Can I hold my tenants deposit for killing the biggest tree in my yard if it was their responsibility to water the mature trees and shrubs?

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Can I hold my tenants deposit for killing the biggest tree in my yard if it was their responsibility to water the mature trees and shrubs?

My previous tenants agreed to keep the mature trees and shrubs in living condition by watering them as needed. A landscaper was provided every two weeks to maintain the growth and health of the entire landscape. Landscaped was paid by landlord. If problems occurred with the irrigation system, tenant was to notify the landlord. The summer was hot this year but all that means is the tree needed to watered more frequent per the environmental conditions. My tenants are trying to pin the health of the tree on the landscaper. The landscaper prunes, trims, and fertilizes.

Asked on October 25, 2011 under Real Estate Law, Arizona

Answers:

FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

Whether or not you are even entitled to retain the security deposit of your tenants for allegedly killing the largest tree in the yard of the home you were renting to them depends upon the terms of the written lease assuming you have one. The terms of the lease controls the obligations owed to you by the tenants and vice versa in the absence of conflicting state law.

The problem that I see from your perspective is trying to place an obligation upon your tenants to water the trees at your property and to prove that their failure actually caused the death of the tree rather than something else.

Another problem that I foresee is that the holding back of your tenants' security deposit may result in a lawsuit against you for wrongful retention of it especially if your written lease has an attorneys fees clause within it with your tenants.

Good luck.


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