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Gardens have been hot property during lockdown. Those who have one have spent most of their waking hours in it during the last few weeks, whether gardening, sunbathing or playing. Those who don’t have one have looked longingly at neighbours enjoying their outdoor space, or dreamed of lawns and flower beds. But in a rented property, whose responsibility is it to maintain the garden?

Going to conduct a property inspection and being greeted by knee-high weeds and a jungle to negotiate to get to the front door happens to landlords and letting agents regularly, and it could easily be avoided with more clarity from the outset of a tenancy.

Outdoor space is a major draw. Even prospective tenants who aren’t especially green-fingered enjoy having some kind of garden where they can let children or pets out and entertain friends. Even a tiny suntrap patio is a valuable asset and for many tenants, a complete lack of outdoor space would be a deal-breaker. 

Wanting the space and looking after it, however, don’t always go hand in hand. Longer-term tenants in rented property might be more inclined to take time tending a garden – they want to settle and have somewhere to call home – but it isn’t always the case. To eliminate any doubt, add some clauses relating to the outdoor areas of the property into the tenancy agreement so that everything is clear and in black and white from the outset.

Tenants are bound by the detail in their agreement, and weeding and keeping lawns mown are common clauses. These would generally keep the garden looking respectable and without these basic clauses, there is little a landlord can do to insist on a tenant doing the gardening. 

Clauses should be specific e.g. stipulate the condition in which the garden should be kept, so that the tenant is absolutely clear on their obligations. “Well-maintained” is woolly and open to interpretation, and if there is scope to interpret something, people will interpret differently. “Keep the patio free from weeds” is far clearer and therefore much harder for a tenant to claim they did not understand.

If there are things you do not want tenants to do in the garden, make sure they are clearly stated too, just as any restrictions for the inside of the property would be listed. Include any garden furniture or tools in your inventory.

You should expect to receive the garden back in the same condition at the end of the lease as it was at the beginning, much the same as the property itself.

It is reasonable to expect the tenant to mow lawns and weed paths and patios, but more in-depth gardening should normally fall to the landlord, who may choose to carry out the work themselves or to use a contractor. This might include trimming or pruning taller trees or repairing walls and fences. If there is a plant in the garden that requires specialist care, you might want to single that out in the tenancy agreement and ring fence it.

If you are expecting a tenant to undertake maintenance on a rented property, you should also expect to provide the tools with which to do the job, such as a lawnmower if you want the grass kept short, and somewhere to store them. Hiring a gardener is a business cost, and in some cases, if the tenant is capable and willing, landlords are willing to offer a discount on the rent in return for gardening. If you are considering this, be very clear about what is and isn’t allowed.

Alternatively, you might prefer to opt for a very low maintenance outdoor space, with fewer places for weeds to grow and no hedges to prune.

If there is a disagreement at the end of a tenancy, the agreement is the point of reference for both parties, so the more clarity you can achieve up-front, the better.

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