Who Foots the Bill for Tree Trimming?

by Chris on December 13, 2010

Q: We make the tenant responsible for their own lawn maintenance. If large tree limbs start to hang low and even rub the roof, posing potential for damage to shingles, is it the tenant or landlord who is responsible for cutting them? – TVS Landlord

It’s possible for the landlord and tenant to agree ahead of time how to care for the rental property by spelling out these responsibilities in the rental agreement.

Given the question you pose, we are assuming that this particular situation is not mentioned in the lease.

Generally, a landlord is responsible for making necessary repairs to the rental property, while a tenant is responsible for cleaning and maintaining their portion of it.

Maintenance usually refers to those things that the tenant must perform on a regular basis in the ordinary course of their daily life. Repairs involve the structure and condition of the property. Unlike lawn mowing, tree trimming could involve special skills, especially where it sounds like these are rather large branches. You mention that if the tree trimming job doesn’t get done, it may damage your roof. It’s not common for a tenant to be held accountable for that sort of damage.

For these reasons, the situation may go beyond the scope of “maintenance” and be more like a repair. In that case, the tenant┬áprobably would not be required to do the work or pay a contractor to do it.

However, it is not clear whether this tenant has accepted other similar responsibilities previously under this lease, or if he or she possesses the skill to do a good job trimming trees. Your insurance agent may have some advice on how to handle the matter. If the tenant injures a person or property, are you insured for the loss?

We should also take into account the common practice among other landlords. Hopefully some of our readers will weigh in on how they handle the situation.

If the lease agreement is not crystal clear, it may not make sense — legally or financially, to turn the job over to the tenant. The better option may be to hire a contractor, and talk to your accountant about how to write-off the expense.

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 in 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.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

brian December 14, 2010 at 7:08 pm

It seems much cheaper to pay for the tree trimming on an annual or bi-anual basis, as a land lord vs the risks associated with that type of work.

Mary Norton December 15, 2010 at 1:40 am

Since this is a service that should not have to be done too often with most trees,
I feel paying to have it done is, in the long run, cheaper than the potential risks
to people, property, and the tree itself from tenants not knowing what they are doing.

Tom December 15, 2010 at 6:34 am

Re: Tree trimming…

Mature trees add value to a property. Suppose the tenant does a butcher of a trim job or cut down the tree… or hires an uninsured person to do the work and an accident happens?

Certain things are clearly best handled by a landlord… this landlord should sell the property if doesn’t want any responsibility.

scott December 16, 2010 at 4:26 am

I wouldnt trust tennants to trim the trees..Likelyhood of damage is greater if the tennants trim the trees anyway. They wouldnt care if the tree or branches bounce off the roof while cutting them.

June June 28, 2016 at 5:31 am

I have been a private rented property for over 5 years now. At the front of the property there are some huge, and I mean really tall trees that are now blocking out light into the front of our house. They are also overhanging the wall and on the other side of the wall is a footpath next to a busy road. I have requested that the come and trim them but they were really curt and said it was our job to do it or pay for someone to do it. Are they right? I really don’t think so.

Barry Staind December 28, 2018 at 5:20 am

I live in City of Memphis Tennessee in Mobile Home Park which is private, I owned mobile home and they own the land two trees in the next door lot, one hangs over the back of my mobile home, and the other hangs over the center, 5 times reported these trees and now is an intimate danger any second because they’re rotted through ready to fall, I called code enforcement they came out gave notice 7 Days Later landlord gives me 30 days to move in retaliation and saying I’m standing in their way a progress or whatever, 61 year old that become disabled I’m SSDI, my finances are bottomed out. They know by just my income in my disability I’m at a disadvantage. They’re waiting for the trees to fall. Management tries to talk me into paying for removal of trees knowing it’s their responsibility, in five certified Arborist and the code inspector told them trees or eminent danger to life and property it’s mation Mark the trees are rotting ,disease and full of insects breeding holes! How do I correct this matter before the trees fall making me either dead or homeless. I haven’t the money to move and they want me to move in 30 days and take my mobile home doesn’t make sense. Do you want to have a leg to stand on to protect myself?

Barry Stang December 28, 2018 at 5:30 am

For people that are disabled and elderly on a fixed income mobile homes are a way of low income elderly living. If we are interrupted in our rights are not protected by law against landlord retaliation, if not the resources to move somewhere else, we are forced to impale on the system to put us up in public housing costing the taxpayer extreme amount of money! I’m SSDI but I’m so disabled I have to have extra help. As of right now I can do it myself, like to become homeless because to rotten trees that are responsibilities as someone that wants not to spend the money to remove them but rather see me lose my livelihood my home and go to the streets without no compassion at all oh, the owners don’t even live here there from California. It’s like they have no conscience. Retaliate against me for asking them to move a safety issue is many years that I’ve been here off and on since 1999 the last eight years straight never late for a field never unpaid anything, my place is decent I keep it that way the best I can. Retaliate by giving me 30 days to move, haven’t been served but received a letter from a lawyer they hired to try in the Vic me to avoid removing the trees without removing the mobile home first or get their hands on it by trying to pay taxes every year before you do that way if something happens you die or you can’t pay they take your mobile home as a practice. This should be legal because they force people out of homes in here but don’t know how to protect themselves and they lose their livelihood like my next door neighbor. Boss his mother’s mobile home because his brother left and they weren’t speaking after his mother died he thought his brother was keeping up mobile home in the property from his mother. He’d lived in the front of the mobile home park and the office never said once to him knowing who he is and been here for all them years since the 80s not one word but when he found out when up to the office they wanted $12,000 for two years of not being paid their lot fee for him to get the mobile home back. Mobile homes been sitting now for three years and is a hazard it’s falling apart from not being lived in trees not being trimmed, is a horde for rats and snakes, and ice or in a danger for kids. This is a AAA park at one time, under the theft by management deceiving the Patriots, discrimination against elderly, and the idea that they could save money because 85% of this mobile home park has become Hispanic and they do not realize what their rights are as far as their responsibility or the people that actually own the land. We own the homes the mobile home park owns the land, and tries to dictate to its consumer in the attempt to save money fraudulently. How do you prove this how do you say people’s livelihoods from being taken from them. Do we keep shoveling it off to the taxpayer, or do we do something about it? We can’t fight this war alone, think about your grandparents think about your parents your kids you getting in position like this I’ve been thrown out on the street because of a bottom line! The stable buck and long-term make more at the expense of a life!

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