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Tenants: your guide to using, not abusing, your outside space this summer

3 days ago
Tenants: your guide to using, not abusing, your outside space this summer

The sun is out (fingers crossed), the temperature is rising and there is the distinct smell of barbeques in the air. After one of the wettest UK springs on record, who can blame the nation for rushing outside as soon as possible?  

The value we place on outside space was brought into sharp focus during the pandemic and the desire to grow plants, feel grass underfoot or simply breathe in fresh air remains strong.  

For homeowners, a garden, patio, terrace or balcony is theirs to shape how they see fit but there is a slightly different approach to the great outdoors if you rent a property. Like the interior and structure of a rented property, there is a division of labour between the tenant and the landlord when it comes to garden maintenance.   

Time to trim and strim

Summer is the peak growing season – a period when grass and plants rapidly develop. A tenant will be required to perform basic maintenance that keeps the garden in good shape. This will generally include mowing the lawn, keeping flower beds and borders weed free, pruning small plants and responsibly disposing of garden waste.   

No smoke without fire

On the last note, having bonfires is a contentious issue. It’s not illegal to have a bonfire to burn garden waste but complaints about smoke can be classed as a statutory nuisance under the Environmental Protection Act 1990. The local council is obliged to look into complaints where a bonfire or its smoke may ‘unreasonably and substantially interfere with the use or enjoyment of a home or other premises, or injure health or be likely to injure health’. Those found guilty can be fined.   

If there is nothing in the tenancy agreement to stop tenants from lighting bonfires, caution and restraint should be used in terms of timings, frequency and the notification of neighbours.  

When to leave it to the landlord

A landlord will be responsible for anything in the garden that requires professional expertise, such as cutting back or removing tall trees, trimming and maintaining hedges, and repairing or replacing fence panels. The tenancy agreement may also stipulate that the landlord is responsible for treating/removing vermin – a category that wasps’ nests fall into. 

Permission before planting Green fingered tenants may be keen to make the most of their outside space but it’s not just a case of digging a new flower bed, adding a vegetable patch or erecting a shed. Outside additions and alterations will need a landlord’s written approval or the tenant risks their deposit not being returned in full. 

To illustrate, a case handled by one of the Government’s approved tenancy deposit schemes saw deductions from a deposit to cover the cost of dismantling a garden outbuilding that was installed without permission. It’s also feasible for a landlord to make a deduction to return a garden to its original state.  

Summer storms

Scorching heat waves are often followed by storms and torrential rain, so it’s important to know where tenants stand on gutters, downpipes and drains. The tenancy agreement will detail who is responsible for clearing debris and blockages – it might be the tenant or it could be the landlord. If there are signs of a leak or obstruction, a tenant is obliged to let the landlord or managing agent know as soon as possible.   

On the line

Tenants are discouraged from drying wet clothes inside their property but it’s worth checking the rental contract before you head outdoors with the peg bag. It’s not a widely known aspect of renting but a reported 1.4 million tenants are banned from displaying clothing outside, while research revealed 7 in 10 people were not aware such laundry restrictions exist. A laundry ban can apply to balconies as well as gardens, so it’s worth checking for any clauses in the tenancy agreement.   

Look at the contract before lighting the charcoal 

A tenancy agreement may also contain a clause about another summer favourite – barbecuing. Firing up the grill may be a particular activity the landlord is against at their property and this should be noted in the contract.   

If barbecuing is permitted and you like nothing more than hosting friends and family, be mindful that the tenant is responsible for the behaviour of their guests and any damage they may cause. Noise and nuisance that’s classed as antisocial may be reported and provide a valid reason for eviction.

The main message about summer living in a rented property is to check the tenancy agreement. If you would like to discuss any garden clauses in your contract, or seek permission to make outside alterations, please get in touch.

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