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Paula Alsford

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Gardening during a tenancy - Who is responsible for what?

28-Oct-2019
Gardening  - who is responsible for what?
A frequently asked question we hear is about whose responsibility garden maintenance is during a tenancy. Are the tenants required to edge the lawns? Trim bushes? Lop trees? Feed the lawn? Who should maintain the reticulation system?

As with many aspects of managing an investment property, there is no single answer to the above question, it will depend on the property and of course, the conditions of the lease. However, all leases executed by Realmark Whitfords have the following standard wording pertaining to garden maintenance to protect the interests of the tenants and property owner (lessors):

Gardens
The tenants must attend to the garden, lawns, lawn edges, hedges, shrubs and trees so that they are kept in the same condition as at the commencement of this lease as described in the Property Condition Report, to water and fertilise them regularly and adequately, to keep all the grounds clean and tidy and free from rubbish, to keep the flower beds and lawns free of weeds, and not to remove or cut down any plants, trees or shrubs.

As well as:

the tenant is able to make the following prescribed alterations:
33A.2 the pruning of shrubs and trees to improve visibility around the residential premises.

Many of our rental property owners request that additional wording be added to the lease relating to their property. For example, ‘the tenant is required to pay for lawn mowing at their cost during the tenancy’ or ‘the tenant is required to hand water the rear lawn once per week for the duration of the tenancy’.

Lawns, weeds, plants and the pruning of bushes, will be checked during routine property assessment inspections and the condition compared against the original ingoing property condition report at the end of the tenancy. If there are specialist irreplaceable or unusual plants in the garden that were put in at a high expense, and requiring specific care, it would be advisable to itemise the plants including the age and condition at the commencement of the tenancy term, if the tenant will be held responsible for the care. However, we recommend the rental property owner take responsibility for the care of the gardens in this instance by including a gardener or landscaper as there are no guarantees the tenants would have the knowledge to maintain and care for them. Whilst including a specialist gardener will mean more cost to the property owner, the cost of gardening is usually a tax deductible expense and the rent will reflect the inclusion of gardening by achieving a slightly than higher than market average rental rate. The owner will also have peace of mind knowing their garden is being maintained by a specialist gardener who has the knowledge to nurture the plants and take remedial action if the plant becomes sick or shows symptoms of becoming sick.

The Residential Tenancies Act (1987) wording outlines, therefore, that additional maintenance required in many gardens, such as major bush trimming or tree lopping, is at the lessors’ expense. Indeed, for health and safety implications, it would be unreasonable to suggest a tenant climb a ladder to reach high branches of a tree that are growing over a neighbouring property. Attention to this tree though could be given during the tenancy by a qualified tree surgeon. However, if a low bush was becoming overgrown in comparison to when the tenant moved in, they would be required to keep it trimmed to avoid it getting out of control. This would be monitored as part of the routine property inspection carried out by your property management team during the tenancy and reported back to the tenants as an action point for them to rectify.

It is also worth noting that owners are responsible for repair of water leaks in reticulation systems, unless tenants have caused them by, for example, parking on lawns. If the tenant knows about a reticulation leak but does not report it, they may be liable for all or some of the cost of the repair and the water consumption.

For additional information regarding tree lopping near powerlines, please see below.
https://westernpower.com.au/community/news-opinion/whose-job-is-it-to-trim-trees-near-powerlines/

If you have any further questions regarding the above aspect of the management of your investment rental property with us, always feel welcome to reach out to contact me directly. I love hearing from our property owners with feedback and suggestions. We grow and improve by knowing we are delivering on your expectations of results and service experience and welcome your input.
Paula Alsford - Business Owner & Director of Property Management
Gardening  - who is responsible for what?

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