Do I need a sprinkler system for my rental?

16 Replies

Hello All,

I am purchasing my very first rental.  I am excited and I am sure I will have more questions in the near future for you seasoned landlords.  The house that I am buying currently does not have a sprinkler system.  I live in Dallas, TX where the ground gets very dry in the Summer.  Should I install a sprinkler system or let it be?  If I do install, do I set it up on an automatic timer, assuming tenant wont mess with it?  Would tenant get mad that the water bill is higher due to the sprinkler system?  Should I disclose it in my lease that it is necessary for the upkeep of the property, etc?  Your insight would be greatly appreciated. Hollar.

P.S.  While I have your attention..how do I do the mention to someone in a post where it tags/highlights their name?  I try to do @......but it doesnt seem to work.  Please let me know so I can respond to people and they know I am responding to them.

The way your title reads it sounds like you're asking if you should install a sprinkler system inside your rental.  I thought, "Man, talk about going above and beyond for your tenants." LOL

I believe you can only tag people not part of this thread if you are connected to them via colleague request.  Otherwise, they have to have commented in this thread for you to tag them.  At least that's the way I believe it works.

Originally posted by @Tim Ball :

Hello All,

I am purchasing my very first rental.  I am excited and I am sure I will have more questions in the near future for you seasoned landlords.  The house that I am buying currently does not have a sprinkler system.  I live in Dallas, TX where the ground gets very dry in the Summer.  Should I install a sprinkler system or let it be?  If I do install, do I set it up on an automatic timer, assuming tenant wont mess with it?  Would tenant get mad that the water bill is higher due to the sprinkler system?  Should I disclose it in my lease that it is necessary for the upkeep of the property, etc?  Your insight would be greatly appreciated. Hollar.

P.S.  While I have your attention..how do I do the mention to someone in a post where it tags/highlights their name?  I try to do @......but it doesnt seem to work.  Please let me know so I can respond to people and they know I am responding to them.

 I know investors on both sides of that issues. Ones with sprinklers do require tenants to water the ground regularly. Landscaping and foundation suffer without it. Its tough to enforce because of the associated costs. I wouldn't add one if it wasn't there. 

Consider your tenant selection carefully. Someone that takes pride in their home will take care of the grounds regardless of the leasing agreement.

Tim, congrats on your first rental.  I would definitely install a sprinkler system in DFW area.  You know what happens to the dirt in the DFW area if it is not watered properly.  I have several rentals and in my lease I have a special section that specifies the tenant water the lawn so many times per week depending on the season.  You are renting in order to build wealth and so you must protect your properties.  If you don't have a sprinkler system, the chance of your rental getting a foundation problem is inevitable.  If you have a sprinkler system, there is a chance that the tenants won't water the lawn as much but I will bet it will be more than if you didn't have a sprinkler system.

When you're leasing your house, don't be afraid to negotiate with the tenants so they will not damage the house as much.  If you think that the specific applicants to your house are going to ignore what's on the lease, then find someone else.  If you're using a Realtor to rent your house, instruct him/her not to take the first applicant but take the first good applicant.  I really feel bad for landlords when the Realtor take the first applicant.  Have pride in your home and accept only the people that will take care of your home or at least not damage as much.

There are so many ways to keep track if your tenant is watering the lawn or not.  One way is for you to offer paying 25% of the water bill.  This forces the tenant to show you the bill every month and you can determine if the lawn was watered adequately or not.

As for the current tenant, just ask them if you can install a sprinkler system so that they can just program it and forget about it.  This happened to one my investor clients.  My client installed the sprinkler system after the tenant moved in.  The tenant actually thanked my client because now they don't have to water the lawn by being out there for hours.  If your current tenant is not cooperative and is worried about extra $25 - $50 per month, this is what I would do.  I would pitch in $25 per month until they move out.  However, I will increase the rent by at least $25 (plus any increase you want) for the water when the current lease expires.  Again, there's a lot of different ways to protect your house and negotiate the lease - but protect your house!

Congratulation @Tim Ball  on purchasing your first rental. Have you considered installing soaker hoses instead of a sprinkler system? If used properly these will protect the foundation at a fraction of the cost of a sprinkler system and will use much less water.

Regarding the @.... (and copying @Marc M. ) try typing the '@' followed immediately by the person's first name. You should see choices appear below the "Post a Reply" box. Click on the correct person and the full citation should appear in your message.

Hi Tim, 

I'm also in Texas. Does your property have an HOA? Some HOA's require lawns to remain green. That aside, you might want to explore writing provision into the lease stating occupants are required to maintain the lawn - including watering.

Best of Luck!

Okay, I'm going to be a contrarian. I wouldn't waste my time, unless you're in some high end neighborhood with an HOA and it's absolutely essential.

Tenants have a reputation for destroying lawns and landscaping because, um, they tend to do that.  (I rent to the $1000-$1400/month crowd so I can't really talk about those in higher end rentals.)  Maybe you'll get a good tenant or two who will water regularly but eventually you'll get a stinker who will mess it all up.  Plan on new sod when you go to sell, but I wouldn't waste my time spending thousands on a sprinkler system.   You'll just be setting yourself up for frustration.

Also, watering "might" give you some sort of protection against foundation movement, but soaker hoses are preferred and way cheaper.  (though I'm skeptical about those as well)

Drip irrigation is the way to go as far as water savings , make sure its netafim drip tubing and the contractor installs it with a pressure regulator . water is measured in gallons per hour vs gallons per minute . 

As a landscape contractor I say do not install the irrigation. Or at least don't install it thinking your tenants will use it.  9 out of ten times i get called back a few years later to install sod because the tenants did not water, not enough at least. (The sod is installed because the owner is selling)

I also have a residential REIT I have been working with and the only thing they do is have me fix irrigation issues and set the timer. They know the client will not use it they just want to know the system works for when i install sod before they sell it. 

BUT I have rented before and I did water the lawn. But I am in the business of landscaping so it goes against my grain to have a ugly yard. 

@Tim Ball , as noted by the views posted above, there is no hard and fast, right or wrong.  Before investing in the cost though, know your tenant.  Many moons ago, while in transition between owning my primary residence, I rented a detached single family home for my children and me.  While I recognized it was someone else's house, it was my home and so I cared for it accordingly, which included the yard.  The owner of the house appreciated that and so he didn't bat an eye when I asked the property manager to ask him if he'd spring for professional lawn care (e.g., feeding, fertilizing, etc.).  Though I mowed and trimmed with diligence, I was embarrassed to have a weed filled lawn.  In turn, the owner was happy to invest and see a return on his investment.  It was a win-win for each of us.

Perhaps just see if the tenant you place has an interest in keeping up the yard without making a major capital investment in a sprinkler system.  A hose can accomplish the same result for a lot less.

Good luck!

+1 on the previous comments.  I would lean towards not going through the hassle of installing, personally.  So, if you're keeping track my vote is in that column.

Do not water the lawn nor require tenants to do so. Plant a xeriscape. Use drought resistant grasses and other plants. Drought is a serious problem. Do a little research and you'll save a lot of money on water.  There are many options that look nice.

Best advice I could offer from personal experience is never TRUST or COUNT ON your tenant for any type of maintenance or upkeep. Unless you want to be responsible for watering your landscape or letting it die which not only diminishes the value of your property but impacts the neighborhood as a whole. My 3 cents worth adjusted for inflation.

Thank you all.  Good insight. I understand I probably can't count on my tenant for anything in regards to upkeep, but anyone from Texas knows you either have foundation issues, or you are going to have foundation issues.  I thought at least installing a drip line for the foundation would be helpful, but what do I know at this point?  I guess I won't install a sprinkler system and feel my tenant out/put it in the lease to upkeep yard, etc.  Thanks again for all the advice and insight. 

I had my guy prep the yard (divert water AWAY from house) and installed the drip system just around the house. It was way cheaper than installed whole sprinkler system. 

I require lawn maintenance in my leases.  Sprinkler systems are nice but I do not install them.  I have some houses with sprinkler systems and have found that the yards look nicer where they can just turn it on and let it do the watering.  I have evicted tenants for not watering the lawn.  Some of my rentals its no big deal if the lawn is in bad shape.  Where I have nice yards and nice neighbors on each side it is a big deal.  I don't want a neighborhood looking bad because of my house.