Every year, new landlords expect their tenants to complete basic yard work, and every year, new landlords are disappointed. Most renters don’t concern themselves with outdoor maintenance; even if yard care is part of the rental agreement, few tenants understand the effort landlords expect to keep a yard looking attractive and vibrant.
A particular point of contention on most rental properties is the lawn. Though it might look effortless, verdant grass requires obscene effort to maintain, most of which must occur regularly and often. Because a good-looking lawn is a serious asset for rental properties, it can be dangerous to leave its care up in the air. Instead, landlords and property managers should consider the following options for lawn care responsibility.
Full-Service Lawn Care Providers
When the landlord assumes sole responsibility for lawn care, it is a full-service lawn care agreement. Often, this type of agreement extends to all aspects of outdoor maintenance, including raking leaves, shoveling snow, picking weeds, and other typical yard care activities, as well as the various requirements to keep a lawn happy and healthy, such as fertilization, aeration, mowing, reseeding, and more.
A landlord with one property might not find it terribly difficult to complete these tasks personally, but it can be backbreaking work for landlords with a handful of yards to watch over. Therefore, landlords with full-service agreements might prefer to hire lawn care professionals to manage the work, instead. Partnering with one provider definitely saves a landlord time, but it can also save money, as lawn care professionals have more knowledge and are better equipped to give lawns what they need, like pre-emergent weed killer and pesticides. This can in turn lead to improved energy efficiency and lower utility bills for tenant and landlord alike.
Plus, most landlords who employ a professional service can reasonably add the cost onto the tenant’s rent, thus recouping any potential losses. Ultimately, a professional will keep a property’s lawn looking good year-round, whereas less-experienced landlords and tenants might allow the lawn to die a slow death.
Self-Service Lawn Care Agreement
In contrast, a self-service lawn care agreement stipulates that tenants are responsible for the entirety of lawn maintenance. This type of agreement provides a few benefits: Landlords don’t worry about added costs of lawn services, and tenants don’t worry about added costs to their monthly rent. Additionally, tenants can avoid being surprised by the intrusion of yard workers and schedule the lawn care for precisely when the lawn needs it.
Unfortunately, this type of agreement rarely yields satisfying results. Tenants may fail to adhere to the agreement, and the lawn suffers ― sometimes irreparably. It is much more expensive to replace a dead lawn than to maintain a living one. Worse, some properties may fall under the jurisdiction of strict homeowners’ associations or municipalities that can levy penalties against unkempt yards, and homeowners ― that is to say landlords ― are responsible for any fines. A self-service agreement is only viable if a landlord is confident in the trustworthiness of his or her tenants.
A-la-Carte Lawn Care Collaboration
If a full-service agreement isn’t possible and a self-service agreement is untenable, landlords and tenants might consider working together to care for the lawn. A-la-carte agreements divvy up the duties of yard care so both parties have an appropriate level of responsibility. The key is to divide the tasks so both tenants and landlords feel a lessened burden.
For example, tenants might be required to mow the lawn every other week, but lawn care professionals will complete more advanced jobs that occur less frequently, like fertilizing and reseeding. Alternatively, tenants might water the lawn adequately while the landlord assumes payment of the water bill. In both cases, the landlord doesn’t assume massive regular costs, and the tenant doesn’t devote large chunks of time to lawn care.
No matter what type of lawn care landlords and their tenants decide upon, it is vital that both parties get the agreement in writing. The lease is the only document with legal clout, so what the lease states in regards to lawn care matters. In instances when the lease is silent, the landlord is usually responsible for maintenance of common areas, which means landlords have no legal recourse if tenants allow their lawns to die. Landlords who love their lawns would do best to know what kind of care they can expect before allowing the lease to be signed.