As a landlord or property investor in the UK, optimising your rental property’s outdoor space can increase its appeal for tenants and maximise year-round usability. Investing in proper landscaping and amenities can transform a basic back garden into a multifunctional area your tenants will be eager to use in all seasons. Outdoor spaces are highly desired by renters looking for an area to relax, entertain friends and enjoy that all-important connection with nature.
Therefore, ensuring your property has well-maintained outdoor features with seasonal enhancements can provide an attractive point of differentiation over other rentals. This allows you to command higher rents and minimise voids. This guide will provide tips on how to create a low-maintenance, inviting outdoor area your tenants can comfortably use in any season, from the plants you should add to how to accommodate different markets and outlining who is responsible for what.
The Importance of Outdoor Space for Renters
Having an appealing outdoor area can be a major selling point for renters in the UK. Surveys consistently show that access to outdoor space ranks highly on renters’ wish lists when evaluating potential properties. According to Rightmove data, the presence of a garden, balcony or patio is one of the most desirable features for tenants.
For many renters, having an outdoor area provides extra living space. It’s somewhere to relax, entertain friends, enjoy nature and get fresh air. During the pandemic, having private outdoor space became even more important for tenants spending more time at home, and it would seem that even as life has returned to normal, that demand hasn’t slowed down. Gardens and patios provide necessary venues for socialising and give us a dose of nature even when you’re living in the city.
Beyond lifestyle perks, well-maintained gardens, lawns and landscaping also enhance a property’s kerb appeal and perceived value. Properties with tidy, functional outdoor areas tend to command higher rents per square foot compared to similar rentals without usable outdoor space. Outdoor features also make your listing stand out in a sea of online rental ads, helping attract more prospective tenants faster.
Given the strong demand from renters for outdoor space, investing in proper landscaping, hardscaping and amenities can maximise your rental’s appeal. Thoughtful outdoor improvements will pay dividends in the form of lower vacancy rates, higher rents and longer-staying tenants who appreciate the outdoor area’s usability and comfort.
Incorporating hardscaping features creates structure and extends usability of outdoor spaces. Hardscapes like patios, pathways and decks provide solid surfaces for furniture, dining areas and foot traffic flow through the garden.
Popular patio materials like stone, brick and concrete delineate functional zones for relaxation, cooking and gardening. Using a combination of hardscape materials adds visual interest. For example, a brick patio surrounded by a stone path creates textural contrast.
Wooden decks and arbours made of attractive, weather-resistant tropical hardwoods like ipe provide durable, low-maintenance alternatives to patio pavers. Decks can also connect the house to patio areas for a cohesive flow. Pergolas are highly desirable for shelter and support for climbing plants or shelter for seating and tables. They essentially create an outdoor room that can be furnished with a table, lounge chairs and outdoor rugs.
In addition to functional uses, hardscaping lends aesthetic appeal and complements the garden design. For example, a gravel pathway winding through flower beds or a stone-stacked water feature adds natural-looking elements. Creative hardscaping allows you to create outdoor spaces tailored to a renter’s needs whether for dining al fresco, children’s play areas or quietly reading surrounded by nature.
The UK climate provides opportunities to enjoy outdoor spaces for much of the year. However, the change of seasons also requires some adjustments to maximise usability and comfort for your tenants.
During summer, focus on creating shaded areas where tenants can escape the midday and afternoon sun. Strategically planting deciduous trees or installing canopies creates cooler areas for relaxation. Transitioning to autumn, these covered areas will protect tenants from rain showers and can be a great way to enable residents to use their garden in cooler weather too, especially when paired with heaters and outdoor lighting.
Even in winter, gardens can provide appeal. By adding wipeable furniture, the garden will be easy to keep clean and tidy in preparation for the following spring. Evergreen shrubs and trees like pines, hollies and boxwoods maintain visual interest when deciduous plants go dormant. No matter the season, a well-designed garden gives tenants attractive outdoor views from inside the rental too.
Allowing tenants to have pets can boost your rental’s appeal. According to research, 76% of tenants currently own or aspire to own a pet. Accommodating dogs, cats and other companion animals can attract more prospective tenants, but this needs to be taken into account when it comes to outdoor spaces.
If you decide to open your rental to pets, incorporate some pet-friendly landscaping such as designated pet areas which allow animals to enjoy the outdoor space without damaging plantings. Install pet waste stations with bags and bins to encourage owners to promptly clean up after their pets to keep the garden clean and hygienic. You can also add in water stations for hydrating pets when they’re outdoors.
Consider installing a dog run if space allows — an enclosed area where pets can exercise off-lead safely. The run should have 6-foot fencing, a latched gate and adequate drainage. Pea gravel or wood chips make good permeable surfaces. To reduce noise, place dog runs away from the rental’s windows.
Pet-safe landscaping also involves avoiding toxic plants and incorporating durable materials. Steer clear of poisonous species like yew trees which are toxic to pets and opt instead for hardy grasses like fescues for high traffic areas. Similarly, you can add in mulches like pine straw that won’t irritate paws.
With some pet-friendly additions, you can accommodate tenants with companion animals and expand your rental pool. Just be sure to outline pet policies and waste cleanup responsibilities in your lease agreements.
When selecting plants for your rental’s landscaping, focus on low-maintenance varieties suitable for the UK climate. Native plants that are adapted to local soil and weather conditions typically require less upkeep once established.
Favour perennial flowers and shrubs over high-maintenance annuals that require replanting every year. Perennials like day lilies, lavender and rudbeckia thrive for years with minimal care. Likewise, evergreen flowering shrubs like camellias, azaleas and rhododendrons provide year-round structure and seasonal blooms.
When adding trees, consider smaller varieties like crabapples, Japanese maples and ornamental cherries that fit nicely in modest-sized gardens. They provide focal points and shade without overtaking the space, which is key in a smaller garden.
Planting native plants also benefits local wildlife. Birdbaths, berry-producing shrubs, and nectar sources attract pollinators and birds for tenants’ viewing pleasure. Avoid invasive species or plants vulnerable to common diseases by seeking out hardy, pest-resistant varieties suitable for your region. With smart plant selection, you can create a low-maintenance, vibrant landscape able to withstand the variable UK climate.
A lush, healthy lawn is key for creating an attractive outdoor space for tenants. Proper mowing, watering, feeding and care will keep your rental property’s lawn looking pristine in all seasons, and it’s a relatively easy task for tenants. Be sure to provide tenants with a lawnmower as part of the property’s furnishings in order to promote a well-cared for lawn.
Tenants should be encouraged to water deeply but infrequently, providing about an inch of water per week which is sufficient for most lawn types. As a landlord, you can overseed any thin or bare patches in early autumn or spring so the grass fills back in with thickness before summer heat arrives.
Apply a controlled-release fertiliser once or twice per year to provide steady nutrition without excessive top growth and monitor regularly to adjust your watering and fertilising if the lawn seems stalled or overly vigorous. Deal promptly with problem spots prone to erosion, pet damage or weeds by hand pulling small weed invaders before they spread.
For areas with dense shade or high traffic, consider alternative durable ground covers instead of grass. With a little attention and occasional troubleshooting, your rental’s lawn can maintain its appeal and usability regardless of the season or weather conditions.
Outline Tenant Responsibilities
While landlords are responsible for major landscaping projects and repairs, tenants do share basic upkeep duties per the rental agreement. Tenants must return the property in the same general condition as at move-in, and the garden is included in that.
Landlords can, of course, create their own outline, but generally speaking there are certain tasks that tenants are expected to do for themselves. Tenants should be expected to regularly mow the lawn, keep weeds in check and dispose of garden waste properly. Flowerbeds and paths should be kept tidy of debris and overgrowth. Pruning of shrubs under six feet tall is also considered a tenant task in most cases
However, tenants cannot be required to take on major pruning or tree trimming, as this requires professional expertise. They are also not obligated to improve the landscaping beyond its original state. Social events like small garden gatherings are permitted unless expressly prohibited in the rental agreement. Tenants are responsible for any nuisance, noise or damage caused by themselves or guests.
If a tenant wishes to make any permanent changes or plantings, they must obtain the landlord’s approval in advance and in writing. Failure to do so means the landlord can charge the tenant for removal and restoration costs. Clearly outlining responsibilities in the lease agreement prevents confusion. With clear communication, the outdoor space can remain inviting for all.
Keep it Simple
When improving your rental property’s outdoor space, focus on quality over quantity. Avoid overdeveloping the garden with high-maintenance features that become a burden for you as a landlord, and your tenants.
For example, it’s worth limiting paving and patios to functional sizes. Excessive paving can lead to drainage issues from rainwater runoff, which can pose its own problems later on. Consider more permeable materials like gravel or wood decking instead of extensive concrete or brick patios. It’s also advisable to skip the installation of a pool or hot tub unless you’re opting for modest dimensions that fit the space. If you’re marketing your property as upscale and luxury, a pool can be a big selling point, but it can otherwise be another maintenance task that tenants have to take on, which can be off-putting.
In general, emphasise hardy, low-care features that work with the space over touches that demand constant attention. Sometimes less is more when upgrading a rental’s garden. Focus on quality elements and consider who you’re marketing the property to. A student let, for example, is likely to be more successful if it’s easy to maintain compared to a property marketed to an older generation who may revel in the opportunity to tend to the garden. The result is an inviting outdoor oasis for tenants, not an overwhelming burden of upkeep for the landlord or tenant.
Reaping the Benefits of Outdoor Investment
Creating an inviting outdoor space at your rental property pays dividends in increased tenant satisfaction, reduced turnover and higher rental yields. Investing in landscaping and outdoor amenities can transform an ordinary garden or patio area into a highly functional space for relaxation and entertaining year-round.
Focus on selecting low-maintenance plants suitable for the UK climate and incorporate hardscaping like patios and decks to delineate spaces. This also reduces the lawn care required for the garden, which is particularly helpful for larger spaces. Add weather-resistant furnishings and fixtures to maximise usability and comfort — elements like pergolas, furniture and retractable shades make the space enjoyable in any season.
With proper attention paid your rental’s outdoor space becomes an attractive oasis for tenants. The relatively modest upfront investment in landscaping and maintenance is recouped many times over as your outdoor space stands out from the competition. By providing tenants with an outdoor area they can enjoy comfortably regardless of season, you create a prime renter’s paradise.