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

      • Western Sydney? Just be thankful they didn't gut the house.

    • -1

      April is the perfect time to lay new turf, unless you live in tropical queensland where it's end of the wet season.

  • +9

    Thanks for the laugh OP! If they are the only issues then that's not a bad outcome. Maybe next time you will get a dream tenant.

  • +1

    Give up on the avocado tree, but the lawn is a different matter did you have photo's from before? If you do not then your out of luck, but if you do and you have photo's from when the tenant moved out get the REA to claim against the bond. Get the quotes or get the area and get prices form bunnings and do it your self.

    As for weeds this is Australia and as such nothing you can do about it apart from buying some bindi killer and spay for the weeds yourself.

    How did the first 6 monthly REA inspection go? Did you specify that the REA needed to do 6 monthly inspections? If not you should have.

    • -2

      I totally get that tree might not survive through their first year. I was about to give up my tree, but i found the tree was girdled. it will kill all kind of tree by doing that. There is no any grass/turf root left on that area at all. it was bald and barely walk through the muddy area now the spiky weeds is growing in that bald patches.
      i will check with my agent. i have got some photos of the grass before rent it out.

  • My agent suggested me to leave it.

    Yeah, because they don't want to do any extra paperwork to get it sorted. After all, their salary is the same. Typical REA, I don't know why you are expecting more.

  • +1

    You want compensation for a 3 week old avocado tree…

    They are so high maintenance, if I gifted an avocado tree to someone I wouldn't even expect them to keep it alive, let alone renters

    • -3

      The protection i made for the tree was removed. the skin was peeled off from its trunk, any tree will die from it.

      • Killing your sapling was a mean spirited thing to do. However, while it may have had sentimental value for you, it's fairly obvious that the sapling didn't have any economic value so it's pointless to try and seek monetary compensation.

        If there's a lesson here it's that you should leave things with sentimental value in the care of tenants and you should insure things that have economic value.

  • +2

    Expecting a tenant to take care of your property is pretty cute.

  • +11

    Lol. Mate, tenants will never look after the garden which is why smart landlords only plant low maintenance stuff. A lawn should not need regular watering to survive if there is enough rainfall. Let it go.

  • +2

    …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.

    The tree was only resettled for 3 weeks before you rented it out.

    Even with all the love in the world you don't know if that tree would have survived. Anything from bad soil, light, water issues, to an air-conditioning unit blasting hot air, can spell disaster for a relatively new plant.

    The tree hadn't had time to make itself at home there. If it had been there for a few years that'd be one thing, but three weeks? Sure it looked like a brand new one when you left it but it hadn't been road tested.

  • +1

    if you got the plant from bunnings from less than 1 year, you could always bring the dead one back for a refund.

    • -1

      the tree was griddled. there is about 5cm long circumferential skin peeled off from the trunk. I don’t think any plant shop will refund it.

      • +3

        Do you mean 'ring barking' ?

      • +1

        I’m guessing they had a dog and tied it to your tree.

        • I agree, this sounds very likely - the bark missing around the trunk and all the grass dead and muddy around the tree would indicate they had a dog tied to the tree.

  • I love avocado trees

  • +2

    3 weeks is too early to tell if you've even planted it well, give it a 4-6 months imo. Let it survive through hot and cold periods before you think it is established!

    Ive tried an Avo tree in the soil, failed. A potted Avo failed again. They were all protected from the wind and sun and I still failed. They're very fussy and as someone mentioned earlier very prone to get getting sick if the balance isn't right.

    I'm big on citrus trees and I plant all sorts but really wanted an Avo tree cause I can not afford the 'smashed avos'

    I even thought I was successful on 1 potted Avo for a year until I put a little too much mulch, waterlogged the roots, fungus/mould, was an uphill battled, it eventually died and I simply gave up. I won't be trying another Avo tree for a long while.

    Just my own experience with Avo trees.

    • +2

      Avocado trees are notoriously difficult to nurture. They can take from 6 to 10 years to bear fruit when grown from seed. The OP didn't realise that most avocado trees grown from seed don't bear palatable fruit. Commercial avocados are produced by grafting a cutting from a desirable cultivar onto sturdy root stock (as are apples and many other orchard fruits).

  • +2

    Is 5 - 7sqm a typo? I can see how OP could be upset if the blades of grass have names.

  • +1

    Oh with a suggestion- we have a rental with a large yard/garden. I've had tenants who do an excellent job looking after the garden and some who just don't care. To alleviate the issues I now pay a gardener to come by every 2-3 weeks to clean up the bigger stuff, trees, pruning, a little weeding and mowing on occasion. Or you could simply increase your rent to make up for the garden maintenance, whichever way you take it its a small tax deduction to your investment and like many have said, let it go. It's simply not worth your time or effort chasing small stuff.

    Fun story, many years ago a tenant refused to remove 4-5 small branches from a pencil pine tree, and requested that I do it myself and they were not going to maintain the garden period, I politely asked them to just cut it, as they were at hanging around shoulder height, would've taken about 30-45seconds? I didn't want to deal with it so I called my arborist and I had the tree removed within a week. They emailed me complaining about no more privacy in the front garden I referred them back to initial request. I didn't renew their lease. You win some you lose some!

    • I didn't want to deal with it so I called my arborist and I had the tree removed within a week. They emailed me complaining about no more privacy in the front garden I referred them back to initial request. I didn't renew their lease.

      I love it!

  • +2

    Depending on what their rental agreement says about garden maintenance you may be able to pursue deducting from their bond, but you’ll be unlikely to win if you take it to the tribunal. They will just say they watered etc but it still died and that the protection for the avocado tree was flimsy and fell apart. This may not be true, but you’ll unlikely have any evidence to suggest otherwise.

    One thing you could consider for the next tenants is upping the rent and including garden maintenance. ie. you pay for someone to go and water the garden and mow the lawn, but recoup the cost through rent. I’m not sure how many people would go for this in your area but it could attract a different type of tenant. You could also include garden maintenance and do it yourself if you have the time and live nearby, but I’d be upfront that this is the agreement as many people would be uncomfortable with the landlord coming over, even outside once a week/fortnight. If you do go down this path you’d have to include it in the contract so it’s not optional for the tenants.

    In the next rental agreement also consider specifying what garden maintenance is required.

    I’d consider getting turf relayed once you get new tenants and at the right time of year so you can use it as a deduction. Just get the agent to specify that new turf will be laid and the time frame it will happen in (so they are not demanding their new turf at a time of year when it’s not great to lay it)

    Re avocado trees they are notoriously difficult to establish, and very sensitive to conditions even grafted ones selected for your area. It could have also been ring barked by an insect or rodent rather than the tenants. I’d wait until you move in yourself to try and establish avocado trees. You’ll also need A and B varieties to get fruit (I think). I know this is frustrating since they take quite a while to mature, but you’d have to be very lucky to have success whilst you have tenants.

  • +1

    I am so glad the OP didn't leave his cat or dog behind…

  • +2

    Better off having a garden full of native plant varieties that can survive on rainfall alone without the need for artificial water supply..

  • +9

    Mate, you’ve got an investment property that has grown in value by at least 10% (probably more) with the tenant probably covering 75%+ of your mortgage during that time. You’re looking at profit of at least $50k during that time, if not a lot more.

    Be damn thankful they didn’t turn it into a drug house or make it totally unliveable. The profit you’ve made could easily cover having the lawn completely redone (while being tax deductible) and covers as many damn avocados as you can eat.

    Being an investment property owner is a pretty good position, stop trying to screw over people who obviously don’t have a lot of money and have helped you become a lot rich over the last year.

    Oh and also, you may win the right to keep their bond, but do you really want to have someone pissed off at you who knows where your investment property is? You might wake up one day to find your garden has been soaked in diesel/salt and have a very difficult time trying to prove it was them….

  • Next time, if you want the tenant to look after your garden, you should talk to them.

    The "property manager" at the agency probably won't.

    You could even schedule an inspection after 3-6 months, instead of waiting a year and then being surprised when you grass dies (BTW, probably because of being in the wrong environment, unlikely that the tenant deliberately killed your grass or tree).

  • Sorry to hear. Unfortunately I don't think there are any worthy actions for you to take than sucking it up and move on. You can think of it as cost of getting rid of troublesome tenants in the long run.

  • Few things to look at when having these issue,
    At least from what I've experienced when leasing properties where the lease stated due car of lawn and any plants left by owner,

    The lease stated general maintenance is required - guide on how to take care of plants/trees required upon lease signing. this helps your case when you take it from their bond

    You claim you evicted them after 12 months of paying rent late, during this time there would have been at least 2 inspections by the real estate, why wasn't the care of property noted in the inspection report, if REA is failing to notice property damage look into a new REA as they are not looking at the best interests of your property,

    If you are worried about this happening in the future, ask for tenancy history report for potential renters, they can obtain this from previous real estates, this will indicate payments on time any late/missed payments. Some will also provide a copy of inspection history.

    Remember no investor should just give in with the fear a previous tenant knows where the house is, the law is there to protect you and prevent this from happening.

    • +4

      You claim you evicted them after 12 months of paying rent late, during this time there would have been at least 2 inspections by the real estate, why wasn't the care of property noted in the inspection report, if REA is failing to notice property damage look into a new REA as they are not looking at the best interests of your property,

      The last place we rented the REA always noted everything was fine on every inspection they did every 3 months on the dot, other than the odd very minor thing. Then on the final inspection when we moved out they listed HEAPS of supposed issues. Things like letting the "shrubs" out the back not being maintained at original height (ahh, they're not shrubs they were trees - they grew 3m taller and we can't trim them when they are now 5-6m in the air). I asked them why this sort of thing was never noted on the regular reports and they just said "we can't notice every little thing". Bullshit - that's literally your job. I fought them - 27 pages going item-by-item, fixing the reasonable ones, correcting them on the dumb ones (no, they aren't cobwebs, they are cracks in the cornices), and quoting legislation on the insane ones. Got my full bond back when I threatened to lodge with the magistrates court myself after a few days of back and forth with them (the only way for a tenant to lodge a bond claim in WA).

  • +4

    If you're really that concerned, hire a gardener to make regular visits to take care of lawns and gardens say once a month (might be a bit long between in some months for lawn), add that cost to the rental cost and make sure tenants are aware that the lawn and garden is precious to you and that part of the deal is someone else comes and looks after it as you can't trust those filthy renters with your stuff?
    What's that? you don't want to spend money? (this is OZ after all), oh… well in that case you could just get over it like an adult knowing that the place won't be kept exactly as you like it when you don't live there?

  • +8

    If this Avocado tree meant so much to you, why plant it in a rental property?

    • +6

      Probably hoping for a free gardener…

  • +5

    Gotta love owners expecting tenants to maintain a perfect lawn which is notoriously hard while laws had to be put in place to force owners to treat mould infestations in their properties. I've worked in an REA and it seems like the owners here have some high expectations of tenants given how hard it is to get them to do even basic maintenance on their properties, a lot don't even budget for maintenance and so can't afford to reimburse emergency repairs when they pop up. Given this is the reality that tenants are forced to live in, why in hell would I bother wasting my time and money on maintaining an owners lawn for them?

  • +4

    Were you paying the water usage bills and did you have those items specifically mentioned in the lease agreement?

  • You wanted to be a lord? Be happy it is still habitable!

  • +5

    Change your post title to "Entitled Landlord"! and get over yourself!!!

  • +1

    My friend was in charge of cleaning up the backyard when we all starting movedout of our sharehouse… he wasn't sure what to do with the knee high weeds, so sprayed Roundup on the entire area. The weeds died, so we all got together and pulled it all out.. then noticed that all the adjoining neighbors yards were also dead, and when all all finally moved out a month later - everything was still dead.

    The landlord didn't charge us anything.

  • +5

    Next time, if the garden and the avocado tree are important to you, pay a gardener to maintain your garden (you pay and include the garden maintenance fee in the rent you charge from your tenant). In the last years, I was a tenant at two different properties where a gardener was included, and they will visit every 2-3 months to tidy the garden, check the irrigation system, etc.

  • +5

    As an ex tenant with zero gardening experience prior to buying, I advise that if you want your rental's garden looked after the way you like, to engage a gardener and to include the costs of the gardener in the rent.

    If not, as a tenant I am going to do absolutely nothing until the next inspection report which tells me I am doing something wrong with the garden.

  • -2

    Your property manager was probably at fault here by not properly vetting tenants and presenting that information to you for you to decide who will live in your property.

  • If your agent is ruthless they'll trick the tenant out of the bond to pay you. My friend rented a place from HT Wills Real Estate. There was a little dark patch on the carpet from a pot plant. The agent there said they'd just take it out of the bond to clean it, it was fine just a little thing. They submitted papers to take 100% of the bond. I told my friend that didn't sound right, they'd claim however much it cost not the whole $2k+. But the lady from HT Wills (I think it was a partner) was oh so persuasive.

    Anyway, long story short, guess how much of the bond they refunded 'after costs'?

    0 much

    Anyway, tenants suck, don't rent out in this climate, more trouble than it's worth.

    • May be tenant negotiate the lease upfront to cover the bond. This is what i used to do when i was leasing. I make sure i negotiate a discount on the lease that will eventually cover my bond or part of it. And not to lease brand new properties. Some landlords expect to return as it is and they do not expect any tear and wear.

  • +2

    I don’t think it’s fair to expect tenants to take care of a young/fledgling plant with the same degree of attention that an owner would. Not reasonable at all.

  • +1

    You know it's late when you mistakenly read it as

    "Tenant Killed By Avocado Tree and Lawn"…

    would've made for a good read though lol

  • +3

    I don’t avocardo, have to catch public transport

  • +4

    Avocado trees die easy - they hate wet feet so definitely don’t water them everyday unless there is excellent drainage. Definitely don’t bother planting one in clay soil because that would be a waste of money. Avo trees are expensive and at first rain they will die if they’re in clay. Side note: the tree won’t fruit unless there is it’s opposite sex nearby.

    In regards to your lawn: lawn is a bitch to maintain. It’s highly likely lawn grubs took one look at your fresh green lawn and ate it. Then weeds set up in the dead patches and started spreading. If you want lawn, you need to weed and feed all the time. You need to use herbicides and pesticides and water it all the time. I bloody hate lawn. If you can’t maintain it properly, it’ll soon become a mess.

    If you want nice lawn and gardens, hire a gardener. You can’t expect a tenant to be able to maintain these. Even you don’t know what type of turf you have.

  • +1

    Who planted avocado tree at rentals?

  • +4

    My friend rents and his landlord values the garden so they send in a Gardener every fortnight. If you valued your lawn and trees pay for it yourself.

  • -2

    Honestly nothing you can do - VCAT is mostly useless and nothing cant force the tenant to pay the money - if they have moved out chances are they already have their bond back

    Welcome to being a landlord

    You will now learn a valuable lesson when you get 'good tenants' keep them for as long as you can and when you get bad tenants the system is so geared against landlords it isnt funny

  • +1

    Man if you're worried about crap like that id hate to see how you would cope with some of the tenants i had. Part of the reason i sold that house, just in a location that would attract a certain type of person and i didn't wanna deal with it anymore.

    It's just how it works, I don't think it's worthwhile chasing rubbish like that up, that's just petty. You need to be prepared to face the fact that other people don't treat others belongings like you would. Unfortunate

  • +2

    Isn't the landlord responsible for gardening?

  • +1

    Obviously a troll post.

  • +1

    Let this one go. Its not something that is easy to prove. I don't think it can be argued that the avo tree is tenants responsibility.
    as others said, perhaps outline the maintenance of the grass for next tenant contract.

  • +6

    Mate, I don't meant to be rude, but why did you even expect the tenant to mind the plants in the yard? They pay you money to have a place where they can rest their heads, feel comfortable and at peace - not to have a checklist of your expectations towards them. The deal is they don't trash the place, and pay rent on time. In return, you have a passive income/mortgage repayments source.

    Basic maintenance of the premises is on them, not gardening duties, which often are a lot more time-consuming than one might think. Have you ever rented yourself before, and felt like it was your responsibility to water somebody else's plants?

  • +1

    At $2.50 an avocado, the tenant could have paid the rent off by selling them to hipsters

    • +1

      You need at least two avocado trees one of type A and other of type B to pollinate and bear fruit. Not a joke - I was surprised when I learned that couple of years ago.

      • What a croc

  • Grass should survive without watering and young trees often die. The only chance they would not die is that someone who really knew what they were doing with avocodo trees and wasn't too busy just surviving life to think about looking after it.

    Really can't understand why you are upset sorry. This outcome is just the reality of gardens.

  • HAHAHAH

    Good luck wasting your time on that. It’ll be quicker to grow a new tree for the next tenant to destroy.

  • Seems like a waste of time. Grass grows back, let the next tenant worry about the dead patch of grass. As for the tree, shouldn't have planted it if you were attached to it and were going to rent the property out. They are poisonous to dogs, perhaps the tenants killed it on purpose if they had pets? Your description of 'skin peeled off' sounds like it was ring-barked.

    Half my yard's lawn was dead when i got some new tenants in middle of last year. The lawn is now completely green again. Lots of rain helps it come back strong.

  • +4

    Tenant is not your gardener, he is not trained nor paid to try to keep your plants alive. None of us know if the tenant was able bodied, or in the right state of mind to look after the lawn/garden - given they have been late with rent and the overall state of the economy in past 12 months it is not out of question if he had higher priorities on his mind (e.g. putting food on the table, earning money to pay rent etc…)

    So please, cry me a river before you buy next investment property. It seems that everyone in Australia forgot that house is a home first and foremost and not some get rich quick scheme.

    And if you really want the garden/lawn to survive with the next tenant you should probably factor the cost into the rent and hire a professional to do gardening every fortnight.

  • Don't plant something young and expect a tenant to look after it. Just let it go and chalk this up as an annoying experience but you now know better.

  • +2

    Did you really expect them to water an avocado tree daily for a year?

  • +1

    Maybe they loved with too much water or missed a weekly soil test and pH was only 5.5

    Bunnings Growing tips
    "Full sun is a must for avocado. Try to choose a location that is protected from strong winds. Established trees are very hardy, but a tree that remains waterlogged for as little as 48 hours can die, even if it is quite mature.

    Soil should be good quality and free draining. Improve average soil with quality compost before planting. If you have clay soil, create a large planting mound above the clay. Avocados will tolerate soil from slightly acid to slightly alkaline. Anywhere from pH 6 to 7 is ideal"

    plot twist, maybe it was you……
    "Avocado has extremely sensitive roots – any disturbance can kill a young tree. Avoid disturbing the roots while planting"

    Plants are hard work, especially fruiting trees. Nice thought to have but not for a rental

  • I think put it as a learning experience move on and let it go. It was a 3 week tree, and a hard tree to rare even by experienced gardeners let alone a Tennant. Replace with low maintenance plants that will be self sufficient.

  • +4

    If you are particular about your lawn, hire a garden handyman or landscaper to do regular maintenance and factor the cost in the rent, that's what my previous landlord did and made life easier for both parties.

  • -2

    Wait, an RA said this ISN'T worth pursuing?

    Surely the default answer is, claim their whole bond, wait and see.

  • My suggestion is the same as some other posters, charge them for the lawnmowing, gardening as part of the rental contract and the mowing service can water the garden and plants.

    Easy!

    Wouldn't worry about the grass and you can repair it next spring.

  • +3

    If these are your worst issues then you probably had a decent tenant.

    You might want to revaluate your expectations. A fkn avocado tree? I wouldn't be looking after your precious high maintenance trees unless it was something I wanted or if it mattered so much I can apply to be the gardener for a fee.

    Why not just dip into their bond like every other greedy entitled investor.

  • -3

    Keep their bond and claim any other damages on Landlord Insurance if you have it. Probably too much hassle to take it to Tribunal, it will end up costing you more in legal fees.

  • Mulch the garden? This would be easier to maintain for future tenant/s.

  • +2

    Let it go.
    -Elsa

  • Barely established plants die, that's how it goes.

  • Avocados aren’t hard in warm, sunny conditions and iron rich, sandy soil but they really need a buddy to produce fruit. Growing one avocado tree won’t work too well. They’ll also want a lot less water than a lawn.