You have finally found your almost perfect house with large windows, beautiful finishes, and a well-manicured lawn. As you ponder on how wonderful it’s going to be living there, it dawns on you that somebody will be maintaining that beautiful garden. Garden maintenance is a cause of contention between many landlords and their tenants especially if the terms are not clearly outlined in the lease agreement.
So, at the end of the day, are tenants or landlords responsible for garden maintenance? The lease agreement is what governs the relationship between the tenant and the landlord and outlines each of their obligations and rights. This article will discuss the responsibilities of the tenant where the garden and lawns are concerned and also look at some exceptions.
- General maintenance: A standard lease agreement states that a tenant is responsible for edging, mowing, watering, pruning and weeding their lawn or garden. These jobs are referred to as general maintenance and tenants should assume them as soon as their leases begin, even if they don’t like gardening. Tasks such as raking up fallen leaves and removing broken branches from your lawn are also your job.
- Report water leaks or blockage: Though it is not the tenant’s job to repair water pipes or faucets, it is their responsibility to report if they notice anything that is not right. This may include a leak, burst pipe, blocked gutter or unexplained water outage. If the issue goes unreported and it gets worse, the liability will fall on the tenant who failed to report.
- Sort unattended urgent repairs: If the tenant has reported an urgent repair and the landlord has not taken action within 24 to 48 hours, the tenant has the responsibility to hire someone who can do the repair. In this case, the landlord will be required to refund the tenant whatever amount of money they spent to do the repairs.
- Make the lawn better: A tenant should aim to make the garden and the lawn better than they found it. If the previous tenant was just watering and mowing the grass, it’s important to go a step further and maybe put some fertilizer, do some edging and add some flowers towards the ends.
- Pick fruits: If you are fortunate enough to have a fruit tree in your compound, it is your right to pick and enjoy the fruits of the trees you are tending. Fruits can lead to some disagreements where the landlord wants to be picking the fruits but they belong to the person holding the property at the time which is the tenant. That means it’s also your job to tend and take care of the tree as much as you can.
Exceptions to the Tenant’s Obligations
Though most lease agreements are very clear on the tenants obligations, there are some exceptions to those terms:
- The house is in an apartment building. If your house is just one unit in an apartment building that has several units, you cannot all maintain the lawn below the building. In this case, it is the job of the landlord to maintain the spaces down there including gardens, swimming pool, gutters, and pathways. A small service fee will be put on top of your rent money to cater for that maintenance,
- The tenant is not able to maintain the yard. There are many reasons why a tenant may not be able to maintain their garden. It may be their job that takes them away, health issues or even disability. Some people are also just not into gardening so they will always neglect their gardens no matter what the landlord says. If such a tenant is okay in all other areas except gardening and maintaining their lawns, the landlord can decide to take up that responsibility and have the tenant pay for it.
- Uniformity is required. In a place where houses are supposed to look uniform, the landlord should contract a landscaping firm to do the lawns uniformly. This will ensure that the entire estate looks the same and there are no specific houses that are standing out from the rest.
- The lawn is too complicated. Unfortunately, not all lawns are level ground. Some are steep or sloppy, others are rocky and some have delicate trees and shrubs. In such a case, a professional landscaper should be contracted to deal with the challenging landscape. Apart from having the skills and tools to take care of such challenges, professionals will also take little time to do a perfect job instead of messing everything up.
- The lawn is too big. Renting a house that is surrounded by a huge garden and big lawns is both a blessing and a curse. Your children will be able to play outside comfortably while you plant your veggies in the garden. However, tending to such a vast space is also time consuming and exhausting. A good landlord who values their tenants will help their tenants to maintain at least part of this space.
No matter how you look at it, either the landlord or the tenant will feel overburdened if the responsibility of maintaining the gardens is left solely on them. To make everybody happy, here are some situations that can work:
- Contract an external company to maintain the lawns and gardens regularly at a fee. Every tenant will be charged a service fee to cater for the maintenance and it will be part of the rent. Contracting another company is the obligation of the landlord and not the tenant.
- Read the lease agreement clearly before signing it. Most of the contentions between landlords and tenants can be avoided if the tenant read their lease agreement before signing on the dotted line. By understanding the terms and conditions, you can decide whether you are okay with them or not.
Tips for Tenants
- If you believe you are responsible for lawn mowing, it is worth checking to see if there is adequate working equipment to carry out whatever tasks need to be done. We advise checking if there is a working lawnmower and other garden equipment necessary, to avoid extra expenses for you.
- One helpful tip is to take photographs of the garden (and all areas of your home) on the day you move in. If there are any discrepancies further down the line, you will have evidence of the condition of your property when you moved in. This can be a vital tool in terms of getting your deposit refunded at the end of your tenancy.
- Extreme weather conditions such as droughts can cause plants and lawns to die or wither especially if there is a water ban in place. Check your contract to see if there is an adverse weather clause which will stipulate what your responsibilities are should you experience periods of extreme hot or cold weather.
The terms of any lease agreement are often very clear on what the landlord will do and will not do. When it comes to gardening, it is the tenant’s job to do general maintenance while the landlord deals with all the big issues such as pruning, major tree lopping and maintaining firebreaks. Unless you have an exceptionally good landlord who is invested in how their estates look like, it’s important to understand your obligations beforehand to avoid any surprises.