Importance of garden inventories to help deposit disputes

As the winter months roll in, gardens and external areas of properties often suffer, leading to disputes among agents, tenants, and landlords.

It is during this time that dispute calls reach their peak, emphasising the importance of having all paperwork in order.

Three real-life scenarios presented to the TDS adjudication panel underscore the significance of a detailed and reliable inventory as evidence in case of disputes.

At the outset of a tenancy, a comprehensive tenancy agreement should clearly outline the obligations of all parties involved. It should specifically address garden management and the tenant's responsibilities in maintaining its good condition.

Scenario One

"My tenant has caused carpet damage by putting up a real Christmas tree. Can I deduct the cleaning cost from the deposit?"

The tenant claimed to have sought permission to have a real Christmas tree and argued that they had already paid for the cleaning bill. However, the tenant contended that the damage caused was to be expected from a real tree. The adjudicator observed that the carpets should be returned to their original condition when the tenant moved in and determined that the damage caused by the tree was beyond normal wear and tear, thus the tenant was held responsible for the cost of professional cleaning.

Here, the inventory played a crucial role in confirming that the carpet had been professionally cleaned before the tenant's arrival. The adjudicator relied on both the original and current state of the property to assess any alterations beyond normal wear and tear.

Scenario Two

"A tree in my garden is lopsided after the tenants cut back the garden for winter, affecting the garden's privacy. Can I raise a deposit dispute?"

This dispute arose from the agreed removal of two trees. The landlord claimed that while the tenants had permission to remove the two trees, they went ahead and cut back an additional tree without consent. This resulted in an imbalanced appearance and compromised garden privacy.

The tenants admitted to cutting down the tree without permission, explaining that it was intended to facilitate access for their neighbours and allow more light into neighbouring properties. The adjudicator noted that there was no evidence to support the notion that the original height of the trees provided privacy to the property, nor that the tenants' actions disrupted or compromised such privacy.

After comparing the check-in and check-out reports and reviewing provided photographs, the landlord was granted a partial award. Clearly defining the tenant's responsibilities, including with the outside space, and maintaining effective communication for the duration, could have helped avoid this deposit dispute.

Scenario Three

"A tenant cut down a tree in our property's back garden to use for firewood. Is this deductable from the deposit?"

The tenant in question had taken it upon themselves to cut down a small tree in the garden without seeking permission from the landlords. They then proceeded to use it for firewood. The landlord obtained a quote from a local landscaper for the purchase and replanting of the tree and sought to deduct the cost from the deposit. The tenant disagreed with the price, deeming it too expensive, but admitted to removing the tree without permission.

The adjudicator noted that the tenancy agreement included a clear and specific statement holding the tenant responsible for the maintenance of garden beds, trees, and grass. Regarding the cost of replanting the tree, the adjudicator deemed the price fair after comparing it to other local contractors' costs.

To prevent tenants from rejecting a deposit deduction, the TDS provides a deduction template that explains the specific deduction made, offering a helpful tool for agents and landlords.