Should Tenant Pay for Landscaping If They Want It For My SFH?

37 Replies

Hi All BPers!

I need some guidance. My tenant wants to level the backyard before the annual weed and feed. Below are pictures of the yard. It is uneven as you can see. They wanted to rent a tiller at first which I questioned having them dig up the yard. What I asked my PM to do was get an estimate for what landscaping would cost. PM came back with about $2400 for the back yard (2400 sq.ft) which includes 1) Removal of seven stumps in preparation for reseeding of yard, 2) Scotts starter fertilizer, 3) Pennington grass seed, 4) 3 yds topsoil. They also got an estimate for the front yard at the tenant's request. That is approximately $1200 to till, grade, and re-seed the front yard due to it being 60% covered in weeds. That sounds like too much for me to spend right now.

In addition, there is a clause in the tenant lease which states "Tenant shall conduct routine landscaping of the Premises, including regular mowing of the grass, removal of leaves and small fallen branches, regular removal of all weeds and grasses in landscaped areas and trimming of plantings, including shrubs, unless otherwise provided by the Owner or a third party such as a homeowners association."

Should I ask that the tenant pay for all this if they want it? Does the yard look in that bad of shape? On a side note, the yard in the place that I rent from now is not much better than my rental property shown here. What are your standards for lawn maintenance and how would you handle this? Thank you!

Is this how the yard looked when the tenant moved in? 

We would pay for a landscaper to put the yard in shape prior to the tenant moving in. Then we would clarify in the rental agreement that it's the tenant's responsibility to maintain it. If the tenant fails to do so, then we would have it done at the tenant's expense.  

Invest in the yard to get it to a baseline condition that you and most tenants would find acceptable. This can be cleaned up for a lot less than what you were quoted. Shop around.

Also, get some bids for redoing the driveway. It sure needs it!

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@John Hodson

You might let the market dictate what you do. Is the tenant paying $2000 a month in rent or $750? If they are paying a high rent in a nice neighborhood and comparable rentals on the market have decent yards, I would spend the cash. If the tenant is paying $750 a month and all the other rentals in the neighborhood have yards like that, I might leave it.

Mike

Originally posted by @John Hodson :

Hi All BPers!

I need some guidance. My tenant wants to level the backyard before the annual weed and feed. Below are pictures of the yard. It is uneven as you can see. They wanted to rent a tiller at first which I questioned having them dig up the yard. What I asked my PM to do was get an estimate for what landscaping would cost. PM came back with about $2400 for the back yard (2400 sq.ft) which includes 1) Removal of seven stumps in preparation for reseeding of yard, 2) Scotts starter fertilizer, 3) Pennington grass seed, 4) 3 yds topsoil. They also got an estimate for the front yard at the tenant's request. That is approximately $1200 to till, grade, and re-seed the front yard due to it being 60% covered in weeds. That sounds like too much for me to spend right now.

In addition, there is a clause in the tenant lease which states "Tenant shall conduct routine landscaping of the Premises, including regular mowing of the grass, removal of leaves and small fallen branches, regular removal of all weeds and grasses in landscaped areas and trimming of plantings, including shrubs, unless otherwise provided by the Owner or a third party such as a homeowners association."

Should I ask that the tenant pay for all this if they want it? Does the yard look in that bad of shape? On a side note, the yard in the place that I rent from now is not much better than my rental property shown here. What are your standards for lawn maintenance and how would you handle this? Thank you!

 Hi John,

"No" is an answer.  And that's the one I'd give.

This tenant was happy to rent the place with the yard the way it was.  And they agreed to maintain it the way it was.  If they want to do work, it must be approved by you, paid for by them, and it stays with the property.  Basic rule of real estate.  Once the tenant attaches something to the land (as in plantings), they are now part of the land and they don't get to take them with them when they go.

This isn't a high end rental, but there are plenty tenants out there who would love a big yard for their dogs or kids to run around in - at the price they can afford - without fancy landscaping.

The manager will probably encourage you to spend money on their pal who is hoping for the job, the tenant will flap his arms around saying he doesn't understand why you don't want to let him improve your property.  

But, that's the thing.  It's your property.  And guess what?  It's good enough the way it is to get a renter in there, isn't it?  

So, the answer is "no."  That your plan for this property is for it to be decently maintained blue-collar rental, and what they want to do is not in your budget.

I have a Canadian friend who uses that like a mantra.  "Nope.  That's not in the budget."

Well, even if you carried out the plan that your PM propose do, your plan's success will still be very dependent on the tenant - because grass seed does not grow too well without lots of regular watering for weeks after seeding. Is the tenant going to be diligent? Will the crazy high water bill cause a stop in watering? And summer is coming, with heat that can easily wilt grass seedlings if they aren't well watered. You could spend a lot and still end up not much better than where you are at now. Oh, and are there any drought watering restrictions in place that could also impact that plan?

Originally posted by @John Hodson :

Hi All BPers!

I need some guidance. My tenant wants to level the backyard before the annual weed and feed. Below are pictures of the yard. It is uneven as you can see. They wanted to rent a tiller at first which I questioned having them dig up the yard. What I asked my PM to do was get an estimate for what landscaping would cost. PM came back with about $2400 for the back yard (2400 sq.ft) which includes 1) Removal of seven stumps in preparation for reseeding of yard, 2) Scotts starter fertilizer, 3) Pennington grass seed, 4) 3 yds topsoil. They also got an estimate for the front yard at the tenant's request. That is approximately $1200 to till, grade, and re-seed the front yard due to it being 60% covered in weeds. That sounds like too much for me to spend right now.

In addition, there is a clause in the tenant lease which states "Tenant shall conduct routine landscaping of the Premises, including regular mowing of the grass, removal of leaves and small fallen branches, regular removal of all weeds and grasses in landscaped areas and trimming of plantings, including shrubs, unless otherwise provided by the Owner or a third party such as a homeowners association."

Should I ask that the tenant pay for all this if they want it? Does the yard look in that bad of shape? On a side note, the yard in the place that I rent from now is not much better than my rental property shown here. What are your standards for lawn maintenance and how would you handle this? Thank you!

 From the  pictures it appears certain areas of remediation can be done, ie remove the weeds and retreat the area. Other areas look like they just need reseeding or sod. If the tenant wants to spend all this money for a complete redo of the yard then let them but everything should be by your approval. I would think a simple take up and put down resod would do.

No unless the tenant is prepared to pay.

Work on it slowly over time if you want it improved but I would not spend a lot of money. If you or your tenant are not prepared to maintain a nice lawn it will not take long for it to revert back to it's present state.

Originally posted by @Marcia Maynard :

Is this how the yard looked when the tenant moved in? 

We would pay for a landscaper to put the yard in shape prior to the tenant moving in. Then we would clarify in the rental agreement that it's the tenant's responsibility to maintain it. If the tenant fails to do so, then we would have it done at the tenant's expense.  

Invest in the yard to get it to a baseline condition that you and most tenants would find acceptable. This can be cleaned up for a lot less than what you were quoted. Shop around.

Also, get some bids for redoing the driveway. It sure needs it!

 Hi Marcia, Yes, this is the way the yard looked prior to the tenant moving in. It is in the rental agreement that they need to take care of the lawn and weed it, etc. I'll get some other quotes. I'd rather do it a little at a time then dump a bunch of money in at this point. I also think the driveway needs help. Thanks for your advice! 

Originally posted by @Michael Wentzel :

@John Hodson

You might let the market dictate what you do. Is the tenant paying $2000 a month in rent or $750? If they are paying a high rent in a nice neighborhood and comparable rentals on the market have decent yards, I would spend the cash. If the tenant is paying $750 a month and all the other rentals in the neighborhood have yards like that, I might leave it.

Mike

 The tenant is paying $850 and there are some neighboring yards that are in better shape than mine, but not all. Gives me something to think about. Thanks for your ideas!

Originally posted by @Sue K. :
Originally posted by @John Hodson:

Hi All BPers!

I need some guidance. My tenant wants to level the backyard before the annual weed and feed. Below are pictures of the yard. It is uneven as you can see. They wanted to rent a tiller at first which I questioned having them dig up the yard. What I asked my PM to do was get an estimate for what landscaping would cost. PM came back with about $2400 for the back yard (2400 sq.ft) which includes 1) Removal of seven stumps in preparation for reseeding of yard, 2) Scotts starter fertilizer, 3) Pennington grass seed, 4) 3 yds topsoil. They also got an estimate for the front yard at the tenant's request. That is approximately $1200 to till, grade, and re-seed the front yard due to it being 60% covered in weeds. That sounds like too much for me to spend right now.

In addition, there is a clause in the tenant lease which states "Tenant shall conduct routine landscaping of the Premises, including regular mowing of the grass, removal of leaves and small fallen branches, regular removal of all weeds and grasses in landscaped areas and trimming of plantings, including shrubs, unless otherwise provided by the Owner or a third party such as a homeowners association."

Should I ask that the tenant pay for all this if they want it? Does the yard look in that bad of shape? On a side note, the yard in the place that I rent from now is not much better than my rental property shown here. What are your standards for lawn maintenance and how would you handle this? Thank you!

 Hi John,

"No" is an answer.  And that's the one I'd give.

This tenant was happy to rent the place with the yard the way it was.  And they agreed to maintain it the way it was.  If they want to do work, it must be approved by you, paid for by them, and it stays with the property.  Basic rule of real estate.  Once the tenant attaches something to the land (as in plantings), they are now part of the land and they don't get to take them with them when they go.

This isn't a high end rental, but there are plenty tenants out there who would love a big yard for their dogs or kids to run around in - at the price they can afford - without fancy landscaping.

The manager will probably encourage you to spend money on their pal who is hoping for the job, the tenant will flap his arms around saying he doesn't understand why you don't want to let him improve your property.  

But, that's the thing.  It's your property.  And guess what?  It's good enough the way it is to get a renter in there, isn't it?  

So, the answer is "no."  That your plan for this property is for it to be decently maintained blue-collar rental, and what they want to do is not in your budget.

I have a Canadian friend who uses that like a mantra.  "Nope.  That's not in the budget."

 Hi Sue,

I like your answer! Very straightforward. The yard is in the condition it is before the tenant moved in. It is in the lease agreement to maintain the yard and weed it. If other yards around my property have somewhat nicer yards, it does make me wonder if there is a way to get mine looking like the neighboring yards without having to spend all that money. It really isn't in my budget to fix it up like the PM quoted. (I'll have to use your friend's mantra). So the tenant should front the bill to patch it up if they are not happy with it. Makes sense to me. Thanks for your advice!

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Originally posted by @Steve Babiak :

Well, even if you carried out the plan that your PM propose do, your plan's success will still be very dependent on the tenant - because grass seed does not grow too well without lots of regular watering for weeks after seeding. Is the tenant going to be diligent? Will the crazy high water bill cause a stop in watering? And summer is coming, with heat that can easily wilt grass seedlings if they aren't well watered. You could spend a lot and still end up not much better than where you are at now. Oh, and are there any drought watering restrictions in place that could also impact that plan?

 Thanks Steve! Great point. There are a lot of unknowns to spend all that money and not be guaranteed the lawn will be maintained. I'll find out if there are drought watering restrictions. There have been some in the past year. I appreciate your perspective!

Originally posted by @Daria B. :
Originally posted by @John Hodson:

Hi All BPers!

I need some guidance. My tenant wants to level the backyard before the annual weed and feed. Below are pictures of the yard. It is uneven as you can see. They wanted to rent a tiller at first which I questioned having them dig up the yard. What I asked my PM to do was get an estimate for what landscaping would cost. PM came back with about $2400 for the back yard (2400 sq.ft) which includes 1) Removal of seven stumps in preparation for reseeding of yard, 2) Scotts starter fertilizer, 3) Pennington grass seed, 4) 3 yds topsoil. They also got an estimate for the front yard at the tenant's request. That is approximately $1200 to till, grade, and re-seed the front yard due to it being 60% covered in weeds. That sounds like too much for me to spend right now.

In addition, there is a clause in the tenant lease which states "Tenant shall conduct routine landscaping of the Premises, including regular mowing of the grass, removal of leaves and small fallen branches, regular removal of all weeds and grasses in landscaped areas and trimming of plantings, including shrubs, unless otherwise provided by the Owner or a third party such as a homeowners association."

Should I ask that the tenant pay for all this if they want it? Does the yard look in that bad of shape? On a side note, the yard in the place that I rent from now is not much better than my rental property shown here. What are your standards for lawn maintenance and how would you handle this? Thank you!

 From the  pictures it appears certain areas of remediation can be done, ie remove the weeds and retreat the area. Other areas look like they just need reseeding or sod. If the tenant wants to spend all this money for a complete redo of the yard then let them but everything should be by your approval. I would think a simple take up and put down resod would do.

 Thanks Daria! I will look into the resodding. That sounds less likely to dry up in the summer. Much appreciated!

Originally posted by @Thomas S. :

No unless the tenant is prepared to pay.

Work on it slowly over time if you want it improved but I would not spend a lot of money. If you or your tenant are not prepared to maintain a nice lawn it will not take long for it to revert back to it's present state.

 Thank you, Greg! Yeah, I think a slow improving of the yard would be a better solution than dumping a lot of money into it right now. Fix the spots that are eyesores now and let the tenant maintain it.

Originally posted by @Michael Barbari :

@John Hodson I'd say no as well. It's current state is fine. If they want to spruce it up it should be on their dime.  

 I agree Michael. They moved into it as is. Thanks for your support!

Years ago I had a landlord who gave us a rent credit of $75/month towards gardening/landscaping supplies. We had to put in the work but he paid for the grass seed, plants, etc. It made for a great trade - we got the backyard we wanted but didn't have to pay anything out of pocket. And he got a great garden for the next tenant.

Originally posted by @Melissa Shimmin :

Years ago I had a landlord who gave us a rent credit of $75/month towards gardening/landscaping supplies. We had to put in the work but he paid for the grass seed, plants, etc. It made for a great trade - we got the backyard we wanted but didn't have to pay anything out of pocket. And he got a great garden for the next tenant.

 Hi Melissa! That is a very creative solution. I like it! Let me talk with the property manager and see how we may be able to work that out. I appreciate you sharing!

Originally posted by @John Hodson :
Originally posted by @Daria B.:
Originally posted by @John Hodson: ...

.... Other areas look like they just need reseeding or sod. If the tenant wants to spend all this money for a complete redo of the yard then let them but everything should be by your approval. I would think a simple take up and put down resod would do.

 Thanks Daria! I will look into the resodding. That sounds less likely to dry up in the summer. Much appreciated!

Sod needs lots of water too, not as much as seed since the seed will need two to three weeks to grow to the approximate same state as sod. But lack of watering is going to be bad for sod too. 

Originally posted by @Steve Babiak :
Originally posted by @John Hodson:
Originally posted by @Daria B.:
Originally posted by @John Hodson: ...

.... Other areas look like they just need reseeding or sod. If the tenant wants to spend all this money for a complete redo of the yard then let them but everything should be by your approval. I would think a simple take up and put down resod would do.

 Thanks Daria! I will look into the resodding. That sounds less likely to dry up in the summer. Much appreciated!

Sod needs lots of water too, not as much as seed since the seed will need two to three weeks to grow to the approximate same state as sod. But lack of watering is going to be bad for sod too. 

 Okay, good to know. I have asked my PM to see if there is a drought watering restriction. All of this is good learning. Thanks!

I'm brand new and have one rental property right now, but if a request like this comes up and seems reasonable to both parties could you potentially offer to split the cost of the new lawn with the tenant? That way the tenant has some ownership in the investment hopefully getting them to treat it better? 

Howdy neighbor! At $850 I have to assume your rental is not in Montrose. :) 

Thanks for asking your question. There is some great feedback here. Melissa's rent credit idea sounds promising. I hope it all works out for you.