Should a Tenant be Paid for Doing Yard Work?

Written on September 23, 2016 by , updated on December 2, 2016

Should a Tenant Get Paid for Yardwork?Anyone who lives in a house with a yard, including a tenant, has both an aesthetic and health interest in doing the yard work.

Most notably, a tenant should keep the lawn mowed — long grass looks bad, and it attracts rodents and other pests, which are likely to find their way into the house.

Unkempt premises might also attract the attention of the neighborhood association or municipal corporation, and a fine could result, which your landlord will likely pass onto you. Someone needs to prune back overgrowth, water the grass and plants, and rake leaves, but who?

Check Your Lease

A tenant renting a unit with an adjoining yard isn’t automatically responsible for yard work, but neither is the landlord. It’s a gray area.

The responsibility for yard work can be a gray area.

When the use of the yard is included in the rental agreement, it’s natural to presume that responsibility for basic maintenance goes with it. It’s part of general upkeep of the premises. In some localities, though, lawn and garden maintenance is clearly the landlord’s responsibility, unless otherwise specified.

When a tenant has exclusive use of the yard, responsibility for maintenance usually goes with it, while the landlord is usually responsible for repairs.

The line is often blurred, so to make sure the chores gets done, a savvy landlord spells out the jobs the tenant must do in the lease. A savvy tenant, on the other hand, reads the lease carefully and negotiates modifications before signing it.

Keep in mind that, as a tenant, you could be forced to pay for lawn care if it’s in your lease and you can’t do the work yourself.

Minnesota, for Example

Even if a lease requires a tenant to perform lawn maintenance, the requirement may have conditions. In Minnesota, for example, the landlord cannot require the tenant to perform outdoor chores without offering fair compensation (source). Compensation may be either in the form of payment or a rent discount. A tenant is not bound to do work specified in a lease unless the question of payment is also addressed in the lease.

Related: Minnesota Rental Laws

In Other States

Minnesota’s compensation bylaw is not the norm. In other states, landlords do not have to compensate for “reasonable care” chores, such as mowing, leaf removal, and weeding, provided the state housing code does not specify any of those tasks as the landlord’s responsibility. Some leases are very specific, even detailing the maximum and minimum height the grass should be.

Basic Yard Work Chores

Outdoor maintenance jobs specified in a typical lease are usually basic upkeep chores. Some of the most common include:

  • Mowing and edging the lawn
  • Watering the lawn
  • Trimming shrubbery
  • Removing weeds from lawns and garden beds

Whether landlords compensate for yard work or not, they generally make the necessary tools available. Keep these tools in a dedicated storage area, such as a shed or garage:

  • Lawnmower
  • Leaf blower
  • A selection of digging and pruning tools

Tool repairs are up to the landlord unless otherwise specified.

Specialty Landscaping Jobs

Jobs requiring a landscaper’s skill, such as tree pruning and advanced garden care, usually aren’t considered basic responsibilities. Many landlords hire landscaping or lawn maintenance companies to take care of them. Such jobs include:

  • Decorative trimming and shaping of shrubbery
  • Maintaining and repairing watering systems
  • Trimming trees
  • Spraying the lawn or garden for diseases or pests

No Harm in Trying

If you have the skills, there’s no reason why you can’t contract to do the advanced jobs and get paid or get a discount on your rent.

The best time to negotiate a contract with the landlord is when you move in.

Without a contract, you may not be compensated for any work you do over and above that which constitutes reasonable care, no matter how much it needs to be done. If you like yard work, there’s no better place to do it than at home, and working out a deal can benefit both you and the landlord.

Single vs. Multifamily Properties

Generally speaking, when a tenant rents a single family home, or detached house, it’s expected that he will maintain the grounds as well.

When you rent an apartment in a multifamily building, you usually don’t have exclusive rights to the grounds and have no responsibility to maintain them. No one can prevent you from pulling weeds, but no one will pay you to do it, either.

However, if you have a green thumb, or you just like to cut grass, you might be able to negotiate a contract with the landlord for basic maintenance services. Otherwise, sit back and enjoy the luxury of professional maintenance, courtesy of the landlord.

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14 CommentsLeave a Comment

  • Michael Kelly

    One thing I would add is that landlords need to keep their liability in focus when tenants are doing yard work. For example, if you provide a lawnmower, weed-trimmer, etc to the tenant and they are injured using these items you could be held liable. This is especially true if it is shown these items were not properly maintained or tenant was not capable of using such equipment properly. The question could also come up whether you provided all necessary safety equipment such as eye or face protection for use with equipment. Do not trust a waiver of responsibility signed by the tenant for any injuries.

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi Michael,

      You raise a great point. It’s difficult to plan for everything, but everyone should certainly consider safety of the tools prior to asking the tenant to perform these duties. Likewise, I would never ask my tenant to climb on the roof to clean the gutters simple because I wouldn’t want to be liable should he fall.

      • Tracy Skipworth

        Mine is a question not comment. As tenants are we responsible for removing existing dead tress, dead plants and overgrown plant. (10 years overgrown.) which makes our yard unmanageable to upkeep. We also have a huge yard of weeds not grass we have to continually mow. Should the landlord make our yard habitable?

        • Erin willis

          I have the same question and problem. I moved in to a house with no grass, weeds, trash, and a mix of rocks and dirt. Now landlord is complaining about his huge yard, stating it s a fire hazard. I wouldn’t have an issue keeping the yard up but Not to improve his landscape. The time, water bill, rocks, seed, tools need to be considered.

          • Chris Deziel

            Hi Erin — See the reply to Tracy’s post. You aren’t responsible for the yard unless the lease says so. If the landlord has a problem with the yard, and you’re willing to do the work to improve it, why not make an offer?

        • Chris Deziel

          Hi Tracy — If the lease doesn’t stipulate that your are responsible for yard upkeep, then you aren’t, but you might not be able to get the landlord to do anything either. Not unless you go through a bothersome legal procedure and convince a judge that the cluttered yard makes the premises uninhabitable, which would be difficult. It’s natural to want a clean, attractive yard, and in this case, you may have to do the work yourself to make it so.

      • David

        if the trees in front of the house are damaging the paint Job on my cars is it my responsibility to trim them or the landlords

    • Ron Reliford

      Hi I would like to know if I rent apartment whose responsibility to get the lawn mower ,
      so I can cut the grass which is in the lease, Minnesota

  • Bhartiya City Nikoo Homes

    Great Blog..

  • ann

    I subscribe Lawn Care Service for Lawn fertilization including LIME application & soil test with the total 8 visits a year. When my tenants deny to pay for this fee, can the penalty & late fee be applied for this case? Thank you very much for your time and help in advance.
    * Start : LEASE Detail *
    7. MAINTENANCE, REPAIRS OR ALTERATIONS
    GROUNDS Tenant shall be required to irrigate and maintain any surrounding grounds, including the trimming of lawns, trees, shrubbery and keep same clear
    of leaves, rubbish and weeds. Yard services, including, but not limit to, lawn mowing, leaf cleaning, fertilize, aerate, grass overseeding are pre-subscribed. Tenant shall assume responsibility for yard maintenance / services fees. Tenant is responsible for

    • Chris Deziel

      Hi Ann — Unless the lease states it, tenants normally aren’t responsible for yard maintenance above and beyond basic tasks, such as mowing the lawn and raking leaves. If they haven’t agreed to hire a maintenance company, you can’t make them pay for it. If they have agreed to it, the lease should state the monetary penalty for non-compliance.

  • Shawn M

    I live in a duplex. In Pennsylvania. In my lease I am responsible for cutting grass. So I have to get a lawnmower this week. I don’t have access to my basement from outside to store it. Landlord has a shed. But said I can’t use it. Because he had stuff in there. So I’m stuck I guess leaving it outside in the weather? Shouldn’t he make a little room for me? Or am I stuck?

  • Tammy

    I have a question rather than a comment. I live in an apartment complex and I have a patio. The patio has about a 4′ x 12′ section on one side that’s nothing but weeds and they refuse to keep it under control, claiming the lease states the patio is my responsibility. Problem is, all the lease says is they require tenants “keep the area clean, free of clutter, and only use outdoor furniture”. There is no wording anywhere in the lease that states tenants are responsible for lawn care. And, they haven’t provided storage for a weed eater. What should I do?

  • Michael Calise

    my lease states i maintain property along with the other tenants…yet there is no ewuipment..how am i responsible for ewuipment? or if i purchase equipmen can i deduct it from my rent

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