Who should be responsible for maintaining your property’s landscaping? That depends on how involved the maintenance is and your particular agreement with your tenant. For instance, you can’t require a tenant to maintain extensive landscaping. However, if you have a normal yard, you can either handle it yourself or request the tenant to maintain the yard.
Either way, maintaining your property’s landscaping isn’t optional; weeds can attract dangerous animals like fire ants, rats, snakes, and could potentially cause a fire. If you’re debating whether or not to cover basic landscaping in your lease, consider the following pros and cons.
1. Pro: You’ll maintain your property value better
Keeping up with your yard work will help to maintain the value of your Houston property. Unfortunately, you can’t guarantee your tenants will handle the yard work on time and to your specifications. To avoid the potential for your property value to drop, hire a professional landscaping company and include the service in your lease.
If you don’t include landscaping services in your lease and your tenant doesn’t keep the property in good shape, you don’t have much recourse. You can talk to your tenant and try to get them to honor their agreement, but you might not get far.
If your tenant won’t take care of the property, you can initiate a formal eviction process. However, evictions are time-consuming and costly. You’re better off taking full responsibility for your landscaping from the start.
An exception would be if there isn’t much landscaping to manage. For example, a house with a simple yard full of grass and a few trees probably won’t get neglected if the tenant wants to use the yard. However, covering the landscaping is a good idea when your property is surrounded by plenty of trees, bushes, grass, and areas that tend to sprout weeds like crazy.
2. Con: Professional landscaping costs money
There’s no way around it – landscaping services cost money. By including landscaping services in your lease, you’re absorbing the cost of those services.
You can increase the rent to account for landscaping services, although if you raise the rent too high, potential tenants may not care about the value they’re getting from having landscaping included in the lease.
Be smart about how you recover the cost of landscaping services. The smartest way to handle landscaping fees is to charge tenants a separate monthly fee. This way, if your tenant decides they want to maintain the property, you can give them a chance and just charge them for each month they don’t maintain the yard. When the landscaping fees are included in the rent, it’s impossible to separate the fees to alter your arrangement.
3. Pro: You can control what gets cut down
In the winter, when flowers aren’t blooming, it’s easy for tenants to whack down bushes without realizing what they’re cutting down. They might hire a friend or neighbor to do the job and that person may not recognize the bushes that have been intentionally planted to bloom in the Spring. They also may not know how to properly trim and care for perennials.
When you control the landscaping services, you control what gets cut down.
4. Con: Your tenants might not like the noise
If you’ve got a tenant who wants peace and quiet, they’re not going to enjoy having a gardener come by on Saturday morning at 8 am, starting up chainsaws and weed whackers.
You can’t control when a landscaper is available to perform the work, so if you’re going to cover the landscaping, be prepared to get complaints from your tenant about the noise.
5. Pro: You’ll maintain your property’s curb appeal
Curb appeal is important. By handling the landscaping, you’ll make sure your property looks good when people drive by – especially the county assessor and anyone interested in buying your property.
6. Con: You can’t change the lease terms mid-lease
It’s hard to change lease terms unless your agreement specifically allows for that change. Once you start covering the landscaping for a tenant, it’s going to be hard to put the responsibility on them.
When you pay for landscaping services, be ready to commit to those services for the entire length of the lease. Technically, your tenant could sue you for violating the lease if you don’t maintain your end of the contract. Worse, if you fail to keep up with the landscaping, that could be used against you in an eviction that would likely be ruled in the tenant’s favor.
7. Pro: Landscaping expenses are a tax write-off
Any expenses you incur to manage your property is a tax write-off. Just because it’s a tax write-off doesn’t mean you should spend the money. However, if it makes sense for you to cover landscaping services, don’t forget to itemize the services on your tax return.
8. Con: You’ll have to haul away the debris
When a tenant takes care of their own landscaping duties, they’re responsible for getting rid of the yard waste. They can haul it to the dump, place it in a green waste bin that gets picked up by the city, or create a burn pile where legal.
When you cover the landscaping for a tenant, make sure your contractor cleans up the debris. If they won’t haul it away, make sure you stipulate in the lease that the tenant is responsible for disposing of yard waste in an appropriate manner.
One important factor to note is that burn piles are not always legal in certain areas. Where burn piles are legal, they must be of a certain size and cannot contain materials like treated wood. Regardless of who handles the landscaping, always specify whether a tenant is allowed to have a burn pile on the property.
9. Pro: You won’t get in trouble with your HOA
Renters living under a homeowners association don’t always have massive amounts of yard work, but HOAs can get picky, even about a front lawn that just needs a trim. Handling the landscaping means you’ll never get a fee from your HOA for not mowing the grass.
Do you have too much on your plate? Hire a property management company
Being a landlord in Houston is time-consuming and energy-intensive. If you’ve got too many tasks on your plate and need some help, you’ll benefit from hiring a property management company.
At Green Residential, we provide full-service property management to clients with one or multiple properties. We handle all landlord duties so your investment property can be truly hands-off.
When you hire Green Residential, we’ll take care of all maintenance and repairs, marketing, tenant screening, rent collection, and evictions. Whatever your needs are as a property owner, we’ve got you covered. Contact us today for a free Houston property management rental analysis to find out how we can serve you.