I had a neighbor who rented the house across the street for many years and he loved to cut the lawn. As a single renter, he had a lawn mower and the time to cut the grass. But lawn maintenance is not an option for every renter and both landlord and tenant must agree before signing a lease.
Who is responsible for Rental Property Lawn Maintenance? Unless otherwise stated in the lease, if the tenant rented a property that includes exclusive use of the lawn, then the tenant should expect to be responsible for maintenance. This can include a variety of tasks beyond cutting the grass.
There are many factors that should be considered by both the landlord and the tenant regarding expectations, ability and resources that are worth considering.
Why is the tenant responsible for lawn maintenance?
When a renter takes possession of a rental property, they are agreeing to abide by the terms of the lease. In most lease agreements there will be terms that specifically designate who is responsible for lawn care as well as other maintenance duties.
In some cases, the landlord may have failed to cover specific maintenance items in their lease. When this happens, it is important to look at what exactly is being rented. Does the tenant have exclusive use of the yard? If so, they should expect to maintain it.
One way to look at this is who is responsible for maintaining the interior of a rental home. Who vacuums, cleans the toilets, or the inside of the refrigerator?
When someone rents a property, they are expected to return that property in the exact same condition as they received it. When damage or disrepair occurs, the landlord will take money from the security deposit to cover it.
One exception to this is with multi-unit rentals where a yard might be shared between multiple tenants. Since the tenant only has exclusive possession of their individual unit, they can’t be expected to maintain the outdoors for other renters. In this case, the landlord would typically maintain the common areas including the lawn.
What would a landlord expect a renter do to maintain a lawn?
The thought of hopping on a ride-on mower for 15-20 minutes each week may not seem too dreadful. But lawn maintenance is hardly that simple.
When there are lots of trees and bushes around the lawn, it can take multiple passes to get all the grass. In the springtime, when the grass is growing thick, the clippings can get clumped up if not cut at the right height and speed. This is unsightly and can damage the grass.
Some other things that proper maintenance of grass might include are:
- Bagging and disposal of the grass clippings (some towns have roadside pickup)
- Weed trimming
- Using a leaf blower to remove clippings from sidewalks and driveway
- Watering the lawn
- Fertilizer / weed killer / bug treatments
Typically, yard work consists of more than just cutting grass. Other chores that need to be done to keep a property looking good are:
- Trimming bushes
- Maintaining trees
- Raking leaves (and disposing them)
Challenges a renter must consider before agreeing to lawn maintenance
While a renter may be pretty agreeable to taking care of the lawn at their new rental property, it would be prudent to review a few points to make sure they are up for the task.
The first thing a renter must consider is who will supply the equipment. This may include a tractor or push mower, weed trimmer, leaf blower, rake, hedge trimmer, and saw.
Just as important as having the equipment is who will maintain or repair these tools. Changing the oil along with gas and air filters are necessary to keep a mower going. Charging a battery, adding air to tires, replacing belts and an occasional spring go with the territory.
A weed trimmer will need new line throughout the summer.
It is also important to know who will buy the gas, and where it will be stored. Many gas engines require additives to keep them running properly.
Knowledge / skill
When it comes to cutting grass one of the most important factors is setting the mower to the right height. Too low and the grass can burn out. Too high and it may not grow very thick.
Different types of bushes need to be trimmed at various times throughout the year. Often this depends on when the flowers bloom.
You wouldn’t trim a decorative Japanese Red Maple the same way you would Rhododendron.
Do you have the time to maintain a lawn?
Keep in mind, bigger lawns will require much more of your time.
What do you do if the results are not good or as expected?
Important issues a landlord must assess before assigning lawn care to a tenant
Giving responsibility to the tenant to take care of the yard work will certainly save time and money. This will enable a landlord to spend more time with family or pursue other rental investment opportunities. It will also make the rental property more profitable.
While it may seem like a great idea to require your tenant to maintain the lawn of your rental property, there are a lot of things a landlord should consider first.
Safety issues with a renter completes lawn work
Tenants could get hurt – So many things could go wrong including flying objects from a mower, falling branches, moving parts on the mower, and cuts from hedge trimmers. A tenant who is not fit to complete the work could suffer injury from pushing a mower or lifting a bag of leaves.
Someone else could get hurt – A renter who is inexperienced in lawn maintenance could injure someone else or something nearby. Kids playing in the area, someone walking on the street or a car parked near the property.
Fuel spills dangerous to animals – Keep in mind any pets or animals that may be harmed from fuel or fluid spills.
Damage caused by the renter when maintaining a lawn
Over-fertilize or use of weed killer – If your tenant attempts to apply fertilizer or weed killer it could damage the lawn. If not applied at the proper rate and time of year, a lawn can quickly get burned out and will need to be reseeded.
Lack of water – As temperatures rise in the summer months, it can cause havoc on a lawn. Grass will require regular water. This might mean a tenant will need to use a hose and sprinkler. It is also important to note that rental homes with well water could have the well pump burned out if it is on for too long.
Broken windows from flying objects – Believe it or not it happens a lot. Small rocks can shoot out from a mower and always seem to find the biggest picture window or car windshield. A mower can run over a hose or an electrical wire requiring an emergency repair to your rental.
Will your insurance cover damage or injury? – Finally, it is important to check with your insurance company to make sure you are covered if a tenant causes injury or damage.
Other factors that could impact lawn maintenance of a rental
State and local laws may have something to say about requiring a tenant to do lawn maintenance on a rental property. It is important for you to verify this before making it a requirement in a lease.
If a rental property is part of a community, the homeowner’s association may also have some rules on lawn maintenance and who is permitted to complete tasks. It will be worth it to seek out this information as a landlord prepares terms for new renters.
An alternative to a renter maintaining the lawn
A solution that could be beneficial to both landlord and tenant is for the landlord to hire a professional landscaper to complete all yard work. The cost of this service could be built into the price of the rent and spread across the entire year.
A landlord might think this will make it harder to rent, but one could argue that a lawn that is professionally cared for will look better and show that the property is properly managed.
You will want to read the other tips I assembled on finding tenants without an agent.
An added benefit is that the rental is presentable to future tenants. Rental property owners must always consider their return on investment. When a rental has continuous occupancy and steady flow of rent, the value will increase more rapidly.
Some landlords may not care about lawn maintenance
Clearly there are many things to consider when deciding who will be responsible for rental property lawn maintenance. While a landlord may not be concerned about too many of the details mentioned above, it is important to consider everything and set expectations in advance so there are no misunderstandings once a tenant moves in.