Importance of garden inventories to help deposit disputes

During the winter months, gardens and external areas of properties can begin to suffer, leading to disputes between agents, tenants and landlords. Dispute calls are typically at their highest this time of year, so ensuring all your paperwork is in order is even more critical.

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Three real-life scenarios, brought to the TDS adjudication panel highlight the importance of having a detailed inventory as reliable evidence that can be provided in the event of a dispute.

At the very beginning of the tenancy, a comprehensive tenancy agreement should outline the obligations of both parties involved. Furthermore, it should also explain how the garden should be managed, and what the tenant has to do to keep it in good condition.  

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 they had asked for permission to have a real tree in their home, and that the tenant paid for the cleaning bill. However, the tenant pointed out that the damage was what they expected from a real tree.

The adjudicator noted that the carpets must be returned to the landlords in the same condition as when the tenant moved in. He also noted that the damage from the tree was not normal wear and tear, and should have been removed.

Here, the inventory confirmed that the carpet was cleaned to a professional standard when the tenant moved in, therefore the tenant was asked to cover the cost of the professional cleaning.

The adjudicator must have access to both the original and current state of the property to determine if anything has been altered beyond normal wear and tear. 

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?

The dispute related to the agreed removal of two conifer trees. The landlord claimed that although the tenants had the approval to remove two trees, the tenants cut back another tree without permission, leaving it at a reduced height than the remaining trees, affecting the privacy of the garden.

The tenants agreed that they cut this tree without obtaining the landlord's permission and have caused significant lopsidedness, but they also claim that they did not intend to have their own work claimed against the deposit. 

The adjudicator noted that the tenants accept that they lopped one of the conifer trees without obtaining the permission of the landlord, to allow easier access to the rear path for their neighbours and to allow light to the neighbouring properties. 

The adjudicator also noted that there was no evidence that the conifers at their original height provided privacy to the property, or that such privacy had been interrupted and compromised by the tenants’ cutting back of the additional tree.

After comparing the check-in and check-out reports, and reviewing the photographs provided, the landlord was granted a partial award.

In this case, clearly defining the tenant’s responsibilities in a garden clause within the tenancy agreement, covering outside space in the inventory, and communicating effectively during the tenancy would have helped to avoid a deposit dispute.

A tenant cut down a tree in our property's back garden to use for firewood – is this deductible from the deposit?

The tenant had cut down a small tree in the garden without the permission of the landlords and used it for firewood.

The landlord received a quote from a local landscaper to purchase and replant the tree and requested to deduct the cost from the deposit. The tenant disagreed with the price believing it was too expensive but accepted that they had removed the tree without permission. 

The adjudicator noted the tenancy agreement included a clear and specific statement confirming the tenant is responsible for maintaining the beds, trees and grass in the garden. The adjudicator also addressed the cost of replanting the missing tree, determining the price was fair in comparison to other local contractors’ costs.  

TDS has a deduction template to explain what deduction has been made, to help you avoid the tenants rejecting a deposit deduction.

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