How much money is my SF landlord paying to have the backyard cleared?
June 16, 2019 11:33 AM   Subscribe

I rent an apartment in a small apartment building with a big, overgrown backyard. Every year or so, the landlord hires guys to come clear out the overgrowth. He always seems annoyed and put out whenever he finally gets around to doing this. I get the impression it costs him more than he wants to pay.

The backyard could be really nice if it were landscaped and if someone regularly maintained it. I want to convince him to pay for initial landscaping and then maybe pay me to keep it up each month. How much do we think it is costing him to clear out the backyard each time? How much do you think it would cost to pay someone to do a basic landscaping job? Nothing extravagent. Just something easy to maintain and better than a yard full of weeds. This is in San Francisco in the Mission, so the backyard is normal San Francisco size and the landscaping costs would be Bay Area prices.
posted by buddylove to Home & Garden (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
It costs me about $500 to do a yard cleanup for my larger than average SF yard. However, it’s mostly planted so the three guys that come are weeding around the perimeter and in flower beds. I do this 1-2x year and maintain the yard (somewhat) myself in between. Eventually the weeds get the best of me and then I bring in the crew. They usually spend 5 or so hours.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 11:53 AM on June 16, 2019

Skilled gardeners are about $60-$70 an hour in San Francisco. Manual labor just to cut stuff back could be as little as $15-$30 an hour, depending on whether your landlord is particularly concerned about legality of employment. So spitballing, a crew of 3 for half a day is probably less than $500 total, which is including time for the truck and hauling away the debris.

There's a second opinion on gardening costs on Quora.

I doubt any landlord would agree to pay you cash to care for the backyard. Maybe pay for materials and if you're really good a small break on rent.
posted by Nelson at 11:54 AM on June 16, 2019 [3 favorites]

I doubt any landlord would agree to pay you cash to care for the backyard.

I don't know about that. A pleasant backyard would be a selling point for the building. A landlord might consider a below-market investment worth it, if they thought the tenant would actually hold up their end of the bargain. Wouldn't hurt to ask.
posted by praemunire at 1:08 PM on June 16, 2019 [1 favorite]

I doubt any landlord would agree to pay you cash to care for the backyard.

Yeah, as a landlord currently paying a tenant to look after the yard I disagree too. Our current arrangement is probably the most lucrative (for them) to date -- we just set an hourly rate and a budget per month that was the same as we were paying a landscaping crew before. We don't save any money in the deal but it's hugely advantageous in the long run to have tenants who feel connected to and invested in the place. If you're trying to get tenants to stick around, that's worth a lot.
posted by range at 2:04 PM on June 16, 2019 [3 favorites]

I've had a landlord offer $X off rent if I maintained the lawn instead of them paying someone to do it which is functionally the same.
posted by ToddBurson at 2:06 PM on June 16, 2019 [1 favorite]

Assuming this is a rent controlled building in San Francisco, the landlord likely doesn't care a whole lot about getting tenants to stick around or making the backyard nice. He just wants the problem managed to the extent that he doesn't get in trouble with the city for excessive overgrown vegetation, and that's still going to be a whole bunch cheaper than a basic landscaping job and ongoing maintenance.

Never hurts to ask, but if he's grumbling about the cost of an annual cleanout, it strikes me as unlikely he wants to invest in any landscaping.
posted by zachlipton at 2:50 PM on June 16, 2019 [7 favorites]

Your landlord might pay you IF it's going to cost less than paying a professional. If he's having the yard cleared once a year, figure out how much you'd want to be paid to maintain it for a year after the next clean-up (or now if the yard is manageable). Of course, you'll have to find out what he's paying. If the cost bothers him so much, he might just be hiring what the call "blow-and-go" workers, not actual gardeners. If that's the case, he's not paying much.
posted by wryly at 2:56 PM on June 16, 2019

My former landlord gave me a substantial ($200/month, which was 25%) break on rent for taking care of some property issues including shovelling snow and making sure the trash cans went out and in on time. It’s totally reasonable to see if you can negotiate something. Maybe suggest it for the next 3 months as a trial period.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 3:13 PM on June 16, 2019

I am noticing a trend of people who actually live in SF being skeptical of rent adjustments.
posted by batter_my_heart at 3:43 PM on June 16, 2019 [6 favorites]

He's probably paying $250-500 (or up) each time. Without knowing what you mean by "a basic landscaping job," I can't say. I recently got quoted 5k for an 15x10 area that included redoing the sidewalk in the middle, but I'm in a cheaper location. But if you mean, cut everything to bare earth, tack down some landscaping fabric, get on the waiting list for a free wood chip delivery, then move and spread out the mulch, and maybe put in a few plants and a bench, you're probably looking at more like 1k. But that mulch gets covered by weeds again in 2-3 years.
posted by slidell at 3:54 PM on June 16, 2019

I do know someone who gets a rent reduction in Oakland for doing the landscaping.
posted by slidell at 4:00 PM on June 16, 2019

I dunno if they're going to give you money off, but would it be worth it to you to put in the work and have a cool backyard area to hang? (If they say no to $$)
That way if you ask and they say no you could offer to make it a nice space for you to use. If there are a bunch of people renting involved in the shared space perhaps even a 'work on backyard party' or something...?!?!
posted by PistachioRoux at 4:06 PM on June 16, 2019 [2 favorites]

@pistachio: that's actually a good point, even though it's saving the LL some amount of money ultimately you're doing it because you want a nice backyard. I would expect the price difference between regular landscaping and a once-a-year machete job to be reflected in rent so in a way doing it yourself already is a rent reduction.
posted by ToddBurson at 6:56 AM on June 17, 2019

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