Social Housing – welcome to the jungle!

The sun is shining! A good excuse to get out and about and carry out estate inspections. One of the things that can become more noticeable in the nice weather are overgrown, neglected and messy gardens.

What should you do if you find that a tenant is failing to maintain their garden?

Most Local Authorities and Registered Social Landlords will have requirements in their tenancy agreements that a tenant should keep their gardens to a ‘satisfactory standard’. Whilst this is rarely defined in an agreement it can be expected to mean litter-free, reasonably tidy, and not overgrown.

An overgrown garden can cause nuisance to neighbours and a build up of rubbish or stored household items in a garden can lead to vermin infestations along with health and safety hazards. It can also looks unsightly. If rubbish or animal faeces builds up in a garden it can become more noticeable in the summer as the smell is exacerbated by the heat. It could also attract a greater number of flies, all of which could be said to amount to a nuisance or annoyance to other residents and can affect their enjoyment of their own property

An unkempt, overgrown garden is a breach of tenancy, but could also be an indicator that there are other issues at the property and may also be indicative of support needs of the tenant.

So, what do you do if a tenant’s garden is not to a satisfactory standard? The first port of call is your organisation’s policy and procedure.

A good garden procedure should include the following:

    1. Engage with the tenant. Are there any support issues, age, disability etc which may affect the tenant’s ability the undertake garden maintenance? Can support be put in place to help them maintain the garden themselves or can any services be engaged? Can the tenant’s friends and family help? Liaise with social services if appropriate.
    2. Initial Warning Letter. If engaging with the tenant does not resolve the unkept garden, send the tenant a warning letter. The letter should include:
    3. a. The relevant tenancy conditions which relate to the garden.

      b. Why the tenant is in breach of those conditions.

      c. What the tenant must do to remedy the breach.

      d. Provide clear timescales.

      e. Confirm a date for a further garden / property inspection and request access.

      f. The consequence of not improving the state of the garden (i.e., injunction)

    4. Follow up. Re-inspect the garden on the date set out in the initial warning letter. Take pictures as evidence, if possible. Try to engage with the tenant and again offer support.
    5. Second Warning Letter. If there is no or little progress send a second warning letter, including the points a-e as above.
    6. Follow up again. Re-inspect the garden on the date set out in the initial warning letter. Take pictures as evidence, if possible. Try to engage with the tenant and again offer support.
    7. Legal / Final Warning letter. If there is still no progress send a Final / Legal warning letter confirming, covering the points a-e above and that this is the tenant’s last chance, or your organisation will apply for an injunction to force them to resolve the garden and or consider possession proceedings.
    8. Legal Action. The most appropriate legal action i.e., injunction or possession proceedings will depend on the circumstances and should always be a last resort after the alternatives above have been exhausted.

At MSB we offer a fixed fee service for a standard legal final warning letters for garden breach of tenancy injunctions. We can also help your organisation to draft a robust breach of tenancy procedure.

If you require any advice or assistance in relation to garden issues, or if you want to speak to us about our fixed fee services, please get in touch with Amy Tagoe

Law is correct as at 21st June 2022.

Whilst every effort has been taken to ensure that the law in this article is correct, it is intended to give a general overview of the law for educational purposes. You are respectfully reminded that it is not intended to be a substitute for specific legal advice and should not be relied upon as legal advice. No liability is accepted for any error or omission contained herein.

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