Gardens and rental properties

Gardens and rental properties

The ability and willingness of tenants to adequately maintain gardens, lawns and a swimming pool can cause some problems for landlords.  Often it is more of a problem if the property has been the landlord’s principal place of residence as the gardens are likely to be more complex.

In theory, garden maintenance shouldn’t cause the issues that it does as the law is clear. Tenants must maintain and leave the property in the condition it was at the start of the lease. So, if the garden beds were weed free, the lawn mowed and pool sparkling at the start of the lease – then that is what has to be in place throughout the lease and at exit – ‘fair wear and tear excepted’. Why then can this be so hard to achieve?

It can be hard to find tenants interested in gardening. Let’s face it, if it is not your garden, you’d have be pretty keen to tend it as lovingly as the owner would have. Knowledge and equipment, or lack of it, is another factor. Not all of us can tell the difference between a weed and a plant.  A tenant should be able to get their hands on a mower – they can be hired from many service stations these days. However, how many tenants have hoes, rakes or shovels? How many tenants have the skill to maintain a swimming pool?

The cost can be an issue too. If you are charging the tenants for water consumption, they can get a bit miffed about having to water gardens and lawns. Best to come to an arrangement for this i.e. a % of the water bill is allocated for garden maintenance and is not charged to the tenant.

There are some steps landlords can take to minimise the chance of a dispute over external maintenance. If you want the tenant’s to be responsible for gardens and lawns:

  1. Have easy care garden beds.  Perennial shrubs rather than flowers.  Nurseries can advise of drought tolerant sturdy plants for your area.
  2. Have all beds thickly mulched with long lasting material.  This makes the property look attractive, reduces weed growth and conserves water.  By the way, decomposing mulch is ‘fair wear and tear’.  You can’t ask a tenant to remulch garden beds at exit.  Unless they have done some specifically to cause the mulch to disappear.
  3. Include notes and plenty of photographs with the entry condition report. This is especially important for the swimming pool and the pool equipment.
  4. Include the gardens and lawns in your routine inspection report.  Act at that point if things are not being cared for, do not accept the excuse ‘we’ll fix it when we leave’.
  5. Include an instruction sheet with your expectations for garden and lawn maintenance at sign-up.

 

Probably the best option to avoid all hassles is to include lawn and pool maintenance in the rent. This is easily done by calculating the annual cost of these services then dividing by 52 to arrive at a weekly figure. This amount can then be added to the rent. At the very least this should be done for pool care. Don’t trust a tenant with this job.  You should be able to claim such expenses as a tax deduction.

Revisit these related Honest Broker posts:

What is fair wear and tear?

Sink or swim – pools in rental properties.

Diane Bukowski
cloud@eezirent.com.au

When I first started my company eezirent I wrote a small online newsletter for private landlords in Australia. It explored the common problems landlords encounter when self-managing. This simple publication has now grown into Honest Broker.

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