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As an owner, you never want to underestimate the benefit of having a well-manicured garden. Having a front lawn or a backyard that looks like something out of Château de Villandry can go a long way in attracting tenants. Not to mention rocketing the value of your property as a whole.
A 2019 survey found that “a nicely presented lawn” can add as much as $100,000 onto your investment’s price tag.
That being said, landscape maintenance should really be up there on your list of real estate priorities if you want to have any chance of reaping the lucrative benefits.
But who’s responsible for landscape property maintenance anyway? The owner? The tenant? State legislation is a bit vague when it comes to this point. However, there are some generally understood codes of practice that seem to run the same whether you’re in NSW, QLD or VIC.
So, to make things a bit clearer, we’ve taken the liberty of running through the long and the short of it, from what your tenants need to do in the garden, to how you can make sure they’re not skimping on the yard work.
- What part of landscape maintenance are owners and tenants responsible for?
- What owners can do to ensure their garden is well maintained
- How to avoid tenant disputes over poorly a managed landscape
- What you should expect to pay for common rental property lawn maintenance services
- How to avoid tenant disputes over poorly a managed landscape
Is garden maintenance the landlord’s responsibility, or the tenant’s?
If you’ve ever had a flip through the state legislation, you’ve probably come out scratching your head, wondering who exactly is responsible for landscape property maintenance. It doesn’t do owners or tenants any favours when it comes to clarity on this point.
Luckily, real estate experts, mowing companies and even government sites are summarily in agreement about what the status quo is.
What are the Tenant duties on landscape maintenance?
Simply put, tenants are responsible for general ‘garden maintenance’:
- Clearing small fallen branches
The point of all this, of course, is to ensure that the garden is kept to the standard it was in at the beginning of the tenancy. That is unless the tenancy agreement specifies otherwise. But it’s definitely a bright idea to discuss these expectations before signing anything.
What are the Owners duties on landscape maintenance?
But owners don’t get off the hook that easy. They still have to fulfil some chores of their own – the more heavy-duty stuff:
- Tree lopping
- Pruning trees and shrubs
- Clearing large fallen branches
- Cutting back overhanging branches
- Maintaining plants, lawns or hedges that require specialist upkeep
- Providing and maintaining an irrigation system
But owners might well be responsible for providing tenants with all the necessary yard equipment they’ll need to keep the garden in tip-top shape. Stuff like:
- Hedge clippers
But this can vary from tenancy to tenancy. So, it’s best practice to clarify when you’re both looking over the rental agreement.
How to ensure your garden is well maintained?
Not every tenant is going to value the aesthetic appeal of a pristine garden. Which means that landscape maintenance may well fall by the waist-side. Lucky for owners, there are a couple things you can do to hedge against the unsightly prospect of a neglected garden.
You can cover rental property lawn maintenance in the rent
It’s not uncommon for owners to include a fee for regular landscape maintenance in their tenant’s weekly rent. It’s a brilliant way to give yourself that peace of mind knowing. Not only will your garden get the care it deserves, but that it’ll be getting attended to by a professional.
Australian homeowners pay on average between $100 to $200 a month for general lawn services. So, if you have an average size garden, you might be looking at charging your tenant an extra $25-$50 a week as a landscape maintenance fee.
This method is especially useful for properties with larger and more intricate gardens.
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You could conduct regular inspections
It’s a simple measure, but an effective one. Holding routine inspections throughout the year is a great way to check in on whether the tenant is meeting their landscape maintenance responsibilities.
When conducting an inspection of the residence, ask yourself: Is this how the lawn looked before the tenant moved in? The answer should be ‘Yes’!
If you’re really looking to keep a keen eye on the state of your lawn, you can schedule up to 4 routine inspections a year. Just be sure to give your tenants at least 7 days written notice so you’re on the right side of the law!
If your lawn is looking like something out of a dystopian horror film, it’s high time you sat down with your tenant to straighten out both your expectations and responsibilities for that lawn.
Avoiding owner-tenant disputes on landscape maintenance
It’s important to not lose sight of the fact that the whole point of spelling out who’s responsible for what when it comes to landscape maintenance is to ensure that the garden looks just the same at the end of the tenancy as it did at the beginning.
Of course, there’s always the possibility that a tenant could try and pull the wool over your eyes and claim that the noticeably dishevelled lawn you’re left with at the end of the tenancy is how it looked all along. Or they could just be genuinely mistaken. Either way, it ends in a game of heated finger-pointing that could leave you having to pick up the slack with your own dosh.
A landlord on Whirlpool Forums was faced with just this type of tenant-induced garden destruction! Having originally purchased the property for its beautiful garden worth around $20k, at the end of the tenancy the tenant had “removed hundreds of plants and shrubs and dumped them”. The owner anticipated that replacing the plants as well as replanting and garden maintenance could cost thousands of dollars!
To save yourself the headache (and the money) it’s best to conduct a thorough entry condition report that comprehensively documents just how your garden is looking before the tenant moves in. With an album’s worth of photos to refer back to, you can be sure you won’t run into any confusion in the future over whether your tenant met their responsibilities.
How much does landscaping maintenance cost?
Whether you’re considering weaving a garden service fee into your tenant’s rent, or you think it might be worth dipping into your own pocket, the question is: ‘how much does landscaping maintenance cost’?
Here’s a simple breakdown of what Aussies tend to pay for their lawns
Landscape Maintenance Prices
Landscape maintenance service
General garden maintenance
But if you’re in the market for a bit of everything, you’ll probably want to hire a gardener. Typically, Aussie gardeners charge anywhere from $30 to $80 an hour.
And as with all things maintenance, these prices do vary. The bigger and more complex your garden is, the more costly it’s going to be. If you’re keen to find out how much you might be looking at you can always request a free quote.
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So by now, you should have a much better idea of who’s responsible for what when it comes to rental property landscape maintenance. For the smaller, everyday kind of stuff (mowing, pruning, watering etc.) - leave it to the tenants. For those bigger chores like cutting back overhanging branches and tree lopping, well that falls on the owner to have better garden ideas.
Of course, you should spell all these duties and expectations out in the tenancy agreement before anyone sets foot on the property. And even then, it’s best practice to conduct regular inspections so you know your tenant is keeping up their end of the bargain.
But don’t forget, you don’t have to leave the yard work to your tenant. If you really value your garden or maybe you have some extravagant affair that needs special attention, you can always include a landscape maintenance fee in the rent. That way you can sleep easy knowing your yard is getting professional treatment.
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Disclaimer: The views, information, or opinions expressed in this blog post are for general information purposes only and should not be relied upon. We have not taken into account specific situations, facts or circumstances, and no part of this blog post constitutes personal financial, legal, or tax advice to you. You should seek tax advice from your accountant, specific to your situation.