Partners and Suppliers Suzy Hershman 23/05/2022

The Landlord's Essential Guide to Garden Maintenance

Ending a tenancy must be handled with care. It’s vital for landlords, agents, and tenants to comply with the law and follow what is written in the tenancy agreement - including any addendums or clauses - to avoid lengthy disputes, which can be costly and time-consuming. In the event the garden is not referred to in the agreement, it is implied that a tenant is responsible for returning the garden, as well as the rest of the property, in the same condition as it was when they moved in, allowing for some seasonal growth.

‘Common or garden’ issues

Too often we see garden disputes and these account for between 12 percent and 15 percent of all tenancy disputes.  Find out more about the importance of tenancy agreements in mydeposits guide for the NRLA, A landlord’s guide to tenancy agreements.

When it comes to the garden in a rental property, it’s easy for landlords and tenants to become confused as to what is expected of both parties. This lack of clarity is a common cause of dispute at the end of tenancies where money is withheld by the landlord.

This guide will cover: 

  • Getting things right from the beginning
  • Getting the paperwork right
  • Who is responsible for garden maintenance?
  • Common maintenance disputes and how to avoid them
  • An example case study
  • Advice to share with tenants
  • Summary


Get things right from the start

When people are looking to buy a home, a garden is often high on the list of must-haves, with properties that have a larger garden selling more quickly. Most tenants on the other hand tend not to look for overly large gardens as the upkeep can be too much and unless they know that they will be there for several years any (approved) investment into it such as plants or improvements might be wasted money and effort. Since the pandemic and lockdown, outdoor space has become a priority for many renters.

For landlords, a garden can be a double-edged sword. Outdoor space can be a selling point and can attract families who tend to be longer-term tenants, but they can also need a high level of upkeep. This can be a contentious issue, sometimes resulting in a neglected garden that not only ruins a property’s ‘kerb appeal’ but can also be time-consuming and expensive to rectify.

As a landlord if you do have a garden you might consider the following:

Your choice of tenants: If your property has a garden you might be better off focusing on longer-term tenants who are more likely to take care of the garden.

A low maintenance garden: Aim for a garden that will attract tenants without breaking the bank or needing too much effort to maintain. Slow growing, drought tolerant flowering shrubs and perennials combined with hard landscaping is as near to maintenance-free as you can get with a garden. You could even consider Astroturf instead of laying grass.

Outsource the garden maintenance: If you have a number of properties with gardens, it may be cost-effective to take responsibility for the gardening yourself by employing a gardener to take care of the upkeep and by including a cost for gardening in the rent.

Gardening equipment: As a landlord, you have no legal responsibility to provide gardening tools, and this is a decision for individual landlords to make, especially when supplying any electrical equipment. Obviously providing the right tools encourages tenants to maintain the garden. Any equipment you supply should be in a good state of repair and stored in a locked outbuilding/shed. Power tools such as lawnmowers must be compliant with current health and safety standards. If you don’t have a Residual Current Device (RCD) built into your fuse box, you should use a plug-in RCD – any socket that may be used to plug in a lawnmower, hedge trimmer or other power tool should have RCD protection.

Get the paperwork right

As a landlord, one of the most important things to do is get your paperwork in order. From the tenancy agreement to the inventory and check-in and check-out reports, these documents set out the contract of tenancy, list what is included in the property and let the tenant know what their expectations of the tenant are. The key documents are:

1. Tenancy agreement garden maintenance clause

Make sure that the tenancy agreement covers the garden and that it is clear whether the tenant is responsible for maintaining any of it. ‘Private garden’ and ‘shared garden’ is mentioned in Section C: Tenant’s obligations of the Government’s model agreement for a shorthold tenancy but it is recommended that a specific clause is included.

The tenant: Unless otherwise stated, the tenant is usually responsible for the basic maintenance of the garden. This includes keeping on top of weeding, pruning shrubs in borders, mowing the lawn and watering plants (and the lawn during a dry spell).

The landlord: Landlords are usually responsible for the maintenance of trees and climbing plants, making sure they are safe. In most instances, they are also responsible for maintaining large shrubs and hedges and removing the cuttings, but this can be a very grey area. To avoid doubt, if a landlord needs the tenant to do any specific, basic garden maintenance tasks they should be listed in the tenancy agreement and discussed with the tenant. Landlord and tenant expectations can be very different so, as always, it’s best to communicate clearly with the tenant. 

Tenancy agreements are often unclear on what is expected when it comes to the finer details of garden maintenance and this can increase the likelihood of a dispute.

A good tenancy agreement garden maintenance clause will:

  • define that the garden should be left, at the end of the tenancy, in the same condition as at the start (allowing for seasonal changes)
  • specify how the borders, lawn and paved areas should be maintained
  • make it clear that the tenant cannot make any alterations to the garden, or remove any plants without the landlord’s consent

If you as a landlord have additional specific conditions or expectations, this could be written in a special clause, individually negotiated and agreed by both parties.

2. Inventory plus check-in and check-out reports

In the event of a dispute, an adjudicator will review the evidence, in particular, the inventory and check-in and check-out reports, which should be detailed, allowing for a good comparison.


  • Take an inventory at the start of the tenancy which details the exact condition of each area
  • Make sure that the tenant is present at check-in and check-out inspections, where possible, or be able to demonstrate that they received the reports as soon as they were available and had the opportunity to comment. Include clear colour photographs of the garden, referenced to the front, rear and side of your property. Some reports even time and date stamp the photos, however the date of the report will be taken as the date they were taken
  • As a landlord you should not expect to end up in a better position than at the start of the tenancy so be sure to take into account ‘seasonal growth’ when assessing the condition of the garden when the tenancy ends

3. Regular inspections and good communications

Even if you have a great tenant, routine inspections can help prevent problems from escalating at a later stage. Inspections also indicate to your tenant that you care about the property and expect it to be returned in good condition, yet research shows that around 20 percent of landlords don’t inspect outdoor areas at all during mid-term inspections. Ideally, your tenant should be present during inspections so that they are made aware of any issues as they arise and in turn, they have the opportunity to raise any concerns with you. You must give at least 24 hours’ notice prior to carrying out an inspection.

Common garden maintenance disputes and how to avoid them

Garden maintenance is a common cause of dispute between landlords and their tenants, with around 4,500 disputes adjudicated in the UK each year. Often this is due to confusion over who is responsible for the upkeep, or down to poor communication between the two parties relating to damage or changes tenants would like to make. Making it clear where tenant responsibility starts and stops is key when it comes to general garden maintenance and avoiding any dispute.

Next, we take a look at the three most common garden-related end of tenancy claims and how to reduce the likelihood of these and similar disputes happening in the first place.

Issue 1: Shrub, lawn and border upkeep

It’s reasonable for landlords to expect tenants to regularly mow the lawn, water plants where necessary and keep shrubs and borders tidy, as well as keep pathways and patio areas free of moss and weeds.

Many tenants will enjoy having a garden and want to make sure it’s kept in good order, but others may have busy schedules or not consider their outside space particularly important. Confusion over what the tenant is responsible for is often the cause of disputes, and it can be a surprisingly complicated issue. For instance, what a tenant sees as ‘seasonal growth’ can differ greatly from what their landlord thinks.

A landlord also has to remember that plants are perishable. If a tenant has moved a shrub or pruned it back too hard, they might be responsible, but if there’s been a heatwave plants can die, and sometimes even older plants just die.

Solution: A clear garden clause in the tenancy agreement is essential and will make it easier to negotiate with the tenant if needed. Make sure the tenant knows exactly what they are responsible for and what is your responsibility to avoid any doubt. Keep expectations reasonable and only ask tenants to take on work that is safe.

Make sure a detailed description of the garden is included in any inventories, with good quality photos so you can negotiate with them at any point at the end of the tenancy.

Tip: Any photographs taken must be comparable from the start and end of the tenancy and should be taken from the same angle each time.

Issue 2: Damage to garden structures

With people spending more time in their gardens during lockdowns, the number of claims around damage to garden structures like fencing and greenhouses has increased. Some issues are simple to solve but with others – like the recent claim below – it can be harder to work out if there is any tenant responsibility.

Situation: At the end of the tenancy, several windows in the greenhouse were found to be smashed, but the tenant denied all knowledge claiming that they didn’t use the greenhouse. The windows that were smashed were on the side that faced an alley so there was an element of doubt as to who may have caused the damage. There had also been recent extreme weather which might have explained the damage.  

While damage like this can be frustrating for landlords, it’s important to give tenants the benefit of the doubt, and consider every eventuality, to maintain a good relationship and avoid unnecessary or unfair disputes.

Solution: Landlords must remember they are running a business by having a tenant in their buy to let property and manage their own, as well as the tenant’s expectations.

The key is to maintain a good relationship with your tenants and encourage them to report any problems, as and when they happen, rather than leaving them to the end of the tenancy when confusion over responsibility for any deterioration may occur.

Keeping the lines of communication open will encourage both parties to negotiate around any deterioration and damage, rather than taking it through the prolonged formal adjudication route.

Issue 3: Major garden alterations and re-landscaping

By law, tenants must ask the landlord for permission to make any changes to the rental property’s garden. If permission is not asked for or has been refused, and the tenant still does the work, the landlord will be able to charge the tenant the cost of returning the garden to its original state.

Solution: It’s important to highlight the tenancy agreement clause to your tenants which makes it clear that they should not alter the property without notifying and receiving consent from their landlord. It is vital that tenants understand that this clause applies to the garden as well as the inside of the property.

Let your tenant know that they can always discuss things with you. Be open-minded to suggested changes that may also be of benefit to you, as a landlord, and allow improvements to your property that both you and your tenants can enjoy. For example, landscaping your garden, planting some new shrubs or refreshing a tired lawn.

Dispute case study: Garden maintenance responsibility

The following case study shows the importance of having a garden clause in the tenancy agreement with good photography, keeping quotes, and makingallowances for seasonal growth, as well as showing how adjudicators think:

Deposit amount: £875

Amount disputed: £319

The tenant said: 

  • They accepted that some garden maintenance to the back garden was needed, 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 were unrealistic

The agent's response was that: 

  • 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 given? 

  • 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
  • By comparison, the written detail in the check-out report and photographs show that both front and rear garden were ‘overgrown’ with ‘weeds, patchy lawn and an unclean patio that had crayon marks 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 £290 quote for garden maintenance included trimming hedges, mowing lawns, tidying borders and removing all weeds and crayon markings
  • 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 percent of the amount claimed
  • As the tenant had already agreed to £100 towards this claim, the landlord was entitled to the difference

Learning points: 

  • 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 and 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.

Tip: Read more about dispute insights and what questions the adjudicators will ask when reviewing garden dispute evidence in mydeposits guide, How to claim for garden maintenance.

Advice to share with tenants:

With good, well-vetted tenants in place and all your paperwork fit for purpose, you are already well set before the tenancy starts. Now, make sure you carry out regular inspections and remind your tenant to let you know about any issues that arise so they can be dealt with promptly. You can read more about inspections in mydeposits previous NRLA article, The landlord’s essential guide to periodic property inspections.

Share the following ‘top tips for tenants’ with them:

Top tips for tenants:

1. Check-in and check-out

Be present at check-in and check-out if you can, and in all circumstances make sure that you check and agree with the content of the report at the start of the tenancy or highlight any differences in writing as soon as possible and check the report at the end of the tenancy so you understand the differences and why there may be a claim.

2. Tenancy agreement

Read the tenancy agreement carefully and make sure that you understand any maintenance instructions. If in doubt ask the landlord to explain any points.

3. Permission for alterations

Get your landlord’s consent (in writing) before carrying out any alterations to the garden. If you don’t you may be responsible for paying to return it to how it was before.

4. Raise issues

If you have any concerns about the garden, bring them to your landlord’s attention rather than attempting to rectify them yourself. Do this as soon as there is an issue.

5. Inspections are an opportunity

Be open to inspections by the landlord, who should give at least 24 hours' notice before carrying out an inspection. They are an opportunity for you to raise any concerns about the garden with your landlord before they escalate.

6. Maintain regularly

A top tip is to get into the habit of carrying out regular maintenance so that problems don’t escalate. Mow the lawn once a fortnight during summer, water any plants and weed little and often.

In summary:

Garden maintenance is a common cause of disagreement between landlord and tenant because many tenancy agreements are not specific enough about the landlord’s requirements and tenant’s responsibilities, and some don’t mention the garden at all. It should be best practice for any agreement to include a standard gardening clause spelling out exactly which maintenance tasks are the tenant’s responsibility, which are the landlord’s and that - allowing for seasonal change - the expectation is for the garden to be returned in the same state at the end of the tenancy that it was at the beginning. Doing these things should reduce the potential for dispute and make any negotiation more agreeable.

NRLA members get a 30 percent discount on the deposit protection fee when they protect a deposit with the mydeposits insurance-based scheme in England and Wales. This also includes a free alternative dispute resolution (ADR) service, which can avoid going through a formal court process.

Suzy Hershman

Suzy Hershman Head of Dispute Resolution, mydeposits

Suzy Hershman has worked at mydeposits for over 12 years, embracing every opportunity to share her extensive experience and knowledge by building relationships, listening and asking questions to find out what people want and need from us, whilst educating best practice.

As a government-authorised scheme, mydeposits has protected deposits in England and Wales since 2007 and we are the only scheme which runs licensed schemes in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Jersey. With over 150,000 members, mydeposits is the preferred deposit protection scheme for landlords in England and Wales. We have combined our years of experience with invaluable member feedback, to create an insurance based scheme that legally allows you to keep control of the deposit and a custodial scheme, where you hand the deposit to us to safeguard for the length of the tenancy.

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