Tenant Killed My Avocado Tree and Lawn, Frustrated Landlord

Hi,

My first house is built and settled a year a ago, the turf was freshly laid by the builder after the drought (April 2020) and I also planted an avocado tree and watered them everyday for three weeks before renting it out. They all looked very healthy and leafy before handing to my tenant. I also left a set of new hose in the house.

I terminated the lease once the one year contract finished because they kept paying rent late. I went to inspect the house three days after they moved out. My backyard lawn has (5-7sqm) patches (few muddy area with few dangerous spiky weeds around the house) and my avocado tree is dead (with skin was peeled off around the trunk).

What is the reasonable compensation I can claim from them? I don’t even know what kind of grass it is and where to get it, how much it will cost me and how to fix it. it is definitely not buffalo grass.

My agent suggested me to leave it. Most likely my next tenant will not look after it anyway. He also told me nothing I can do with them, no one can guarantee to keep the tree and lawn alive. It will cost me lots more money and time to take it to tribunal if the tenant refuses to pay for it, and I might still get nothing.

What should I do? Welcome any comment regarding fixing my lawn and getting compensation from the tenant.

Thank you everyone’s time and input.

Comments

  • +46 votes

    Welcome to OzBargain… If you believe the damage to the lawn was done by the tenant out of negligence, you can obtain a quote to repair the lawn/re-turf and use that as a claim to withhold some of the bond. The avocado tree isn't really relevant.

    The tenant may not accept that though and you'll face having to take it to tribunal or just let it go.

    I would let it go. You're renting your property out to others and it comes with the territory, within reason.

    • +5 votes

      You can ask your real estate agent to put in the contract that certain parts of the garden must be maintained by the tenant. I have previously seen contracts that stipulate mowing the lawn X times per week and watering plants. It's not uncommon and suggest you add that into special terms section. If a prospective tenant doesn't like it - you don't want them as a tenant anyway.

      • +65 votes

        You can add terms like, that but legally speaking they are worthless because they are completely unenforceable at the tribunal.

        Plants, trees and gardens die off all the time no matter how much love and care you give them. No tribunal would ever in a million years consider it reasonable to maintain the effective soil health and survival of those things. Everyone knows you can water, mow and maintain that stuff & it will still die seemingly without rhyme or reason anyway.

        The agent is correct, OP is simply being unreasonable with their expectations. Their mistake was wasting money on it in the first place for a rental property they weren't even gonna be living in.

        • +3 votes

          They aren't absolutely worthless - adding the terms would at the very least be a deterrant and lower the chances that you get a disrespectful tennant. Kind of like putting up fake security cameras to deter thieves etc =)

          OPs expectations are to have a tenant that cares. I don't think their expectation was "you have to be a professional gardener or else"

          If it's unclear how the plants died then of course it cannot be enforceable but I disagree that the clauses are worthless.

          • +1 vote

            @Altitud: If a clause is unenforceable, it's the literal legal definition of worthless.

      • +3 votes

        x times per week? I keep my nature strip lawn tidy with one mow a month.

        •  

          It's just an example - terms can be whatever is reasonable. I don't have a nature strip nor lawn nor do I mow the lawn so I actually have no idea how often it needs to be done =)

          •  

            @Altitud: Was half in jest, half wondering what crazy breed of grass you have!

        •  

          one mow a month.

          Sounds like a dream, I have to do mine once a fortnight in the summer, luckily I only have to do it once or twice for the whole winter.

        •  

          Your boyfriend must be into that Jungle Love.

        •  

          you call that tidy?!

      •  

        Theres plenty of options here. They could set up an automated system for the garden watering and have it on a timer so zero intervention is required. They could also send a Gardner by once a week to take care of the place (depends on the owners propensity for putting money into it to keep it looking nice).

    • -21 votes

      No don't let it go, terrible advice. It's 1000% the tenants responsibility to maintain the lawns and gardens.

      God knows why you planted an avo tree though, that's a loss you need to cop on the chin.

    • +4 votes

      All that you have said above suggests to me that you are something of a 'kook'/have very unrealistic expectations. If your main complaints about a tenant that rented your joint out for a year are that they left patchy lawn and a dead avacado sapling (avocado trees are notoriously tricky to successfully establish, and often require a fair bit of TLC/etc. in this regard) … you should count yourself lucky. You should also be thanking your former tenants, not trying to screw money out of them for no valid reason.

      My advice to you is 'GET REAL'.

      What you describe is about the best outcome you could possibly hope for after renting out a property for a year. I eagerly await your next post a year or two later, when you describe how your next tenant left your property. I guarantee that your grievances will extend way beyond brown patches in the lawn and a dead avocado sapling …

      Happy trails

      •  

        Yep. Having had my share of bad tenants before, I agree.

  • +126 votes

    I guess you get to kill the tenant now, its only fair.

    • +1 vote

      No no, that's not how it works. He gets to kill the lawn of the tenant's next house they move into.

      •  

        Nah, the Tenant’s house plants.

        • +4 votes

          Not the house plants. Anything but the house plants!!

          •  

            @jjjaar: House mates?

            •  

              @Kangal: Having lived with both house plants and house mates, please dear god take the house mates.

      • +3 votes

        Hmm…so maybe the tenant's previous landlord killed OP's avocado tree?

    • -1 vote

      FML. Failed attempt. Tenant got away, accidentally killed his dog. Tenant's name was something Wick. Maybe John or Jonathan. What do I do now?

      • +1 vote

        You'll be right, he wasn't all that attached to the dog. But you might want to give him his car back, I hear he really likes '69 Mustangs.

    •  

      LOLOL

  • +3 votes

    If weeds grow, it's your fault. Get better topsoil and turf next time.

    If the tree cannot survive without regular maintenance that you forget to stipulate in the rental agreement, that's on you too.

    • +44 votes

      If the tree cannot survive without regular maintenance that you forget to stipulate in the rental agreement, that's on you too.

      If OP valued a particular tree so highly, why plant it in the yard of the IP, where the maintenance / care is not guaranteed?

      • +2 votes

        I have a fig tree (that a friend gave me who is no longer here) and cherry tree that I value highly in my IP but it is because I planted them when I lived there, and they're now a bit too big and well established to move (plus I have no room for them in my current PPOR). Just have to cross my fingers the tenant looks after them. I wouldn't try to go after the tenant if they did die though, would just be unlucky.

  • +2 votes

    Take plugs from your remaining lawn to replant. The plugs will fill back in.

    • -1 vote

      pluck?

      • +1 vote

        No, plugs.

    •  

      Only if it's a spreading, invasive species of lawn. e.g., Fescue won't work.

  • +12 votes

    built*
    lease*
    they moved* out
    has died*

    Also, welcome to ozbargain :)

    • -1 vote

      The two pillars of OzBargain: deals; and castigating people, whose first language may not be English, for minor grammatical mistakes.

      • +22 votes

        How do they know they've made a mistake if no one tells them? They'll never improve…

      •  

        Plenty of people whose "first language" is English don't know the difference between your and you're.

  • +34 votes

    Have you investigated concreting the yard? /s

  • +17 votes

    You're talking about $80 worth of dead grass and a $40 tree. The grass will spread and grow back, depending what type it is.

    • +6 votes

      Where can I find an avocado tree for $40?

      • +5 votes

        Buy 20 avocadoes from the supermarket and plant the seeds?
        I've got an accidental one growing from the compost at the moment.

        • +12 votes

          Trivia; avocados are not true to fruit, meaning that if you plant a Haas avocado seed you will NOT get a Haas avocado tree.

          • -11 votes

            @twig: yes, you will, I've done that for ages. Unless you grow your hass near another variety resulting in cross-polination. However, fruit quality is usually not guaranteed to be the same to parent plant.

          • -22 votes

            @twig: Well that was the dumbest thing I've read

            • +11 votes

              @tablewhale: Google "avocado true to seed" and then re-evaluate who's ignorant here ;)

              • -3 votes

                @Azza69: Ask the avocado trees in my backyard that have grown from me tossing the seed over my deck at lunch tho

                • +1 vote

                  @tablewhale: He's not saying an avocado tree won't grow just that there's no guarantee it's the same type….. can you read?

          • +7 votes

            @twig: No idea why you are getting neg, but you are correct. So happen to randomly stumble on an article this month about Avocado growing.

            “Because avocados do not reproduce true to seed (meaning you won't get the same type of fruit as the avocado from which the pit came), commercial avocado trees are propagated from cuttings. Cuttings of one variety are often grafted onto rootstock of another variety, to produce the best commercial outcomes”

            https://www.google.com/search?q=avocado+%22true+to+seed%22&r...

      • +7 votes

        Check out Daley's fruit nursery. Seedlings start from $18 and a small plant from $54. Sorry I was $14 off. These aren't even sale prices.

    •  

      This is about $500 when accounting for the inflation that seems to occur with any bond deductions. We were once asked to cough up $300 for a missing garden hose and a dusty sliding window track (we of course fought it and won).

      •  

        We were asked to pay for the tears in the fly screen (didn't pay, of course).

    • +1 vote

      Is it literally the case of ~<$200 vs rental income already received for 12 months on an IP? Thats the easiest tax deduction if I've ever seen one… Not even worth the time thinking about and posting it and seeking other's inputs etc…….

  • +13 votes

    Let it go. The agent is right

  • +14 votes

    "No ̷S̷o̷u̷p̷ Avocado for you!"

  • +21 votes

    You probably killed the lawn and tree by watering them everyday for 3 weeks.

    • +2 votes

      Watering a new lawn daily is universally strongly recommended to keep it hydrated whilst it establishes its roots.

      • +1 vote

        Depending on the variety, you should generally keep it moist, not wet until the roots develop, which will probably take a week or two and then taper the water down.
        Watering it everyday for 3 weeks does nothing to encourage root growth which makes it intolerant to drought. As soon as the daily watering stopped, the roots were not deep enough for it to survive, hence it died.

        •  

          Hence why you are given a watering time table which gradually reduces frequency but increases duration as the lawn establishes its root system. I thought this stuff was common knowledge.

          •  

            @Viper8: " I thought this stuff was common knowledge" I also thought that it was common knowledge that it all depends on the season plants grow above the surface at a different time of the year than below.I also thought that it was common knowledge to train your plants roots downwards rather than across the surface.

            •  

              @coin saver: The first part is. The second part is exactly the point of decreasing the watering intervals progressively as your grass establishes itself (doing so early on would potentially kill it). What's your point exactly?

  • +13 votes

    That’s why tenants pay a bond, for such scenarios you described.

    Next time, maybe you could interview the potential tenant and set expectations, if they don’t take care of your place they are out! 😂

    Also, wtf has your REA done during the routine inspection??? Maybe they haven’t been doing there job too!

    •  

      their*

      •  

        Someone should start a blooper reel 😆

  • +18 votes

    If it was a mature tree then I'd be very upset, but given it's just 1 year old I wouldn't be too upset.

    Lots of plants die in their first year, you'd have a hard time proving the tenant was responsible!

    • -18 votes

      I grew it from seed for 3 years and it grow really well before i planted it. I totally get that it might not survive but i didn’t expect it died from girdling.

      • +9 votes

        Did the contract include any stipulation tenants had to look after the garden and be liable for damages? If so, take it from there.

        Also possible the tree had died from non-tenant issues. Was the spot overshaded, overexposed, too sandy/clay? I have killed many trees in lousy soil before realising the importance of incorporating compost AND choosing the right spot. Seed-grown young-lings are also not as hardy nor guaranteed to fruit.

        Did they take good care of the house though? If they did, I think it's petty to be demanding compensation for the garden. The financial damage of the grass and own-grown plant is insignificant. If the house has been desecrated though, then I guess it's good riddance.

        •  

          was it planted from seed, or planted a tree?

      • +2 votes

        Commercial (and healthy) avocado trees are generally grafted on to better root stock. If you grew it from seed, it would have had the weak roots of whatever the grafted tree had rather than the strong roots of whatever was used for the rootstock of the parent tree.

        Not at all surprised that it died without the care of someone who is attached to it.

      • +3 votes

        If the avo tree was grown from seed then it only has an 1/10000 chance to give you good fruit.

  • +35 votes

    You could grow up and get over it.

  • +4 votes

    how are people supposed to take care of the lawn when you spend all day yelling at people to get off it? :(

  • +98 votes

    Did you really expect to buy a house and have avocados at the same time??

    Classic millennials.

    •  

      LOL.

      • +3 votes

        gotta grow our own avo toast

        it's the ozbargain way

    • -1 vote

      I thought smashed avo were trendy…

      • +3 votes

        The fruit, not the actual tree…..

    •  

      LOL HOLY

  • +20 votes

    Welcome to being a landlord. Be grateful they didn’t gut the house. I suggest you talk to a nursery on what provides the best low maintenance option, for your rental house, and how this can be easily maintained. Tenants aren’t interested in the long term landscaping of your house.

  • +44 votes

    Avocado are a very susceptible to waterlogging phytophthora (root rot) and cold temperatures. They are rainforest tree and are very picky about water, sunlight and temperature and prefer a well drained soil high in organic matter.

    Given that you watered the tree everyday for 3 weeks before the tenant even moved in you could have waterlogged the tree yourself setting it up for root rot before the tenant even moved in.

    The tenant is not necessarily at fault as it could have been any number of factors that contributed to the death of the tree, for instance how you planted the tree, did you dig in plenty of organic matter and make sure the soil had adequate drainage before you planted the tree ?did you check the soil to make sure it had a slightly acidic pH of around 5.5 etc. On the other hand the tenant generally has a responsibility to maintain the lawn including mowing, watering and keeping in weed free so they may be responsible for the grass.

    When you are planning a garden for an rental property, think about resilient, low-maintenance plants, such as succulents, shrubs or drought-resistant plants. Natives are good as they generally require no additional water other than rain water and can handle harsh soil conditions; bottle brush, grevillea, acacia, lilly pilly and banksias are all good and will provide plenty of flowers for the birds and bees.

    • +22 votes

      Welcome to Ozbargardening Australia :)

  •  

    Lol

  • +33 votes

    I wouldn't expect a tenant to do more than mowing the lawn in terms of garden maintenance to be honest.

  • +5 votes

    Is like to see the dangerous spiky weed.

    • +5 votes

      It is called Audrey.

      • +6 votes

        I think it's bindii

        •  

          I am guessing is thistle.

          • +5 votes

            @Hoize: you are blaming renter for weeds growin bruhh

          •  

            @Hoize: That's a bit underwhelming. Your statement that it was "dangerous" had me a bit excited to see it.

  •  

    Get low maintenance yard like pebbles and cactus

    •  

      pebbles? eeek

    •  

      Pebbles are too needy.

  • +4 votes

    When we moved back to Australia from overseas some years ago, the first house we rented had a sizeable lawn area and gardens. It was in WA though, so the "soil" was all sand and the garden beds were mostly scrubby looking native plants and succulents. There was reticulation installed throughout but it didn't work at all - our tenancy agreement stipulated that the owner was aware the retic didn't work and also did not intend to fix it, however we were still required to maintain the lawns and gardens to at least the same standard as they were when we moved in.

    If we'd known then what we know now about tenants' rights and responsibilities, we would have challenged that but it was the first place we'd rented in years so we were newbies to the whole game. The area to look after was so big - front, back and down one side of the house - we would have been out there all day with a hose or moving sprinklers about to try to keep it all alive. As it was, my husband had a look at the retic and found the issue which was relatively minor and fixed it for about $30 (and no, we didn't try to claim that back from the landlord as we would have had Buckleys of getting it!).

  •  

    Which state is the house located in? April seems like a bad time to put down fresh turf when you're heading into winter.

    Also did you do anything to prepare the soil before laying the turf?

    •  

      Western Sydney, my neighbors all got their lawn laid on the same time and their lawn are perfectly fine till now. The soil was prepared by the builder.