Resolution case study – garden maintenance

We offer an independent and impartial resolution service for landlords, agents and tenants who are unable to agree on how to distribute the deposit when the tenancy ends.

Each month we look at a recent case and break it down, so you can understand our approach to adjudication. This month, our Head of Dispute Resolution, Suzy Hershman, reviews a recent case involving garden maintenance.

Deposit details

Deposit amount: £875.00

Amount disputed: £319.00

What happened?

The tenant said:

  • they accepted that some garden maintenance to the back garden was required, but claimed that there are always changes to a garden as plants grow
  • the front garden was left in the same condition as when they moved in
  • the landlord has been allowed to withhold £100 from the deposit for the necessary garden work but the quotes and amount being claimed are unrealistic

The agent responded, saying:

  • the front and rear gardens were left in an overgrown state, footpaths were left with crayon markings and weeds
  • overall, the gardens were not well maintained
  • the tenant is responsible for garden maintenance in line with the clause in the tenancy agreement and should have returned it to its original condition, allowing for some seasonal growth
  • the landlord is claiming the full cost of putting the garden back to its original condition


What evidence was provided?

  • Tenancy agreement, emails, independent check-in and check-out reports and quotes


What was decided and why?

  • The check-in report records the garden to the front and rear as being in ‘good seasonal order’
  • The photographs embedded in the report showed some slight overgrowth on the hedge in the front garden and rear lawn with a few weeds growing in the borders and footpath at the back too
  • By comparison, the check-out report written detail and photographs show that both front and rear garden were ‘overgrown’ with ‘weeds present, patchy lawn and an unclean patio that had crayon residue present’
  • The adjudicator decided that the tenant was responsible for additional work to the garden at the end of the tenancy, which would return it to the same condition/seasonal order it was in at the start of the tenancy
  • The quote provided was for £290.00 for garden maintenance, including trimming hedges, mowing lawns, tidying borders, removing all weeds and crayon markings
  • However, the tenancy started in the autumn and ended in the summer, so some allowance was made for seasonal differences and the overgrowth recorded in the check-in report, as these are not the tenant’s responsibilities, so the landlord was awarded 70 per cent of the amount claimed
  • As the tenant had already agreed to £100.00 towards this claim, the landlord was entitled to the difference


How can you avoid this happening in future?

  • The tenant is only responsible for returning the gardens to the same seasonal order/condition as when they moved into the property
  • Check-in reports should always give clear descriptions and be supported by good quality photographs which will be the basis for any future discussions
  • Check-out descriptions should be detailed, and photographs should be taken from the same angle, so a clear comparison can be made
  • Consider seasonal times of year, when tenancies start and end as conditions of gardens may differ because of this and deterioration may not just be due to neglect or lack of maintenance by the tenant
  • Make sure all quotes and invoices detail the exact work being carried out by the contractor so that it can be matched to the work needed at the end of the tenancy. This will help with negotiating costs at the end of the tenancy, and if necessary, help an adjudicator make a fair decision on what is reasonable


How to deal with garden maintenance

Garden maintenance is a common cause of issues in tenancies.

To reduce the chances of a dispute over garden maintenance, we’ve created a guide on getting your deposit back: looking after the garden for you to share with your tenants.

For further information and advice on responsibilities for gardens in rental properties, Total Landlord, also powered by Total Property, has written a detailed ultimate guide to garden maintenance for landlords and tenants.