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Why it’s a bad idea to ask tenants to mow the lawn and do the gardening

1st March 2013
Man mowing the lawn looking after tenants gardens

Haven’t you got better things to do than mow the tenants’ lawn at re-letting time? Here’s how to avoid having to push the lawnmower around yourself when your tenants have let you down…

Many landlords and property managers get tenants to mow the lawns and maintain the garden. After all, the tenant has agreed to do this gardening work as part of the tenancy, and it seems a simple, easy solution, right?


The reality is that the standard of garden care tends to deteriorate as the tenancy progresses. And then you might get some tenants who are OK with mowing the lawn, but they don’t weed the garden thoroughly.

The result? Managing the garden to maintain a decent standard ends up taking a lot of the landlord’s time.

What kind of garden maintenance are we talking about?

The nature of garden maintenance may vary from property to property, but it generally involves weeding and lawn mowing.

But the tenants say they love gardening…

Even the most enthusiastic tenant gardener is going to have interruptions in their busy lifestyle and challenges with time. Or future tenants won’t be as fastidious as the current tenants.

Unfortunately, the maintenance of the garden suffers… and that has ramifications for the landlord.

Why does this affect the landlord?

The biggest problem for the landlord is usually at re-letting time. That’s when you’ll be confronted with lawns and gardens that aren’t up to scratch.

You’ll need to take some exterior photos of the property so that you can advertise the vacancy, but there’s a delay as you need to request the tenant to complete the lawn mowing and weeding of the gardens.

How long will it take the tenant to do that? It might take around ten days for the tenants to complete the gardening work… if you’re lucky.

Waiting for this long is a problem, because the property isn’t looking its best when prospective tenants come to view the house. And if the property isn’t looking its best, you’re less likely to attract a first-class tenant.

In the end, you’ll probably get so impatient you may end up pushing the lawnmower around yourself, even though it’s not part of the deal, and it’s not the best use of your time.

How to stop wasting time doing your tenants’ lawn mowing

Your time is far more valuable than doing your tenants’ gardening, so be sure to engage a good lawn mowing and garden care contractor. It will save you time, money and stress. Let the contractor worry about keeping the property to an acceptable standard of care!

What’s an acceptable standard of care for a garden?

This is what it will take to keep a garden looking smart all year round:

  • Lawns: mowed with clippings collected. This should take place fortnightly in Spring/Summer and every three weeks in Autumn/Winter. This works out to 22 times per year and is the programme that garden maintenance professionals recommend.
  • Hedges: cut three times per year.
  • Weeding: this should ideally be completed in conjunction with the lawn mowing, or at least once a month. Simply put, gardens and property should be maintained so that they’re weed-free at all times.

It’s worth sticking to this programme, as this way you’ll always be able to present your property at a good standard of exterior maintenance. It also makes the garden maintenance side of property management a lot easier, as the whole programme runs on auto pilot. That’s especially true if you manage your contractor so that they complete the work to the same standard each time.

How do you ensure that the contractor always completes the work to the same standard?

Getting your contractor to work to a consistent standard is relatively easy. At the outset, when your garden care contractor is first appointed, get them to clean the property up to the standard that you want to maintain. This may simply be lawns mown (with catcher), edges trimmed, hedges cut and gardens weeded.

It’s important at this stage that you take photos of the newly-manicured garden and provide dated copies of these photos to your contractor. Let your contractor know that this is how you expect the grounds to look every time you visit the property.

With the photos, it’s easy for both you and the contractor to check that the current presentation of the garden matches what’s on record. This way, the garden should always be maintained to the same standard.

A photographic record is especially important for a task like hedge cutting. A hedge may be trimmed regularly, but as time passes its overall trimmed size tends to increase. As the hedge isn’t being maintained to its original size, it can soon grow into a behemoth. So the photos keep a check on the growth of a hedge.

Without these photographic records, it’s all too common for garden standards to deteriorate over time. Before long, the garden is overgrown and looking a mess – and that’s a complete waste of your time and resources. You can avoid that by appointing a contractor and doing things properly from the outset, with the photographic records and clearly communicating that you expect the standard to be maintained.

What to do if the garden maintenance does deteriorate?

With photograph records, it’s very easy to address slipped gardening standards. This might be a small slip, such as the contractor missing a section of weeding, or it could be more serious.

To tackle this, first of all contact the contractor with a gentle reminder and email them a photo of the area of work that needs to be addressed. A regular check-up is a good idea too.

Regular check-ups are important to maintain the standard

All you need to do is to arrange a five-minute walk around the property with the contractor every four to six months. Not only will you be able to check the contractor’s standard of work, but you’ll have the opportunity to do a quick check of the property exterior to see if everything else is OK at the property.

So if the weeds start appearing around the garden’s perimeter, or you’re unsure if the catcher has been used, don’t think twice about arranging a meeting on site with your garden maintenance contractor. And be sure to have your original photographic records of the garden handy.

Don’t contractors mind you using photographic records in this way?

No, contractors don’t mind using photographic records in this way. In fact, they appreciate the level of clarity photographs provide because they know exactly what’s expected of them. There’s never any ambiguity about the standard they need to work to: they just refer to the photographic record each time they are on site!

The photographs are particularly helpful if the contractor has a new member of staff joining the team, as the new person quickly understands what’s required. A picture really does say a thousand words.

But don’t tenants mind paying for the gardening?

Handling the tenant side of things is easy. When it’s time to re-tenant the property, you simply advise prospective tenants that you organise all the lawn and hedge cutting. It’s up to you whether you advise them what the weekly rate for this will be, or if you incorporate it into the rent for the property. A lawn mowing charge of $5 to $7 per week never draws any objections from a prospective tenant. Even the most hands-on tenants appreciate lawns being completed for them.

It’s not just the gardens that’ll look good – so will you!

Managing or owning properties that are always well-maintained and look smart reflect well on you. If you’re a property manager, it demonstrates to the landlord that you care about the property. And it’ll show the tenants that you operate to high standards.

Imagine the opposite scenario, where the weeds are overgrown and the lawn is out of control: if any prospective tenants saw that kind of unkempt property, they’d think you were a ‘soft’ property manager and may be tempted to take advantage of that perception.

By having a neat, well-maintained property, it’ll show tenants that you care about the small details… and you don’t even need to push the lawnmower around yourself to achieve that!



Next step:

Read our free report, “Why Some Property Management Ends In Disaster”. It includes a checklist of questions you can ask a prospective property manager, so you can see to what extent they have your best interests at heart.

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