Since the COVID-19 pandemic, outdoor spaces have become a major factor in the decision-making process for tenants during their property search, but a recent poll by the TDS has found that landlords and property agents are unsure as to whom the responsibility falls for upkeep.
What the poll says
According to the annual statistical briefing from the TDS, Gardening has been among the top five causes of deposit disputes for the better part of a decade and has been a reason for dispute in around 15% of cases throughout that time.
As a result, the TDS polled more than 2000 landlords and letting agents (combined) to measure the general attitudes of the sector regarding garden maintenance. While the results aren’t exactly surprising, with around three quarters of respondents placing the responsibility solely on the tenant, what was shocking was how many of those surveyed did not provide detail as to what is required of tenants in this respect – with 46% not providing any details at all.
Most common causes of dispute
The TDS poll also details the common causes of garden related issues which led to a deposit dispute. 27% of landlords surveyed had raised a dispute of which the following were the most common complaints:
- 75% were listed as ‘allowing weeds to grow’
- 41% were listed as ‘damage to fencing’
- 68% were listed as ‘overgrown lawns’
- 65% were listed as ‘tenant did not trim back trees or bushes’
Lack of inspection
Despite this, a fifth of landlords do not carry out a mid-tenancy inspection of outdoor areas – missing the opportunity to address problems early and the possibility of avoiding a dispute altogether.
What this means for Wirral landlords
The main consideration when setting up a tenancy agreement should be clarity for all parties. While section C of the Model Agreement for an Assured Shorthold Tenancy includes reference to the garden and a tenants obligations, landlords should be making certain that the agreements they are using detail the expectations for upkeep clearly. The agreement should offer guidance on upkeep, while the landlord should also ensure that communication is maintained during the tenancy as this will help to avoid unnecessary disputes.
For this reason, we recommend including gardens and outdoor spaces in your property and inventory reports and ensuring that, whether or not you’re using the Model Agreement for an Assured Shorthold Tenancy, that your initial contract is clear about the responsibilities of each party – as this will avoid the majority of disputes and quickly settle the rest.
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