Landlords: Is Your Landscaping a Liability?

by | Jun 18, 2018 | Rental Property Management Tips

Landscaping around a rental property improves curb appeal, attracts good tenants, and increases the property value. However, it has a downside. Done badly, landscaping can increase landlord liability:

Landscaping attracts pests.

Bringing a little nature to the property can be more than a landlord bargained for by way of unwanted pests. Leaves left to rot on the ground or under large shrubs become an attractive nest for rodents and insects. The closer these habitats are to the structure, the easier it is for these pests to hide for months or years, and eventually make their way indoors.

To avoid the problem, pull landscaping away from exterior walls or consider less hospitable options like rocks or gravel near the building.

Landscaping can cause water damage.

Pooling water from poor drainage serves as a breeding ground for pests and damages the structure. Water damage is one of the most expensive hazards landlords face, and the longer the water seeps into the foundation and walls, the higher the costs.

Typically, this occurs with landscaping planted too close to the building, but poor design and bad soil contribute to the problem. Be aware of trees planted too close to rooflines. Debris may clog the gutters, which become prime breeding ground for unwanted pests.

Aging plants are hazardous.

Falling tree limbs can cause serious injury and death. Less serious accidents can cause property damage. Trees must be inspected regularly and pruned or removed when they become a potential danger.

Aging shrubs often are overlooked, but those “carefree” perennials also age out, and when they do, they fall victim to insects and other pests that hide in the decaying plants. Newer plantings can become a hazard if they are not well-suited for the climate or the specific location at the property. Plants that struggle are prone to disease, making them more susceptible to insects and other pests.

Neglected plantings can increase the risk of premise liability. Tree roots or debris can compromise walkways, leading to slip-and-fall injuries. Tenants or visitors could take a tumble into an overgrown or thorny bush and suffer an injury.

Landscaping provides cover for crime.

Criminals easily find cover in overgrown shrubs planted next to the building. These prowlers are hidden from view and can pass unnoticed. Trim shrubs located near buildings or streets to under three feet tall. Plant away from windows and doors. Consider a line of gravel between the building and the live landscaping. That helps with drainage, reduce pests, and makes noise when someone steps on it, possibly alerting residents to an intruder.

Landscaping can be a fire hazard.

Dried leaves and brittle plants or tree limbs burn more quickly, which places the property and residents in jeopardy if there is a fire. Yard waste should be removed immediately, not stored at the property. Also, spacing trees and larger shrubs farther apart can impede fires, which often begin on the ground. Remove trees that are too close to chimneys or roofs.

While mulch is a useful tool for reducing pests and enhancing water drainage, it doesn’t belong next to the structure because it tends to be flammable. Some plants are less prone to fires, so consult a local plant nursery or landscape contractor for ideas on new plantings or when choosing which plants to keep.

This post is provided by Tenant Verification Service, Inc., helping landlords reduce the risks of renting with fraud prevention tools that include Tenant Screening, Tenant Background Checks, (U.S. and Canada), as well as Criminal Background Checks, and Eviction Reports (U.S. only).

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Disclaimer: The information provided in this post is not intended to be construed as legal advice, nor should it be considered a substitute for obtaining individual legal counsel or consulting your local, state, federal or provincial tenancy laws.

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