Hi BP Community,
First time writer, long time listener. I recently acquired my first rental property in Portland. I'm attempting to self-manage remotely as I live in California. It's a duplex that is now fully rented, and I'm struggling with the lawn care aspect of the property. The grass was not getting watered properly, and we finally figured out how to turn on the automated sprinkler. This began to resolve the issue, but then created more.
First, my "lawn care" company just mows the lawn and trims the bushes. They did not want to get involved in helping to resolve the automated sprinklers. And a couple of bushes are now too far gone, and they will not help replace the shrubs. I'm wondering if this is to be expected, or if I need to find a new lawn upkeep company. As this is my first post, is it OK to ask if anyone have recommended lawn care / gardeners for the Portland area? If not, then can someone let me know if this kind of restricted service from a lawn care company is unusual?
Second, I just got the water bill, and it's over $500 for two months! My rent says they tenants pay the water, but the contract is a fixed rate that would equal $240. Are there ways to send the tenants a bill for the overage, or do I just wait for the first year to expire, and adjust the rate up based on the previous 12 months?
Any other guidance on lawn care / gardening via long distance management would be appreciated!
Water bill to water your dying bushes and grass, if I were a tenant I would simply say nope,, that belongs to you so you pay the cost to cover the outdoor stuff. I doubt you'd get a meter separate for just that..and you can't force tenant to pay for that either unless it was disclosed.
I assume you mean Portland, OR. I have a SFH and duplex here. My experience is that yard maintenance companies here charge a lot and don't do much other than "mow and blow". And even then they don't do a great job. Also, seems they want you to sign on for ongoing monthly maintenance ($300!) even though it's not really necessary some months (winter). So I now have tenants responsible for yard maintenance. They don't necessarily do a great job either, but has worked out so far. One tenant really liked gardening and did things well.
Re: water bill....the water bills for SFH in Portland are VERY high, relative to other places nearby. Much of it is fixed cost due to large infrastructure projects (google "big pipe"), but there's also been some political finagling. The per unit water bill in a high rise condo is about $10/mo per person, whereas for a SFH and smaller plexes it's about $40. The Portland Tribune has a good article explaining it all. My duplex doesn't have separate meters, so for years I paid the water and bundled it into the rent. Then my tenants had unauthorized people living with them and water usage went way up. Last year I belatedly discovered RUBS (better late than never!), so now the duplex tenants pay $30 pppm for water.
I live in Gresham, a suburb of Portland. Most people don't bother watering their lawns here. Sure, they go dormant for a few weeks to a couple months in the summer, but that just means you don't have to mow. It's probably a different mindset than where you're from, but here most people don't mind.
Your water bill is probably a combined water/sewer bill, so every gallon that goes into your lawn is a gallon charge for the sewer system that you're not actually using. We live in Gresham, and our family of five uses about $175 worth of water/sewer every two months (cut that in half for a monthly bill), so your bill seems kind of high, especially if you weren't watering the lawn.
Regarding lawn care - no recommendations there other than maybe giving the tenant a small break for taking care of it themselves.
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