Rental Property Yard Maintenance: Is a Renter Responsible for Lawn Care?
Grass grows, weeds sprout and leaves fall. Yard work never ends and is likely the most demanding maintenance responsibility of owning a rental property. But are property owners responsible for these tasks? Or, is the tenant responsible for lawn care?
Most likely, you and your tenant want the home to have a well-kept yard. You just may disagree on who's responsible for maintaining everything. That's why it's crucial to include provisions for who handles lawn care and how often in your lease agreement.
Ultimately, it's up to the landlord to decide. But, to avoid an overgrown lawn that's full of weeds, you need a plan. Here's a look at why regular yard maintenance matters, how to decide who should handle it and why you need these details in the lease agreement.
Why does lawn care matter?
Homes with pristine lawns and colorful flower beds have the best curb appeal. And regular yard maintenance is a critical step in maintaining that look. A beautiful yard and attractive home will help you attract tenants in the future and even buyers when you decide to sell the home. You can potentially recoup 267 percent of the cost of regular lawn care, including mowing, fertilizing and weeding when you sell your home, according to the National Association of Realtors. Keep in mind, too, that it's cheaper to pay for regular maintenance than to redo the entire lawn if you let it become unkempt.
Rental property lawn maintenance also keeps pests and critters from settling in that could eventually migrate into the rental home, leading to an infestation. Healthy ground covering and adequate drainage are crucial for keeping the home's foundation secure. Water runoff and poor drainage could lead to more significant, costlier problems, so it's best to focus on the yard's upkeep.
And some cities, neighborhoods or homeowners associations require you to maintain your yard. Neglecting these duties could lead to a hefty fine.
Should you handle the rental property yard maintenance?
Choosing to handle the yard work yourself or hiring someone to do it for you makes sense for some property owners. This ensures the maintenance gets done regularly and that it gets done well. The cost of lawn mowing and upkeep averages about $126 per project, while landscaping can cost anywhere from $50 to $700, depending on the work, according to HomeAdvisor.
Handling the rental property lawn maintenance is a perk that many renters will appreciate and could help you rent your home quickly. You can factor the cost into the monthly rent and claim it as a deduction on your tax return. Ultimately, keeping your lawn healthy and looking great is in your best interest and can generate a generous return on investment (ROI).
Why should lawn care be covered in your lease agreement?
If you plan to make the tenant responsible for lawn care, spell it out in the lease agreement. The lease should stipulate which tasks a renter should handle — mowing, raking leaves, weeding and watering — and how often to do the maintenance. Including lawn care in the lease agreement, which you and the tenant sign, ensures everyone is on the same page.
There are several ways to cover lawn care in your lease agreement, through a full-service, self-service or ala carte agreement. Here's a look at these provisions.
Full-service lawn care agreement
In a full-service lawn care agreement, the property owner handles all lawn care, according to Real Property Management Platinum. This can include mowing, raking leaves, weeding and watering, but also shoveling snow and other outdoor tasks. It's often a good idea to hire a professional lawn service company to handle this for you to keep the yard in tip-top shape.
While that will cost you out of pocket, keeping up the yard will save you time and money in the long run. Professionals are more knowledgeable and have access to higher-quality equipment so the lawn stays in great shape. You can always pass along the costs to the tenant by adding them to the rent.
Self-service lawn care agreement
A renter is responsible for lawn care in a self-service agreement. Property owners benefit because they don't have to pay for yard work, and tenants don't have to worry about paying extra rent. However, tenants may not hold up their end of the agreement and neglect lawn care. This could have significant consequences for property owners. A neglected lawn is costly to repair, and you could incur fines or fees from your HOA or municipality.
If you're going the self-service lawn care agreement route, be specific in your lease agreement. Specify what lawn care tasks the renter needs to perform and how often. Make it clear that not abiding by these requirements could result in the renter violating the lease and possible eviction.
A la carte lawn care agreement
This type of agreement is when property owners and tenants agree to share the lawn care duties. For example, renters might be required to mow the lawn twice a month, but a lawn care service, paid for by the property owner, handles more in-depth tasks like fertilizing. Tenants are responsible for watering the lawn every day, while the property owner agrees to pay the water bill.
Dividing up the lawn care duties can keep your costs down, so you don't have to increase rent, which tenants will appreciate. Just include the details of an a la carte lawn care agreement in the lease agreement, including who's responsible for which tasks, how often to do them and the consequences if the renter doesn't hold up their end of the agreement.
Is a renter responsible for lawn care?
It's up to you, as the rental property owner, who handles the rental property lawn maintenance. Managing it yourself or hiring a professional lawn care company ensures that yard maintenance gets completed in a timely and high-quality manner. Making a renter responsible for lawn care reduces your costs, but you'll have to hold them accountable. Either way, specify who's responsible for lawn care in your lease agreement.