Keeping the Outside of Your Apartment Building Clean

As a landlord for an apartment building, most of your concerns will lie with finding plenty of tenants who pay rent on time and care for their units responsibly. However, there is another component to your role that, unfortunately, many landlords fail to realize: keeping the apartment building looking great. Specifically, you need to take an active role in making sure the outside of your building is clean, attractive, and organized.

Here are a few problems that you might encounter:

  • Irregular cleaning by tenants
  • Lack of landscaping
  • Balcony/porch clutter

Irregular Cleaning

If you have tenants who don’t take out the trash frequently enough (at least once a week) or leave food or soda outside, your building will attract rodents or insects. This is certainly an unattractive problem to encounter outside of your building. When renting a unit, make basic cleaning rules explicit in the lease, point out the requirements in a face-to-face conversation, and explain to renters your reasoning. They want a vermin-free living environment, too!

Lack of Landscaping

All too often, landlords think of landscaping as unimportant. However, how the outside of your apartment building appears has a strong effect on the satisfaction of your tenants and your building’s market value. Would you want to rent a unit in a building with high grass and weeds growing outside? An untidy lawn implies a poorly kept-up building and a neglectful landlord. To keep your tenants happy and to ensure your building has a good reputation in the neighborhood, hire a regular landscaper.

There are important advantages to taking on all landscaping as your role as the landlord, rather than making outdoor maintenance the responsibility of your tenants. It’s simpler, it’s more likely to get done, and you can decide on the type of landscaping that you feel makes the most sense for the building. Good landscaping that they don’t have to worry about will keep your tenants happy – but it does require a small responsibility on their part as well. If you allow pets, make sure that your tenants clean up after them. Again, make this explicit in the lease and be vocal about enforcing this rule. You could even provide a pet waste station. This way, you avoid the risk of vermin or the worry that a tenant will step in dog waste and complain.

Balcony or Porch Clutter

Clutter on balconies, porches, and shared lawns can present a big problem for you and your tenants. The landscaper isn’t able to work properly if the lawn is covered in personal items. Additionally, a “junky” look to the outside of your building can cause your tenants embarrassment and dissatisfaction. And like a weedy lawn, a look of clutter makes potential new tenants less likely to rent from you.

Unorganized clutter on the lawn, balconies or porches can also cause dissension between your tenants, which will require your attention. At worst, personal items left out can attract thieves, making your apartment building unsafe.

So what can you do? Again, keeping clutter to a minimum is a requirement to specify in the lease. Indicate that shared spaces like lawns should be kept empty of personal items that aren’t in use, and limit items on balconies and porches to outdoor furniture and lighting and bicycles and plants. When tenants first rent from you, take time to speak candidly with them about this issue and its possible ramifications. If they understand the reasoning, they’ll be more likely to follow the rules. If a tenant does leave “clutter” outside and fails to clean up within a reasonable amount of time, speak with them personally. Remind them gently that the lease specifies that personal items belong inside. If this doesn’t work, consider posting a notice warning of a fine for every day that personal items are left out.

How to Ensure Compliance with the Rules

Landscaping requires an empty lawn, and every tenant wants a nicely kept outdoor area. For this reason, if you’re ensuring that landscaping occurs regularly, tenants are less likely to leave personal items out where they can interfere with this process. In fact, the more the outside of your apartment building looks like a clean, pristine place where clean, organized people reside, the more your tenants will be motivated to keep in line with that image.

Reinforcing these rules (while explaining your reasoning) will ensure that the blame doesn’t fall on you if personal items left out are stolen, or two of your tenants get into an argument over clutter on shared space. Ideally, you can avoid these situations altogether!

When both landlord and tenants work together to keep the outside of an apartment building looking clean, well maintained, and uncluttered, everyone’s happy. Tenants get along better, you avoid the problems of clutter and trash attracting thieves and vermin, and your building looks attractive to future renters. However you decide to approach keeping your building clean and well-landscaped, just make sure to include your requirements of your tenants in the lease, explain the issues to them well, and clearly outline reasonable consequences for failure to comply.