Kitchen Design Is Getting Mixed Up

By Melissa Dittmann Tracey, REALTOR(R) Magazine Get two-toned in the kitchen. There’s no need to get too match-y, if you want to be on trend. Kitchen cabinets are popping up in more than one shade to add an eye-catching contrast. Indeed, 42 percent of remodelers surveyed by the National Kitchen and Bath Association say they […]

Executive Session Without the Manager

QUESTION: Can our board meet independently, without the manager present, and without advertising the meetings to discuss, interview, and hire a new management company?

ANSWER: It’s the board’s meeting not the manager’s. So, yes, directors can meet without the manager. However, the board still needs to give notice of the meeting. It may be a little awkward since the manager may suspect or know the purpose of the meeting. Even so, the Davis-Stirling Act does not provide an exemption for awkwardness–only for emergencies.

Interviews. In most instances, the board can simply tell the management company they are unhappy with their performance and plan to interview other companies. If the board is paranoid their manager will sabotage things, it can appoint less than a quorum of directors to interview other companies. The committee can then meet without notice and make a recommendation to the full board for action once it finds the right company.

RECOMMENDATION: Before interviewing other companies, the board should first have legal counsel review the management contract and advise on how best to proceed. Otherwise, the association may find itself in breach of contract and liable for damages.


QUESTION: If an owner requests notice of board meetings by email, is the association obligated to provide it?

ANSWER: Per statute, members can request individual delivery of notice of meetings and the association must provide it. However, the Davis-Stirling Act allows the association to choose the method of delivery. Delivery can include first-class mail, registered or certified mail, express mail, or overnight delivery by an express service carrier, and email, facsimile, or other electronic means (if the recipient has consented in writing to that method of delivery). (Civ. Code §4040(a).)


: Is there a seating protocol for board members on the dais? Is it appropriate for the manager and attorney to be seated on the dais? What is common practice?

ANSWER: There is no seating protocol that I’m aware of. I checked Robert’s Rules of Order and found nothing on the subject.

Seating Arrangements. I’ve been in meetings where the board, manager and attorney were (i) on an elevated dais with everyone facing the audience, (ii) seated at tables in a “u” shape (common with larger boards), (iii) seated at a round table with the backs of some directors to the audience, (iv)  seated randomly in comfy chairs in someone’s living room, and (v) seated in folding chairs on one side of a pool and the audience on the other side (a quasi separation of church and state–if you could walk on water, you could join the board). My favorite is where the board met in the alley next to a dumpster and everyone stood (it made for very short meetings).

On A Dais. When the board meets on a dais facing the audience, the most common position for the manager and attorney is at the end of the table. The second most common is for the attorney to be seated next to the president so he/she can consult with the attorney as-needed during the course of the meeting.

RECOMMENDATION: Generally, the larger the association, the more formal the seating arrangements. Boards should pick one that is comfortable for them.


Unsigned Bylaws #1. Regarding signing bylaws because lending institutions demand it, would writing “without prejudice” above board signatures preserve the board’s rights? It might make them less reluctant to sign. -LL

RESPONSE: Adding that language may make the board happy and the lenders unhappy. Bureaucrats are a sensitive lot and easily miffed. They may take their loan and go home. A simple affirmation of the bylaws makes them happy and does not put the board at risk. I recommend signing a certification prepared by the association’s attorney.

Unsigned Bylaws #2. I just love your comment on the bylaws and nearsighted clerks in cubicles. Finally somebody says what he really thinks. The funny thing is, most people don’t really know the difference between CC&Rs and bylaws. The CC&Rs should be the important documents to be signed. Why would voting, membership and directors’ responsibilities matter to mortgage lenders? Thank you for making me chuckle. -Marlis V.

RESPONSE: You’re right, CC&Rs have a higher ranking in the food chain than bylaws. (Civ. Code §4205) They are recorded while bylaws are not. When I take on representation of an association, I require a recorded copy of the CC&Rs. If they don’t have a set, I run title and get one. Why do lenders want bylaws to be signed? Because someone in Washington DC told them so. As I noted last week, they never read them–they really don’t care what’s in them. They just want someone to affirm they are legit so they can check off a box on their list.

Contravention & Subjugation. Can an association enact and enforce rules that contravene state, county or city laws? Does the fact that our HOA is built entirely on private property (not public land) give the association the right to subjugate public law? -Bill H.

RESPONSE: In my experience, the law rarely agrees to subjugation. I’ve dealt with public entities and they can get heavy-handed when persons or entities cross them. Also, an illegal act is still illegal whether on private land or public land. If you are concerned, you should have your rules reviewed by legal counsel.


Troublesome Owner.
Thank you for your newsletter, it provides great content and good humor. In last week’s feedback you stated that, “Insurance carriers can drop risky associations at a moment’s notice…” In California, insurers are required to provide a 60-day notice if they will be non-renewing a policyholder’s coverage or will be substantially modifying the terms and conditions of the policy (premium increase over 25%, changes to the deductible structure, etc.). Also, any carrier will open a claim on the association’s policies if an owner calls in but the HOA does have the right to withdraw first party property claims. -Brian Kalmenson, Michael Abdou Insurance Agency

Executive Session. Our members’ listserv provides informal discussion such as “Does anyone have a bike I can borrow?,” announcements, and a place to complain about the board, manager, and vendors. The landscaper is one of the listserv’s favorite subjects. Our board will be evaluating their performance at an upcoming meeting. I wonder about comments made during our meetings’ open forum and on the listserv. Should I worry they could lead to litigation by the vendor? -Patty M.

RESPONSE: If individual owners saying something defamatory, they could be at risk of being sued. As a board, it’s the association’s deep pockets you should worry about. That’s why you want to hold your discussion in executive session. As for the listserv, board members should not participate in any discussions related to the association. If they want to borrow a bicycle or list their car for sale, that’s fine. It’s all the other stuff that can get them in trouble.


Life of Crime #1. “Playing pool, however, could lead to a life of crime.” Very good! Adrian, you’re just about the only attorney I think I like. -Lee M.

Life of Crime #2. Thank you Adrian for your closing statement re pool & crime–point well taken and a Sunday morning out-loud laugh! -Kathryn C.

Adrian J. Adams, Esq.

Adrian J. Adams, Esq.
A Professional Law Corporation

We’re friendly lawyers–boards and managers can reach us at (800) 464-2817 or

Landlord Shaming and the Law

The following guest post is contributed by Avvo, an online legal services marketplace that offers on-demand, affordable legal advice, especially when it comes to landlord/tenant laws.

For tenants who believe they’ve been ripped off by a landlord, ranting about it on social media might feel pretty good. With rents skyrocketing in major U.S. cities and around the world, many renters see themselves as stuck with their current apartment—after all, even a terrible apartment is better than no apartment.

So when a landlord doesn’t respond to complaints and the tenant can’t afford to move, the disgruntled renter may wonder, “What else can I do besides warn away future tenants with some digital landlord shaming?” Jumping on trending hashtags like #VentYourRent may make unhappy tenants feel better, but does it really make any difference, and could it come back to haunt them? And what can landlords do if they find themselves being made a target?

Tenants beware: If you can’t say anything nice…

The old adage that if you can’t say anything nice, you shouldn’t say anything at all certainly has some wisdom, and discontented renters should attempt to deal with their landlord before whining about them on social media. It’s a simple matter of fair play, and besides, doing so might solve the tenant’s problems.

Even if a landlord is unresponsive, tenants should take care not to hinder their ability to take legal action by becoming a defendant themselves. At least one person has been sued for landlord shaming; a property management company in Chicago sued a tenant for defamation after she tweeted that her apartment managers would not do anything about mold in her apartment. The case was thrown out, but that probably won’t stop someone else from trying, and under the right circumstances, a property owner might win.

Needless to say, tenants who do air their complaints on the Internet had best stick to the truth. If a renter tweets about rats when he’s actually just mad about being told to turn down his music, the landlord may have a solid case for defamation. Anonymous posts to Passive Aggressive Notes are unlikely to ever be seen by the landlord or traced back to the tenant, but physically displaying a sign about grievances (even just to take a photo to post online) could open a tenant up to charges of trespass, and altering “for rent” signs by adding juicy details about the lousy conditions of the apartment could, ironically, be considered vandalism.

Landlords: You should tread carefully, too.

Meanwhile, landlords who think the law is always on their side in shaming cases could be in for a rude awakening. New York City has made it safer, and potentially more effective, to shame a landlord. The Public Advocate of the City of New York maintains a landlord watchlist, publicly revealing the names of New York landlords with multiple reported violations. Each year it releases a list ranking the 100 worst landlords in the five boroughs.

A year and a half ago, Public Advocate Letitia James announced in a press conference that Robin Shimoff was the worst landlord in New York. While acknowledging that identifying the culprits was only the first step in cleaning up their act, James’ office also claims that publication of the list has caused “at least one” landlord to contact her agency for help making changes. For the rest of them, the Public Advocate has stronger tools – including court, charging for repairs made by the city, and tax liens.

Results: Is landlord shaming effective?

Are the combined strategies of public shaming and legal action effective? They might be. Over 5,000 landlords made the 2014 watchlist, while just under 4,000 were called out in 2015 (although the number of buildings on the list grew). Robin Shimoff’s name dropped completely out of the top 100.

In the end, it’s important to recognize that both tenants and landlords have legal rights and responsibilities, and that a dispassionate conversation between the parties should be the first step in resolving disputes instead of landlord shaming. If that doesn’t work, affordable legal advice can help.


The post Landlord Shaming and the Law appeared first on RentPrep.

Are You Ready to Become a Landlord?

Thinking of becoming a landlord? With today’s booming housing market across most of the country, many people are. Owning investment and rental properties is a time-honored way to make money, but many people make the mistake of believing that they can just buy any old place, collect the rent and live happily ever after. However, the most successful landlords know that there are plenty of things that need to happen between buying that first property and making a real profit.

Here are 4 aspects of being a landlord that anyone thinking about real estate investing should consider:

1. Starting Funds

Having enough money to launch a new career as a real estate investor is the first and most important step, because without it, there would be no property to manage. Having good credit, an appropriate down payment and the means to pay the mortgage should something go wrong is just the beginning.

Not every property makes a good rental property, and there are many things that factor into the decision of what type of house or multi-unit property to buy. Examples include where it is located, what kinds of repairs are needed to make or keep it habitable and what the rental market rate is for the area. Beginning real estate investors need resources and need to do their homework on rental properties as well.

2. Repairs and More Repairs

Whether aspiring landlords are handy themselves or “know a guy” that can fix things, there must always be a working process for repairs. A new landlord need to be prepared to pay for any and all repairs that happen at the rental property, from replacing a door knob to repairing a water heater, and everything in between. There can be little delay from the first report of a needed repair to the time the repair takes place, especially if the problem has to do with the habitability of the rental property.

Don’t forget to include extra costs in a repair budget like delivery, installation, equipment, supplies and more. Then there’s all the small things that are part of repairing and maintaining a rental, like air filters, yard maintenance, light bulbs and more. A landlord can quickly get overwhelmed on repairs, so they should develop a system of reporting to completion that works for all.

3. Working With Bad Tenants

A prospective landlord should never labor under the impression that dealing with tenants will happen at convenient times or when it’s easiest for them to respond. Midnight communications, emergencies, missed rent payments, interactions with police and much more are some of the worst-case scenarios. Landlords will also get to interact with fine tenants that treat the place like their own and never miss a payment.

While tenant screening can help eliminate those bad tenants, there’s really no guarantee on how to attract the best ones and pass on the bad ones. Landlords should be prepared to head to court for evictions when they encounter tenants that violate the lease agreement. Evictions are notoriously expensive and long, so landlords need to get ready or try alternatives like cash for keys.

4. Stay On Top of Finances

Owning investment property is definitely running a business, and landlords need to have a handle on their finances, including cash flow, holding security deposits, paying taxes, buying insurance, paying bills, paying for repairs and more. Like any business, there will be ups and downs. Some months, everyone will pay on time and there will be relatively few costs, while other times it can seem like there are plenty of vacancies and very costly things are breaking. Keeping all the finances going in the right direction is a key part of any landlord making those real estate investments pay off in the long run.

There are hundreds of thousands of landlords across the country that own investment property, and for every successful one, there’s one that is struggling. Anyone that is thinking of getting into the real estate game and picking up a few rental properties for themselves should make sure that they are financially able and mentally ready to take on the best and toughest responsibility out there. With the right tools, real estate investments can be very profitable and supply a landlord with a fine income for years to come.

The post Are You Ready to Become a Landlord? appeared first on RentPrep.

Unsigned Bylaws

QUESTION: The Veteran’s Administration, HUD, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac are now requiring that boards sign their bylaws or sign a certificate stating that the bylaws are the operable bylaws. Some boards are refusing to sign them. They say they have always used the bylaws, therefore they are legal. What does the law say regarding this?

ANSWER: The boards are correct. Unsigned bylaws are legal and associations function perfectly fine with them.

Lenders. Unfortunately, some nearsighted clerk in a little cubicle in Washington DC thinks lending institutions will suffer if an association’s bylaws aren’t signed. Hence the requirement. Even though lenders never read the bylaws, they are now demanding evidence that they are “official.” If boards don’t cooperate, lenders will withdraw loan commitments and escrows will fall through. This creates significant potential liability for boards of directors.

Certification. Boards are reluctant to sign their bylaws because they feel like they are doing something improper by putting their names on a document they didn’t create. They should not be concerned. There is nothing wrong with signing a one-paragraph certification affirming that the bylaws used by the association are the bylaws used by the association.

RECOMMENDATION: Boards should look at the last page of their bylaws and see if they are signed. If not, call your legal counsel and ask him/her to prepare a certification. Then, adopt a resolution authorizing the president and secretary to sign the certification. Staple that certification to your bylaws. You don’t need to record your bylaws nor do you need to redistribute them to everyone in the association. The newly certified set is what gets submitted to all future escrows. Doing so makes you heroes–you just saved the nation’s banking system from collapse.


: When discussing performance issues involving a vendor, should this be done in an open board meeting or in executive session?

ANSWER: It should be done in executive session. If done in open session, negative comments about the vendor could spread through the association and get back to the person. Even worse, it could travel outside the community to others. What follows next is a threat of litigation by the vendor alleging trade libel/slander.

RECOMMENDATION: When dealing with legal issues involving a vendor’s performance and contractual obligations, executive session meetings allow free and open discussion without fear of triggering a lawsuit.


Our firm continues to grow and we are looking for a full-time attorney to join our litigation team in our West Los Angeles office.

We seek an attorney with 5-10 years litigation experience with strong writing, negotiation, and trial preparation skills.

Community association experience is a plus but not required. Please send an email to Managing Partner Adrian Adams.


There is continuing feedback about the troublesome owner who created problems with his association’s D&O insurance.

Troublesome Owner #1. How about designating the troublesome owner a vexatious litigant? -J.S.

RESPONSE: If the homeowner meets any of the elements found in section 391(b) of the Code of Civil Procedure, he can be designated a vexatious litigant and barred from filing any more lawsuits without first obtaining court permission. A person can be declared a vexatious litigant if:

  • In the immediately preceding seven-year period has commenced, prosecuted, or maintained in propria persona at least five litigations other than in a small claims court that have been (i) finally determined adversely to the person or (ii) unjustifiably permitted to remain pending at least two years without having been brought to trial or hearing.
  • After a litigation has been finally determined against the person, repeatedly relitigates or attempts to relitigate, in propria persona, either (i) the validity of the determination against the same defendant or defendants as to whom the litigation was finally determined or (ii) the cause of action, claim, controversy, or any of the issues of fact or law, determined or concluded by the final determination against the same defendant or defendants as to whom the litigation was finally determined.
  • In any litigation while acting in propria persona, repeatedly files unmeritorious motions, pleadings, or other papers, conducts unnecessary discovery, or engages in other tactics that are frivolous or solely intended to cause unnecessary delay.
  • Has previously been declared to be a vexatious litigant by any state or federal court of record in any action or proceeding based upon the same or substantially similar facts, transaction, or occurrence.

Troublesome Owner #2. Regarding the troublesome owner, what provision of the insurance contract allows them to subsequently pick and choose which risks they will shed? -L.S.

RESPONSE: Insurance carriers can drop risky associations at a moment’s notice or renew with higher premiums and extra restrictions. What the reader described about an owner harassing the association’s insurance carrier and constantly suing or threatening to sue the board, I’ve seen with other associations. Boards have trouble getting and keeping insurance because of it. The only insurance they could get precluded any actions filed by the problem owner. 

Troublesome Owner #3. Can the board not advise their insurance carrier that all member inquires regarding the association’s policies must first be routed through the board for initial review? -Frank D.

RESPONSE: They could, but it won’t do any good. It has been my experience that no matter what you tell the carrier, they will take the call and open a claim. Also, if boards get in the middle and stop a claim from being filed, they may find themselves on the receiving end of a lawsuit. It’s an impossible situation. Everyone complains about bad boards but one bad homeowner can create more grief than a dozen bad boards. Members can remove bad boards but they can’t remove a bad owner. Everyone suffers until the person either moves or dies.

Troublesome Owner #4. We have our own troublesome owner. Some of the male members of our board play pool on Wednesday nights in the clubhouse and the women members play cards in the recreation room. Even though they never discuss board business, one homeowner insists that three or more board members gathered in the common areas, even around our outdoor pool, is considered a board meeting. Is that true? -A.O.

RESPONSE: No, it’s not true. The common areas have nothing to do with it. The law is quite clear that a board meeting occurs when a majority of directors “hear, discuss, or deliberate upon any item of business that is within the authority of the board.” (Civ. Code §4090.) There is nothing wrong with a majority of directors getting together to swim, eat pizza, or attend a birthday party. Playing pool, however, could lead to a life of crime.

Adrian J. Adams, Esq.

Adrian J. Adams, Esq.
A Professional Law Corporation

We’re friendly lawyers–boards and managers can reach us at (800) 464-2817 or

Communities, Support Your Voice at the Capitol: Buck-A-Door

Maintaining the voice and protecting the interests of community associations in California is the job of the Community Associations Institute’s California Legislative Action Committee (CAI-CLAC). Advocacy, also called lobbying, is one of the main goals of CAI, and is the process of educating legislators. The California Legislative Action Committee (CLAC) executes the very necessary advocacy portion of CAI’s objectives.

CLAC acts specifically on behalf of the eight CAI Chapters in California. The decision-making body is made up of two delegates from each chapter, as well as at-large delegates appointed by the committee.

Each year, between two and three thousand bills are introduced into the state of California legislative houses (State Senate and Assembly). CAI-CLAC’s advocate digs through these bills to determine which bills might affect community associations in California. The advocate and our CAI-CLAC delgates then decide which bills need action and communicate CAI-CLAC’s position to the legislature.

The probability of a legislator reading every bill they vote on is low. Consequently, it is necessary to draw their attention to a specific bill, give them the community association perspective, and an education on the potential effects of the bill. This helps them understand how best to vote. It is often the only way our legislators will understand the community association industry’s perspective on any issue. This is what CLAC does for you.

There are other interests out there doing this as well. If a legislator goes to vote with only an opposing interest’s information at hand, communities don’t stand a chance. The only way we can continue to speak up on behalf of communities in California is with the support from the people who benefit – community associations in California.

Through the Buck-A-Door donation program, community associations contribute one dollar per residence in their community (or more) per year. These continued contributions are critical to allowing CAI-CLAC to work on behalf of California’s communities.

Answers to questions that may come up in your community:
CLAC is not a PAC.
• CLAC does not contribute to any political campaigns.
• CLAC is not politically motivated, but participates in the legislative process in order to educate legislators.
• The money collected goes to pay for the advocate, the administrator, printing, postage and other items needed for the day-to-day functioning of the committee.

To help your community understand the benefits of CAI-CLAC’s advocacy, we ask that you put time in each agenda for a discussion about the importance of donating and the importance of the legislative education being provided by CLAC.

The following resources are also available to help create awareness of CAI-CLAC’s efforts under the “Donate” tab on CLAC’s website:
Buck-A-Door Pledge Form – contains information on how to support CLAC via the Buck-a-Door program.
Board Resolution for CLAC Contributions – To support a board decision to add a Buck-a-Door donation to the annual budget. Click the link under donation and download the resolution.
What is CLAC? flyer – includes information about CLAC, its mission and goals.
12 Reasons to Donate to CLAC– contains information on what CLAC is and what it does.
CLAC Accomplishments – describes recent activities and successes CLAC has had impacting legislation for the benefit of California’s community associations.

Please ensure the work of CAI-CLAC by encouraging participation in the Buck-A-Door donation program.

To encourage you to spend some time with our resource-rich website and investigate the tools for the Buck-a-Door donation program, CLAC is holding a contest. Please share the opportunity with your association and community members.

To be eligible to win the $25 gift card, visit the CAI-CLAC website. Find the online donation page. Once you find it, write down the 5th word in the headline. We are counting “CAI-CLAC” as one word. Send that word to us in an email addressed to: Submissions with the correct information will be entered into a drawing for the $25 gift card.

Good luck!

All entries must be emailed no later than Friday, July 29, 2016. The gift card will be mailed or presented at a chapter meeting. All decisions regarding winners are the PR Chair’s. All decisions are final. Rules are subject to change. No cost or purchase necessary. An unknown number of people may participate. You must be over 18 to enter.

Today’s Go-To Interior Color Choices: Pastels and Whites

By Melissa Dittmann Tracey, REALTOR(R) Magazine Move over gray. Pastels and whites are softening up the color palette of more homes in 2016. On-trend colors of pastels are entering more household décor, like in accessories from decorative bowls and vases to florals and throw pillows. The major paint companies all agree: Lighter colors and whites […]

How To Get Your Security Deposit Back

Paying a security deposit is pretty standard in any rental situation, even if the amount required differs. By definition, a deposit is funds that you pay against damage to the property or any costs that the landlord incurs after you have vacated the home.

If you have left your rental in good shape and it is not in the lease that a portion of it is held for professional cleaning at the end of your tenancy, you should be able to get the entire amount back once you move on. It is important to know what your rights are as a tenant when it comes to your security deposit, especially since you may need to use it as a deposit on the next place you rent.

For instance:

1. Does my landlord have to return the whole deposit?

There are several reasons that your landlord might legitimately deduct money from your security deposit. For instance, if you have caused damage to your rental and need repairs or you leave items that your landlord must move or dispose, you can be charged. If the costs of such issues extend beyond your deposit, you may be sued for the remainder in court.

2. What kind of damage can I be charged for?

You cannot be charged for anything that is considered “normal wear and tear” which includes things like fading paint, worn out carpet and vinyl or old appliances that stop working on their own. These standards are to keep landlords from taking advantage of tenants as a way to refurbish their properties. However, if you break a window, put holes or large scratches in the walls or stain the carpet, you will be responsible for fixing it.

3. How long does it take to get my deposit back?

Your landlord is required to send a letter to your last known address with the deposit and an itemized list of what has been deducted and why within 21-30 days once you have returned the key. Make sure that you update him with a reliable forwarding address when you move.

4. What recourse do I have to get my deposit back if my landlord doesn’t send it?

If you are having trouble getting your landlord to return your deposit, there are some steps you can take. You can obtain a ‘Request for Return of Security Deposit’ form and send it to your former landlord via certified mail to ensure that it is received. Make sure you keep a photocopy for yourself as well as the return of receipt in the mail. If your landlord hasn’t responded in 7 days, send the form again via regular mail and give it another 10 days.

5. What if I still don’t get my deposit back?

If your landlord still hasn’t responded within the allotted time, you may need to take the issue to small claims court. Check with your local courthouse to see how to start the process since it differs depending on the state. Another option is to see if a private attorney is willing to take the case on “contingency” which means that the lawyer will get paid when the case is won. In such cases, the judge may also require that the landlord cover attorney fees if it is ruled that your deposit was kept wrongfully.

6. What if I disagree with the amount my landlord takes from my security deposit?

If you and your landlord disagree about whether a deduction is damage or normal wear and tear, you should start by talking to him/her rationally about the issue before you begin threatening legal action. If you can’t come to an agreement, you may need to consider small claims, however, you should document all communication until the matter is resolved.

7. How can I protect myself from the start?

One of the best ways to make sure you don’t have disagreements about what is previous damage and what is caused by normal wear and tear is to do a walk through with your landlord when you first move in, noting any issues and the state of the current furnishings and décor. Take pictures, document in detail and get your landlord to physically sign off before you agree to lease terms. This protects you in case there is any question about the shape of the property before you moved in.

The post How To Get Your Security Deposit Back appeared first on RentPrep.

Landlords and Tree Care

Tree care is often the last thing on a landlord’s mind, thanks to a million other demands on their time. Property owners are responsible for the care and maintenance of everything on the property, but many just focus on the house itself and ignore things like sheds, fences and even trees. But trees can really enhance property values, save on energy costs, and help the environment. With all these benefits, it’s no wonder that trees are highly desirable for rental homes.

Who Cares About Trees?

Landlords should definitely pay attention to trees located on a rental property. According to a report by Arbor National Mortgage & American Forests, mature trees have a strong to moderate impact on the property value of a home. Another study showed that mature trees on a property can add up to $10,000 in appraisal value. Still another report verified that property owners get up to 100% return on landscaping investments, including trees. All this and more means that putting in the effort and time into tree care can reward property owners and landlords in a big way.

While healthy trees are definitely an asset, big problems can arise when trees die or become diseased. Not only can such a tree make the property look bad, but it can actually be a safety hazard. In the event that the tree or a limb from the tree breaks off and falls on someone or something, the landlord is now dealing with a potential liability issue. So as you can see, there are many reasons why landlords should care about trees on their rental property.

Basic Tree Care

While some people have a “plant it and forget it” approach to trees, a smart landlord will take tree care seriously on their property, just as they would care for any other permanent structure. Learning some basic tree care is the first step to having healthy, beautiful trees.


Enhancing a property by planting trees is a great idea, but without the proper techniques for planting, the tree has little chance of making it past the first year.

  • When preparing the spot for a new tree, keep the root ball watered so the new tree stays healthy.
  • Determine the best place for a new tree, making plans for the tree’s ultimate height and width. This means keeping it far enough away from pipes, overhead lines, and structures.
  • Dig the hole so that it is one and a half times the diameter of the root ball, and only dig the hole as deep as the root ball, never deeper.
  • Cut away any strings or material holding the root ball together, and spread out the roots in the hole.
  • When refilling the hole around the root ball, make sure there is no compacted soil. Break it up before putting it back.
  • Water the soil to help it settle around the newly planted tree, but avoid stomping or tamping the soil down. It’s best if it settles naturally.


Pruning a grown or growing tree is essential to eliminate dead or weak branches and to boost the tree’s health. Doing it right can help a tree to thrive, but trimming and pruning the wrong way can put it on the fast track to problems.

  • Pruning incorrectly or over pruning can hurt or damage a tree, and even kill it.
  • There are different reasons to prune, such as to thin out some branches to reduce density, reduce the height or the width of a tree from hitting structures, and to remove dead or diseased branches.
  • When pruning a branch, it’s best to cut it off just above the branch collar. Too high or too low can cause damage or weaken the tree.
  • Never cut all the top branches of a tree off, known as topping, because it could damage the tree and prevent it from growing.
  • Never cut too many inner branches from a tree, as it can weaken the tree.
  • Here is a detailed guide to pruning and trimming trees. When in doubt about pruning a tree, landlords should consult a professional.

Soil Health

A tree is only as healthy as the soil it’s growing in, so taking steps to ensure the ground is ideal for growing a tree is important.

  • Avoid using pesticides and other chemicals in the soil.
  • The best soil is dark, full of earthworms and is generally free of big rocks.
  • Poor drainage can affect a tree’s health by causing waterlogged roots, so take steps to ensure proper drainage by eliminating compaction and even mixing in different types of soil material to increase soil health.
  • Get a soil analysis done by the local extension office to find out things like the pH levels and composition of soil. The soil can then be amended for optimal tree growth.

Pests and Disease

There’s no surefire way to keep pests and disease away from a tree, but there are several things that can be done to reduce the risks.

  • Healthy trees are more resilient to pests and disease, so proper soil, water and pruning is essential.
  • Call in a professional arborist to do preventative maintenance on all the trees on the property so they can spot problems before they grow too large and hard to combat.
  • Overcrowding can cause tree stress, as can planting the wrong type of tree for the soil or environment.
  • Improper planting techniques can increase the risk of attracting pests and diseases.
  • Poor pruning techniques will weaken the tree and open the door for pest infestations.

It’s easy to see why caring for trees on a rental property is so important and isn’t something that can be ignored. Landlords and property owners would never think of neglecting part of the rental home that needed care and maintenance, and they should think no differently when it comes to trees and tree maintenance.

Tree-Related Accidents

Tree care is a big deal because a healthy tree can impact the value and appeal of a rental property. An unhealthy tree is a drain on a property’s visual appearance and in extreme cases it can cause significant damage if it comes down.

In the event of a storm, with wind, hail, lightning or ice, it’s possible for a tree or tree branch to come down and land on the rental home or else a neighbor’s property. When this happens, landlords may wonder what their insurance will cover, if anything. It can get a little confusing, so it is a good idea to know the basics before such an event occurs.

Here are a few basic scenarios surrounding fallen trees and a rental property.

  • If a tree falls on the landlord’s structure, any damages should be covered by the homeowner’s insurance. Of course, this happens only if the tree was well-cared for and healthy.
  • If a healthy tree falls onto a neighbor’s structure, their homeowner’s insurance should take care of those damages. Similarly, if a neighbor’s tree fell onto a landlord’s rental property their own insurance would cover the cost of repairs.
  • If the tree was diseased, damaged or otherwise not cared for, and it fell and caused damage, the landlord’s own insurance company may find that they were indeed negligent, and raise premiums.

Tree damage is all about what the home owner did to protect structure from any damage. If there is any negligence involved, the landlord can be found responsible via a potential lawsuit, even. Landlords that ignore trees that need attention may find themselves with a fallen tree after the latest storm, plus a lot of financial headaches.

Trees are a Good Investment

All in all, trees are a big part of how a property looks, and they can have a big impact on everything from energy costs to aesthetics. Responsible landlords should learn all they can about tree care like planting, maintaining and treating the trees on their property to ensure these leafy assets stay around for a long time.

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