Can a Tenant Be Forced to Pay for Landscaping?

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Landscape maintenance can be expensive or time consuming for landlord or tenant.
Landscape maintenance can be expensive or time consuming for landlord or tenant. (Image: Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

A tenant who rents a single family residence may have a yard on the property that needs maintenance. Brown, dead landscaping drags a home's value down, and it can be costly to bring it back to good health once it dies. The exterior of the home is typically the landlord's area of responsibility because he wants it to look nice from the street. Any arrangements between the landlord and tenant regarding lawn or landscape maintenance must be agreed to in advance.

Maintenance

A rental home with a lawn and landscaping must be maintained by someone. It is common practice for a landlord to pay for and provide gardening services – such as weekly mowing and raking – for the home while it is occupied by the tenant. Alternatively, a landlord may offer reduced rent if the tenant promises to perform yard upkeep duties. An important issue like yard upkeep should not be agreed to verbally.

Terms of Lease

A tenant cannot be forced to do anything; that includes paying for landscaping. If the landlord requires that the tenant pay for the landscaping, it must be spelled out in the lease that the tenant bears the responsibility for landscape or yard maintenance. A tenant has the option to sign the lease and agree to the terms, or refuse the terms and not take occupancy of the rental. If a tenant signs a lease that requires him to pay for landscaping and he does not, he may be in violation of the lease and the landlord may have grounds for eviction. Conversely, if the landlord tries to force the tenant to pay for anything that is not written in the lease, the tenant may have grounds to break the lease, as it changes the terms of the written agreement between the two parties.

Watering

Regardless of who provides the landscaping maintenance, a tenant may be required to water the property while living in the home and this must be specified in the lease. A single family residence has a water supply that cannot be regulated separately like an apartment unit. If the landlord offers to pay for watering the yard, there's no real way to know how much the tenants are using for their own personal use, or if the tenants are conscious of their water consumption. It is very common practice for the tenant to pay for maintaining the irrigation of the lawn. The landlord should specify in the lease the length of time the sprinkler system should be run for proper hydration. If the tenants don't comply and the lawn dies, they may be responsible for damages, which could include replacing the landscaping.

Damages

If the tenant, the tenant's guests or any pets on the premises cause damage to the landscaping -- for instance, if a car backs over a hedge and causes it to fall over or the family dog digs up the plants or flowers -- the tenant may be liable for damages and forced to pay for it. The cost to repair or replace the landscaping may be withheld from the security deposit collected by the landlord at the time the lease was signed.

Changes to the Lease

The landlord does not need a tenant's consent to make changes to a lease, but he doesn't get to enforce the new changes immediately; he must give legal notice, typically 30 days in most states. If the tenant does not like the arrangement, he can vacate the home, but only after giving legal notice to end the tenancy, which is also typically 30 days in most states. Changes of any kind also be made to a lease at any time by mutual agreement.

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