Unreasonable charge for Gardening | The Tenants' Voice
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Unreasonable charge for Gardening

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881 views 3 replies latest reply: 20 September 2015
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Tenant

Hi,

My old landlord is deducting £150 from my deposit due to gardening costs. Upon moving in, the landlord hired gardeners to completely strip away the borders and weeds etc, leaving it barren. Since then I have kept the garden tidy, and kept the patio/gravel areas weed free, but allowed the borders to grow back. I have attached before and after pictures.

Now the contract states: “Furthermore, to keep the patio areas (if any), paths, garden areas, lawns, hedges, flower beds, shrubs or bushes and borders (if any) as tidy, weed free and cultivated, as at commencement of the tenancy and not to change the layout of the garden in any way.”

So the garden is not exactly as it was when we moved in, but it is in a perfectly acceptable condition. Does the landlord have the right to charge me £150, and would he manage to get this through a small claims court?

Thanks, Charlie.

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Administrator

Hi Charlie

Your deposit should have been protected with a deposit protection scheme when you moved in – you should have been given details of this by the landlord. You can contact the scheme and tell them you don’t agree with the deduction the landlord wants to make and open a dispute. The landlord will then have to prove the right to hold on to that money as fair compensation for a loss. Otherwise the scheme is likely to force him to accept a smaller amount.

Alex

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Tenant

Thanks Alex,

It is indeed protected by the deposit scheme. However I have 2 concerns about raising a dispute;

1) The landlord might choose to retaliate by scouring the contract/inventory for anywhere else he can squeeze money out of us. This is precisely the kind of behaviour I would expect from him. He has already “waived” a number of unfair charges which we have disagreed with.

2) How does anybody decide what consitutes a reasonable charge for gardening services? He used his mates to do the gardening work, so it will be easy for him to get an invoice/receipt showing however much he wants. If we dispute and lose, will we have to pay any kind of charges or punitive damages etc?

Thanks, Charlie.

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Administrator

Hi Charlie

No there are no punative damages. Deposit protection schemes have been set up for precisely this reason so you won’t be punished for raising a dispute. It’s not what’s reasonable but whether you have complied with the tenancy. I can’t see the photos but it doesn’t sound like you have materially changed the layout and it does sound like you’ve kept it tidy. If you’re concerned you could always get a few quotes from professionals to see what it should cost – rather than what he has charged – but I would imagine your argument here would be he hasn’t actually suffered any loss and you have complied with the tenancy (I’m not a lawyer so if you want a legal opinion on that you’ll need a solicitor).

The thing about the deposit is that it remains your money until the landlord proves loss – or a right to make a deduction. So, the burden of proof here falls on the landlord. If he wants to raise a spurious charge for a broken chair, for example, then he needs to prove when the chair was purchased, that it actually existed, that you broke it and what it was worth. Even then he would only be able to claim a proportionate amount of the value of the chair. He can make as many claims as he likes but unless he can prove them then he’ll get nothing. Don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself.

Alex

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