Who Foots the Bill for Tree Trimming?

by | Dec 13, 2010 | Rental Property Management Tips

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¬†probably 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.

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