Could Residents and Landlords Collaborate to Plant Shrubs

Visitor Question: My city has no requirement for shrubs on residential properties, and rental properties often have none. At least one block in my neighborhood is accumulating rental properties without shrubs. Its appearance is sagging.

It occurs to me that the neighborhood could initiate a modest effort to address this. Perhaps residents could work with landlords to plant a few shrubs, e.g., pick one motivated landlord each year and offer to pay for and plant a few shrubs if the landlord would match funding and maintain the shrubs.

In addition to enhancing one home's appearance, the effort might help the neighborhood maintain an awareness of the number and status of rental properties.

Have you heard of efforts like this?

Editors Reply: Yes, neighborhood associations often maintain a cost-sharing program such as this to give businesses or landlords an incentive to take better care of their properties.

We have not heard of a program specific to planting shrubbery, but it would be similar to many neighborhood initiatives offering people free bulbs, seeds, or plants of a specific type or variety. It should work well.

Here are a few things to keep in mind:

1. Be aware that some people may criticize the notion of sharing the cost with landlords. One way to combat this may be to try to maintain as much plant material free as possible. Ask any neighborhood or nearby nurseries for donations. The "big box" home stores often make donations without too much paperwork or fuss.

2. You do not say if you are planning on having neighborhood volunteers do the work of the planting. If so, be prepared to have your volunteers waive claims of liability for injury against the landlord, and of course obtain formal written permission from the landlord for the volunteers to enter the property.

3. As strange as it sounds, you also will need to ask the chosen landlord to give you a written waiver of liability in case the plant material dies. If you obtain material from a nursery, the nursery may be willing to guarantee plant survival for a year.

4. You will need to think through your criteria for choosing one landlord over another. We think it is definitely preferable to cluster the activity in a particular geographic area to make more of an impact. We are suggesting that you start with the one block you describe.

5. Think about the possibility of a temporary sign giving yourselves some credit for the installation. This may or may not be desirable, depending on the type of neighborhood you have.

6. If these are single-family rental homes that you want to landscape, choose materials that are common and familiar within the neighborhood. This would not be the time to experiment with exotic plants.

7. If you are planting shrubbery in front of multi-family homes or apartment buildings, again try to find comparable buildings nearby that look attractive. Volunteers sometimes underestimate the amount of shrubbery that will be required to improve the appearance of a large building.

8. We have been answering as if your planned landscaping project will take place on private property. If you want to plant something between the sidewalk and the street, where the city owns the land, then you can follow the same guidelines but deal with the city government rather than the landlord. This would be true even if you were planting in front of a rental property.

All in all, we think this is a great project, and wish you the best of luck in improving the appearance of the neighborhood through landscaping.



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Thank you
by: Anonymous

Thank you for such a complete and thoughtful reply including legal considerations.

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