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:
- 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.