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Lawn care and the great debate: As the landlord, how should you handle who is responsible for mowing the lawn, pulling the weeds and raking the leaves?

It’s officially fall, and this time of year brings football, hot apple cider, pumpkin carving, and other seasonal delights. And, you might have noticed the temperatures are beginning to get a little crisp and there is a nip in the air. The tree-lined neighborhoods are filled with beautiful shades of yellow, orange and red, but for homeowners with trees on their property, autumn calls to mind one thing above all else: raking leaves.

A good-looking lawn requires a lot of hard work, and is a source of pride for any homeowner. A well-maintained landscape adds value to your property, and it is as important to maintain as the interior of the premises. As a landlord, you should always be interested in maintaining the property. But, not all leases address outdoor maintenance. That being said, our recommendation to you as a landlord is to specify your responsibilities, and your tenant’s responsibilities in your lease agreement. Don’t be forgetful or neglectful!

It is important to discuss your expectations with your renters and critical to include responsibility terms in your lease agreement. With this in mind, there are three different approaches for lawn care (self-service, full-service or a-la-carte), and you’ll want to make sure that you consider all of the rules, regulations and laws in your local communities and home owner associations (HOA’s).

1.  Self-Service Lawn Care 

A self-service lawn care agreement means the tenant is responsible for all aspects of lawn care, i.e. raking, mowing, fertilizing, watering, weeding, and any other care or maintenance needed. The advantage to this scenario is you, the landlord, don’t have to deal with it. However, there is a downside if a tenant neglects the lawn completely or doesn’t care for the lawn as agreed to. In some areas, penalties and fines can be imposed on the property owner from their local municipality if the lawn is un-kept and homeowner associations can do the same.

2.  Full Service Lawn Care

A full service lawn care agreement is when the landlord takes responsibility for all of the lawn care. In this scenario, the landlord generally will hire a professional lawn care service to care and maintain the lawn. The downside to this option is that it may become expensive, but landlords tend to include this added fee into the rent.

3.  A-La-Carte Agreement

An a-la-carte agreement is a middle of the road agreement between a landlord and their tenants. For example, as the landlord you could offer to pay for the water bill and offer to fertilize the lawn, while your tenants would be responsible for raking, weeding, mowing and watering. This agreement can be beneficial to both parties since responsibilities are shared. One client shared that she had historically always paid a lawn service company, when her newest renter-to-be asked if she could maintain a garden and care for the lawn. The a-la-carte approach became a win-win.

Although we might dread the annual rite of raking leaves, it is important to remember that lawn maintenance isn’t only about looks. And while these outdoor chores may seem slightly intimidating to the uninitiated, some basic planning and clear communication will help you and your renters easily address these responsibilities. Remember, the first step is to decide what will work best for you and your tenants, and try to be as flexible as possible. Weigh the pros and cons, check local laws and neighborhood regulations, discuss your options and put everything in the rental agreement.

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