It makes sense to think carefully about any outdoor space when you’re looking for a place to rent. Some people love to spend time outside. For others, a garden is a hassle they don’t need or want. But, as it’s likely your landlord will include certain conditions in your tenancy agreement regarding the upkeep of any outdoor spaces, it’s a good idea to think about the amount of garden maintenance you’re prepared, willing and able to do.
You might never have wielded a trowel or pushed a lawnmower in your life, but if the property has a garden, these tasks can become your responsibility. Think of it this way. You’re not renting a house. You’re renting a property. And just as you’ll be expected to look after the house, you’ll be expected to return the garden in a condition similar to how it was when your tenancy began. Even if you’re not interested in that outside space and use it only as somewhere to store the dustbin, you cannot ignore the lawn or allow weeds to run rampant and expect to get your deposit back. In fact, a lot of post tenancy disputes about withheld deposits are about the state of the garden.
Most landlords are reasonable. They won’t expect you to do significant work like tree pruning or landscaping, but they might object if you decide to sink a pond, build decking or dig up a specimen tree. At the outset, it’s best to check their expectations.
If there are hedges, don’t assume someone else is going to be calling around – check whether you’re supposed to trim them. If, for example, you’re expected to mow the lawns, ask whether a lawnmower and some basic gardening tools are included in the inventory. If not, that’s an expense you may need to budget for. If you’re not physically able to handle the workload and don’t want to employ someone else to keep on top of things, perhaps it’s not the right property for you.
Gardens are, however, a lot more than extra work and extra responsibility. The extra space can be a bonus if you’ve got children or pets. But again, before you sign, consider whether the garden is suitable. Is a tiny ornamental garden a good choice if you’ve got three lively youngsters at home? An uncovered pond could be a real risk for little ones, and boundaries need to be secure to keep Fido safe at home.
Of course, if you love spending time in outdoor spaces, a garden can be a blessing. Even in a rented property, there’s plenty of scope to give your green fingers the chance to grow something fabulous. You are permitted to plant new things, but it might be worth checking before you dig over a new plot for organic veg or establish a rose garden. If you’re thinking of anything that’s long-term, ask first. Your landlord might even see the work as an improvement and help with the cost.
If you’re restricted on the changes you can make, you can still create a stunning garden with tubs and planters, with solar lights and some bits and bobs of upcycled outdoor furniture – things you can take with you if you move on. A lot of trees and shrubs are perfectly happy in containers. Window boxes and hanging baskets can be planted to give year-round colour. Get the kids involved, too. It’s a great learning opportunity. They can grow salad leaves, courgettes and strawberries in grow bags. Plant a couple of seed potatoes in an old bucket and enjoy the magic when the spuds multiply.
If you’re counting the pennies, local gardening clubs often give away surplus young plants. If you can’t tell a weed from a perennial, ask for advice. Most gardeners are more than happy to help, and you’ll soon pick up the basics. Gardening is great exercise too. Good for the body and soul.
If you want to feel at home in a rental property, make sure the whole property – indoor and out – is right for you. Be honest about whether you want outdoor space. If you do, check the landlord’s expectations, and then make that outdoor space part of your new home.