was the outcome of that adjudication…
“The check-out report makes little reference to the garden, except to note the presence of a stuffed gorilla and to note that the garden was overgrown at check-in.
As the garden was overgrown at the start of the tenancy, but did not contain a stuffed gorilla, I award £10.00 for the removal of the gorilla.”
As was the case in this dispute, awards made to landlords with respect to gardens are usually for the removal of detritus, rubbish and rotting material and it should be easy to record the condition and contents (especially if it includes a stuffed gorilla). However, claims by landlords for lack of maintenance are often not supported by enough detail to allow TDS to make an award and they are given little consideration in the inventory along with the check in and check out reports. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and a simple description of a garden in “good” or “well kept” condition, as we often see, is hard to objectively qualify and compare if it’s disputed.
Adjudicators approach the condition of a garden in much the same way as the condition inside – the tenant should return the property to the landlord in the same condition as at the start, allowing for fair wear and tear or, in the case of gardens, seasonality. Therefore, photos of a garden will be extremely valuable, not only can they verify your written description, but the changes which gardens undergo through the seasons means liability for a change in its condition can be harder to assess. Dated visual evidence of the garden at the start and at the finish allows an adjudicator to make an accurate assessment as to whether the tenant has neglected their responsibilities and should be liable for the costs of returning the garden to its former condition.
The condition of gardens in the rental properties we see tend not to be of high quality, but there are always exceptions, and this may well change as the number of landlords letting out their own homes continues to rise.
In another dispute, a tenant intending to fulfil his responsibility of maintaining the garden cut back some plants and destroyed a plant of sentimental value to the landlord. However, the landlord had not told the agent or the tenant that this plant required special attention, so it was not reasonable to expect the tenant to maintain the garden whilst giving special treatment to one plant without being told.
If you have requirements for your garden it is essential that you agree them in writing at the start of the tenancy. You may be an avid gardener, but don’t assume that your tenants will be as well.
However even a stuffed gorilla can be a surprise to all parties if it suddenly appears!!
Tenancy Deposit Scheme (TDS) is a government approved scheme for the protection of tenancy deposits; TDS offers both Insured and Custodial protection and also provides fair adjudication for disputes that arise over the tenancy deposits that we protect.
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 Insured Scheme: where a TDS member can hold the tenancy deposits as stakeholder during the term of the tenancy.
TDS Custodial Scheme: where TDS hold the deposit for the duration of the tenancy.
TDS Academy: TDS provides property professionals with invaluable training in tenancy deposit protection and tenancy deposit disputes.
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.