While responsibility for building maintenance of the actual house on a rental property is clearly the responsibility of the landlord or property manager, upkeep of the gardens and lawns is much more open to interpretation. It begs of landlords the questions: do I take care of them? Do I leave it to the tenants, or do I get a contractor in? Let’s delve into the pros and cons of each option and how they may affect your relationship with your tenants and your experience as a landlord.
Is there a difference between gardening and lawn mowing contractors?
Before looking at the three different options for keeping your rental property looking spiffing, it’s important to recognise the division between lawns and gardens. In terms of professional contractors, there are those who specialise in lawns, those who specialise in gardens and then those who cover both.
Gardeners will tend to garden beds and their list of duties may include but is by no means limited to: removing/spraying weeds; pruning and trimming trees, shrubs and flowers; cutting hedges; fertiliser; monitoring and controlling irrigation; general maintenance, etc.
A dedicated lawn mowing contractor will focus solely on the green stuff, and a good one is usually capable of mowing lawns to a suitable length; edging the lawns around walkways, garden beds and driveways; fertilising, aerating and controlling weeds in a lawn; etc.
While it’s nice to look at, a busy garden like this has no place at a rental property where it may be neglected
The ups and downs of doing it yourself
Some landlords prefer to take care of the grounds at their rental properties themselves, so they can keep an eye on things and encourage an open dialogue with tenants (while not overstepping the mark and turning every visit into an impromptu inspection). This is an okay option if you have the time and the knowledge but remember – it’s a big commitment and you may well have your own lawn and gardens at home you’d rather be nurturing. Some tenants can also be scared away by the mere prospect of this level of contact with a landlord.
What about leaving it to the tenants?
As with many aspects of investment properties, any arrangement that sees a tenant taking care of the home’s outdoor areas will be entered with a great deal of good faith on the landlord’s part. There is little-to-no guarantee that the tenants will make good on their word. Their negligence of the lawn can see it grow out of control and require increased effort and a calculated approach when they do finally get around to mowing it. If they ignore a flora-filled garden it can become a matter of weeds and the inattention can result in poor blooms and even death in some varieties. The Residential Tenancies Act only mentions mowing the lawns and removing weeds in order to keep the property “reasonably tidy”. That term is very loose and how regularly it needs to be done is often interpreted in interesting ways – like when the tenants want to move out! The reality is that a lot of tenants don’t own a lawnmower or possess the gardening knowledge or motivation to keep a section looking tip-top.
Any arrangement regarding lawncare and gardening should be detailed in your tenancy agreement and discussed before the tenant’s term starts and be monitored over time. If you raise the issue and it doesn’t sound like their heart is in it, don’t take the risk, you may just be setting yourself up for failure.
Leaving the lawncare to your tenants can result in a mess like this
Calling in the professionals and absorbing the cost
From the get-go, we recommend property investors landscape their properties in a fashion that requires minimal ongoing maintenance from a gardener or a tenant. We also recommend landlords entertain quotes for a lawncare/gardening package from two or three different contractors. Most will want to inspect the grounds before offering a quote, but you can expect something around $30p/hr plus the cost of consumables and any green waste removal. Lawnmowing during rapid growth season will likely be carried out on a week to ten-day cycle and go down to as infrequently as once a month when growth tapers off.
This is a good example of the type of low-maintenance garden we like to see at investment properties
Remember you’re not only paying for their expertise and know-how, but also for their well-maintained and finely tuned arsenal of equipment (e.g. lawnmower, edge trimmer, leaf blower…). We, along with many tenants, see the added value and sense in building the cost into the weekly rental fee. We often add $20 onto a weekly rental fee and advertise the property as having a gardening service included in the price. This adds up to just over $1000 annually, which should cover what it takes to keep your investment looking pristine from the street. If you’d like to learn more about who should wear the green thumb at your investment property, just give us a call.
A gardening contractor can leave your property looking as appealing as this