Owners who rent their properties are faced with several related issues when it comes to lawn care. No one rule can cover all property types. Determining what are reasonable tenant requirements begins with considering the property type, the building and its outbuildings or storage, and the likely tenant who will live in the property. The following are some suggestions as to what is normal in Indianapolis property management when creating tenant obligations for lawn care.
In a typical lease, the tenant is to maintain the exterior lawn and landscaping. Lawn mowing is required to meet community standards. Care means nourishment and weed control such as provided by fertilization and weed control. For many tenants, they will desire to have their lawn reflect those of the community due to their own pride in their home. Unfortunately, there are limits to how and when a lease lawn care clause is appropriate.
Single Family Lawn Care
In a single family residence, the normal expectation is your tenants should maintain the lawn along with other exterior upkeep within reason. Another post can be written on the term “within reason” but we will limit this discussion to lawn care.
It is in the landlord’s best interest to provide storage space for lawn equipment. In most single family residences, this will be a garage. If the property does not include a garage, then the owner should provide an exterior locking shed.
The tenants can also hire a lawn service. Many property managers contract with lawn services and a tenant might be able to fulfill their obligation through their property manager. Of course, there are many other options also for third-party providers of lawn care.
Duplex Lawn Care
Duplex properties present the most gray area for determining the best way to handle lawn care. When determining the policy for a property, we advise an owner to consider the following.
- Does the property offer any place where lawn equipment may be safely stored?
- Are there clear boundaries between the units for ease of determining who is responsible for which areas of the property?
- Will the likely tenant be somebody who will have the ability to maintain the lawn?
In a duplex the answer to each of these questions is often a strong “No”. Yet duplex owners often set terms that insist their tenants provide lawn care. It is often a recipe for a unkempt lawn, lease violation penalties and expensive government citations.
If any of these questions can be answered positively, then it might be reasonable to place the burden on the tenants for lawn care and let them work it out for themselves. Unfortunately, this usually means one tenant takes on the responsibility. Everything seems to work out fine until the tenant handling lawn care moves out.
Duplex owners would be well advised (in particular if they can’t answer any of these questions positively), to follow the course suggested for three to four unit properties.
Three to Four Unit Lawn Care
In a building larger than a duplex, but not in the small multi-family category, the options are more limited. These tenants typically consider like an apartment and do not expect or plan to perform exterior maintenance. There are two possible ways to approach lawn care in a three to four unit building.
- Owner pays a lawn service. The expense is like any expense incurred in the ownership of the building.
- Provide secured storage on the property. The owner can provide equipment and a rent credit to a tenant willing to handle the lawn care.
Option one is the better choice to ensure the job is done. The costs associated with last-minute, delayed lawn care to avoid a citation is usually all it takes to realize that the tenant selected is not dependable.
Multi-Family Lawn Care
Multi-family properties hire professional lawn service companies. Your property manager will coordinate this service. It is an expense of the building and should be part of any budgeting.
Plan and Budget For Best Results
In Indianapolis, lawn care is needed from April through October. That is seven months of expense. About 70% of this time the yard care is needed weekly. The other 30% it can be done every other week. Most professional lawn care companies require weekly cuts due to planning, routing, and maintaining a well-groomed appearance. Tenants will cut the lawn when it is needed.
The lease needs to be clear on who is responsible. The tenant responsibility should tie into lease violations if citations occur due to lack of maintenance.
Other than in a single family rental, the best advise is to budget for lawn care. Expect about $80-$100 a month for residential properties (up to four units). Lawn care is a big maintenance expense often overlooked by rental property owners.