Whose responsibility is the garden?

Q. I’m renting a property with outside space. Is the upkeep my responsibility, or is it my landlords?

A: A lovely garden or terrace can be a huge selling point for any property, whether it’s being rented out or sold. This is especially the case at this time of year when everything is starting to blossom. If you’re a landlord, or homeowner, don’t underestimate how much of an appeal beautiful, mature planting can be. As well as making the property look lovely, it does also reflect well on you as an owner as it gives buyers and tenants a sense of the property being well cared for.

If you’re renting a property, the question of whether you’re liable for the upkeep of an outside space is a sensible one. Gardens can be expensive to maintain and they can be very subjective too. If the outside space is a very low maintenance patio garden, or a decked roof terrace with a few plants, then it is most likely that the tenancy agreement will stipulate that the tenant is responsible. However, if the property has a lawn or mature shrubs, for example, this is definitely a point to be clear on when you make your offer. I always advise tenants in this case to include in their offer that garden maintenance is the landlord’s responsibility.

If you request that the landlord is responsible for the upkeep, make sure that this is written into the tenancy agreement. You may also want to define the amount of maintenance you expect the landlord to arrange; for example, stipulate how many professional gardener visits per month, per season. Agreeing this beforehand will ensure that the landlord fulfils his or her responsibility and that the garden is maintained to the standard you both are expecting.

I saw one case where we acted for a tenant to find them a new property as they had got themselves in a mess on their old rental house. They had been renting a very large detached house in South West London and the garden responsibility hadn’t been clearly defined. The landlord had appointed a gardener who the tenant claimed was very unreliable and didn’t know what he was doing. The tenant had also made requests to the gardener on what was to be done, including a request to trim back a tree which had a preservation order on it, of which the tenant was unaware. Additionally, the tenant had moved into the property at the height of summer when the garden was looking lovely, but they moved out in winter months, when the garden was bleak, therefore causing issues with the check-out. The deposit return surrounding the garden was hugely contentious and our tenant wished they had explicitly agreed parameters on this point as part of their tenancy agreement.

If you have a question you’d like Jo to answer please email Jo.eccles@eccord.com or tweet her @joeccles.