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Rental Strategies by Rob Massey

RISMEDIA, Nov. 8, 2008-In most parts of the country, it is customary to not provide lawn services when renting out a house on an annual basis. But what grounds services make sense to provide irrespective of the customs in your market? What really is in the owner’s best interest to include and not include in the business of renting out houses?

Common sense tells us that if most landlords do not include a particular service for a specified rent then others should do the same or adjust the rent to compensate for the difference. Despite customs to the contrary, I have represented owners who have insisted that they keep the responsibility for grass-cutting, leaf removal and lawn fertilization in order to be assured that the exterior of their house is well kept and doesn’t appear as a “rental” in the neighborhood. When deviating from the norm, it is imperative that the advertising reflect the added services or the listing may appear to be overpriced.

The responsibility for certain services, such as tree trimming and gutter cleanout, should always be handled by the owner since the residents do not likely have the proper tools; nor should they be taking the risks associated with these tasks. Although not as critical as the aforementioned, I have always included shrubbery trimming as an owner service to make sure that it gets properly done and as frequently as it should. I never add any additional rent for including this work.

Should you decide to include additional grounds services beyond the norm in your lease, the fairest method for including them in the rent is by simply taking the annual cost and dividing it by 12 to determine the add-on monthly rent.

However, since the owner’s costs are really not evenly spread out over the year, unless you also have that arrangement with your contractor, you may want to have a schedule of costs written in your lease to be levied against the resident in the event of early termination of lease. Otherwise, the owner may be disproportionately charged and not properly credited for this expense up to the point of termination.

In any case, making informed decisions about lawn and grounds care requires a bit of forethought to arrive at the best arrangement for the owner. Consider your market conditions, the location of the property, the amount of work, and cost required to keep the property looking top-notch prior to deciding the best course of action for you or your owner. RE

Rob Massey, Jr., CPM, is founder of RentalHouses.com and a consultant for Rentals.com.

For more information, please visit www.rentals.com.

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