#AskTDS: My tenant cut down a tree in the back garden to use for bonfire night - can I deduct for this?

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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.

About TDS

Tenancy Deposit Scheme (TDS) is a Government-approved scheme for the protection of tenancy deposits; TDS offers both Insured and Custodial protection and also provides fair adjudication for disputes that arise over the tenancy deposits that we protect.

We provide invaluable training in tenancy deposit protection and disputes for agents and landlords through the TDS Academy as well as joining with MOL to provide the Technical Award in Residential Tenancy Deposits.

TDS Insured Scheme: where a TDS member can hold the tenancy deposits as stakeholder during the term of the tenancy.

TDS Custodial Scheme: where TDS hold the deposit for the duration of the tenancy.

TDS Academy: TDS provides property professionals with invaluable training in tenancy deposit protection and tenancy deposit disputes.

TDS Northern Ireland: TDS is Northern Ireland's leading and only not for profit tenancy deposit protection scheme.

TDS can only comment on the process for our scheme, other deposit protection schemes may have a different process/require different steps. Content is correct at the time of writing.

These views are those of the author alone and do not necessarily reflect the view of TDS, its officers and employees.

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RLA: If you are a landlord and would like to keep up to date with any changes that may affect you or your responsibilities, you can contact the RLA at: info@rla.org.uk and quote reference: dg715 to receive 25% off your first year's membership.

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Posted by John King on 9 November 2018

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