Landlords and letting agents are facing a growing problem of tenants drastically altering gardens and driveways, without permission, leading to costly work to restore them to their original condition, according to the Association of Independent Inventory Clerks (AIIC). Pat Barber, Chair of the AIIC, shares her view…
The recent publicised case of David and Elaine Rolfe who spent £20,000 and 11 years turning the two-acre plot of their rented ornate garden with sweeping flower beds and arbours, without the approval of their landlords, highlights this problem. The landlord demanded that the couple pay a £5,000 bill to have the garden dug up and covered with gravel at the end of the tenancy.
Though this is an extreme case, we have seen all kinds of changes and alterations made to grounds of properties, without the landlord’s consent. These include the installation of ponds, decking and paving. Additional outbuildings are common with large sheds and greenhouses being left by tenants when they move. If the landlord does not require these, the tenant will be paying for their dismantling and removal.
Whether additional items and changes to a garden can be classed as an improvement is a decision for the landlord alone. Tenants should be advised to get written permission for any major – or minor – improvements they wish to make to the landlord’s garden, or property in general.
Tenants responsibilities regarding gardens, according to most tenancy agreements, state that they cannot be held responsible for keeping plants alive and their obligation is to maintain the landlord’s garden and return it in the same, or similar condition, at the time of check in. Lawns, if tidy at check in, should be left tidy and borders weeded if this was the condition at the start of the tenancy.
Unfortunately untidy gardens are a common problem. The landlord should leave sufficient tools to enable a tenant to maintain the garden, especially if the property is fully furnished. If a let is taken on as unfurnished, it is the tenant’s responsibility to provide their own garden tools. However, if the landlord wishes to ensure that his garden is maintained, it is still sensible for tools to be provided.
Gardeners are expensive and tenants are often shocked when they receive a hefty bill at the end of the tenancy if the garden is not maintained. The most common changes tenants make are:-
- Replacing lawns and borders with shingled areas
- Leaving garden ornaments and many old plant pots
- Digging in ponds and water features
- Leaving garden sheds or green houses
The AIIC is committed to excellence and professionalism in the property inventory process and works hard to ensure that all landlords, tenants and letting agents understand the importance and benefits of professionally completed property inventories.