Accidental landlord:buy-to-lets are blamed for neglected front gardens but it's not just landlords who want easy-care plots

You don't have to be a buy-to-let landlord to want a low-maintenance garden and, at the risk of including the RHS's director's wrath, our accidental landlord says she'd happily opt for an artificial lawn she can vacuum...

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Landlords get blamed for everything from rising house prices — though that one’s probably true — to increasing pollution levels, global warming and the nation’s declining health levels... all tosh.

Most recently the director-general of the Royal Horticultural Society, Sue Biggs, reportedly blamed the buy-to-let boom for the fact that one in three front gardens has no plants, while the number of front gardens paved over has trebled in a decade.

She said this was “damaging for the nation’s health linked to increasing pollution and increasing temperatures during heatwaves”.

But hang on. Almost everyone in my street has paved over their front garden and the vast majority of them are owner-occupiers, not landlords.

Pretty much all of my neighbours have ripped up the turf in their back gardens, too, and replaced it with slate tiles or artificial grass. These aren’t landlords, they are busy young professionals and parents who don’t want their toddlers tramping around on muddy lawns for six months of the year.

Busy people — whether tenants or home owners — want stylish, low-maintenance gardens where nothing much sheds, nothing rots and everything stays looking neat and tidy.

Ms Biggs also reportedly blamed landlords who don’t go as far as concreting over front gardens, but who don’t maintain them for their tenants. But I think outside space is actually becoming more important in the relationship between landlords and their tenants. As those tenants rent for longer — and many do — so a bit of garden will become more essential, especially as they acquire children and dogs along the way. As a landlord, if your rental property has outside space, I think you should make it as appealing as possible. Most will want it to be fairly maintenance-free but that needn’t mean concreting it over. 

At the risk of incurring Sue Biggs’s wrath, I recommend laying an artificial lawn, which looks great year-round and requires no more maintenance than a quick run over with the vacuum cleaner every now and then.

Artificial grass at least allows  rainwater to drain away, and, if you provide some plants in easy-care borders, you’ll still be doing your bit for the local birds and bees.

It is also important to include the garden and any balconies in your inventory. None of the inventory clerks I’ve used have included the outside space as standard, but if you want your tenants to take care of your garden you should make sure there’s a record of what it looks like and what’s in it.

Unless you intend to provide a gardener or pop round yourself to weed and prune the bushes once in a while, make sure you state in your tenancy agreement that the tenant must maintain the garden.

The RHS will thank you for it — and so will your neighbours.

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