There are some steps landlords can take to minimise the chance of a dispute with their tenants over external maitenance.
Blogger: Diane Bukowski, Managing Director, Eezirent Pty Ltd
A real concern for many landlords is the ability and willingness of tenants to adequately maintain gardens, lawns and a swimming pool.
It seems to be more of a problem if the property has been the landlord’s principal place of residence as the gardens are likely to be more complex.
In theory, garden maintenance shouldn’t cause the issues that it does as the law is clear. Tenants must maintain and leave the property in the condition it was at the start of the lease. So, if the garden beds were weed free, the lawn mown and pool sparkling at the start of the lease – then that is what has to be in place throughout the lease and at exit – fair wear and tear excepted. Why then can this be so hard to achieve?
It is hard to find tenants interested in gardening. Let’s face it, if it is not your garden, you’d have be pretty keen to tend it as lovingly as the owner would have. Knowledge and equipment, or lack of it, is another factor. Believe it or not, but some tenants don’t know what weeds are and have no idea that they have to be removed. A tenant should be able to get their hands on a mower – they can be hired from most service stations these days. However, how many tenants have hoes, rakes or shovels? The cost can be an issue too. If you are charging the tenants for water consumption, they can get a bit miffed about having to water gardens and lawns. Best to come to an arrangement for this i.e. a % of the water bill is allocated for garden maintenance and is not charged to the tenant.
There are some steps landlords can take to minimise the chance of a dispute over external maintenance. If you want the tenant’s to be responsible for gardens and lawns:
1. Have ‘easy care’ garden beds. Perennial shrubs rather than flowers. Nurseries can advise on hardy low maintenance, drought tolerant varieties.
2. Have all beds thickly mulched with a long lasting material. This is makes the property look attractive, reduces weed growth and conserves water. By the way, mulch decomposing is ‘fair wear and tear’ – you can’t ask a tenant to remulch garden beds at exit.
3. Include detailed notes and plenty of photographs with the Entry Condition Report.
4. Include the gardens and lawns in your routine inspection report. Act at that point if the tenant is not maintaining them. Don’t wait until the end of the lease.
5. Include an instruction sheet on your expectations for garden and lawn maintenance with the sign up documents.
Probably the best option to avoid all hassles is to include lawn and pool maintenance in the rent. This is easily done by calculating the annual cost of these services then dividing by 52 to arrive at a weekly figure. This amount can then be added to the rent. At the very least this should be done for pool care. Don’t trust a tenant with this job. These expenses are a tax deduction for the landlord.
About Diane Bukowski
From school teacher to website entrepreneur, Diane Bukowski is the managing director of Eezirent – an online service delivering professional tools to self-managing landlords.
After many years running an award winning real estate office, Diane took up the challenge offered by her business partner to set up a service that would level the playing field for self-managing landlords. The result is Eezirent which allows these investors to advertise their property on www.realestate.com.au, verify their applicants with the National Tenancy Database, and access the documentation and knowledge needed to efficiently manage a lease.
Diane’s blogs aim to provide practical advice to the self-managing landlord.