Around the corner from our office the daffodils are in full bloom, and up and down the country other signs of summer are starting to pop up - the buzz of lawnmowers has reappeared, supermarkets are promoting garden furniture... So there's no time like the present to revisit one of the areas of certain tenancies that can cause disagreement, and to look at how such disputes can be avoided. We are of course talking about gardening.

A garden is a lovely asset for a property to have, but it comes with a different set of variables to the building and everything within the four walls. For a start, it grows. It has a different relationship with the weather from that of the bricks and mortar, and then there are other parties who will typically not affect the interior of your property - wildlife, litter-dropping passers-by for example.

Add to these variables the very likely possibility of one person's opinion of a garden in its best condition being different to that of the next person, then there is plenty of scope for disagreement.

That is why - as it is in many cases - the tenancy agreement and the details it contains are so important.

If the property has a garden then the tenancy agreement should detail:

- Which areas of the garden the tenant is responsible for.
- Which areas are not the responsibility of the tenant - this may include, for example, the maintenance of large trees.
- Whether the tenant must take responsibility for cutting the grass, tidying flowerbeds and sweeping up leaves.
- What state the tenant is to return the garden in at the end of the tenancy.

That last point is one that needs further attention. It is most likely that the expectation for the garden will be that it is well-maintained and similar to how it was at the start of the tenancy... just as the case would be for the interior of the property. And that is a perfectly reasonable expectation. However... as we mentioned, there are external and seasonal elements that the tenant will not have control over, even if they are doing their best to maintain the garden. If the tenant moves in during July to a freshly mowed lawn and flowers bursting with colour then the chances of that scene being replicated at a tenancy end in the depths of a freezing January are low. Landlords and letting agents should bear this in mind, as an adjudicator would take seasonal variations and environmental factors into account when deciding if a deduction from the deposit is justified.

Going back to the points recommended for the tenancy agreement - incorporating these should help minimise the likelihood of a dispute, as should details of the garden's condition (including photographs where possible) in the inventory and check-out report.

Tenants can also take steps to prevent garden-related disputes. Always read the tenancy agreement before signing it, and if there are any queries or concerns raise these with the landlord. If you have agreed to maintain the garden as per the tenancy agreement, then fulfil the responsibilities detailed. And finally should you wish to make any enhancements or additions to the garden, be sure to ask your landlord for permission.

Now here's hoping for a summer where those with gardens can get out and enjoy them!