In this week’s #AskTDS, we answer a landlord’s question; “My tenant cut down a tree in back garden to use for bonfire fire night – can I deduct for this?”
The real question here is not what the tenant did with the chopped wood but did the tenancy allow for or require the tenant to maintain or remove the tree during the term of their tenancy?
The key document for the parties is the tenancy agreement which needs to be clear and suitable for the type of property and any amenities included in the letting. Both the landlord and the tenant are entering into an agreement and sometimes it’s as much about what should be done as well as what shouldn’t; that may include wielding an axe or powering up a chain saw to cut down trees and bushes in the garden.
Firstly, let’s examine the tenants’ responsibilities. Usually, a tenancy agreement will set out how the tenancy is to be managed, maybe stating that the tenant has to ‘maintain the garden as the season dictates’. This sort of clause may not go far enough, especially if a landlord doesn’t want trees, shrubs and hedges removed when the tenant neatens the garden; not all tenants will be gardening experts. It pays to be specific about what is required, especially if the trees in question are protected.
As in all ‘contracts’ it would be best practise to clearly set out that the tenant is responsible for cutting the grass, weeding the beds and edging the borders only, and nothing else. A further clause that clearly states that the tenant shouldn’t lop, prune, cut or remove trees, bushes and shrubs would clarify the expectations of the parties.
The question of any deductions that can be made from the tenancy deposit can be answered by looking at the clauses that relate to what the tenancy deposit has been taken for; this would normally cover items such as cleaning, damage, missing items and rent arrears but could also cover other areas such as gardens, driveways or sheds. If the landlord can show they have suffered a loss and the condition of the property has changed from the beginning of the tenancy to the end which is a direct result of the tenants actions, as long as the tenancy deposit clauses show that the tenancy deposit can be used to compensate the landlord, it’s possible that a deduction can be applied.
So, remember remember not only the 5th November, but in all letting agreements to make sure you have the right clauses to correctly manage your property rather than fanning the flames of a bonfire.
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