Landscaping is such an important part of property management: a well-manicured community raises the quality of life for its residents and keeps property values high. Of course, hiring the right landscaper can be tricky for a homeowner or condominium association, especially when budgets are tight (and they always are).
Switching to a cheap landscaper might fit your budget, but be unreliable or do a subpar job. If that ever happens to your association, here’s what to do:
- Acknowledge as a board that you made a mistake. Don’t let pride get in the way of sustained property values and happy residents.
- Understand where your community falls in the spectrum of property values in your area, and how landscaping influences those values and attractiveness for new residents. Do this so when you make a change, or even give the current landscaper a chance to redeem themselves, you know how much more quality and reliability are necessary to say, “they’re doing a good job.”
- Approach your property management company with the situation, and ask them to help you manage the communication with the current landscaper. A good property management company will understand the value of landscaping to your community, and will be able to guide the current landscaper toward better performance (or know what qualities to look for in the next landscaper). Remember, it’s your property management company’s job to handle situations like this, and do so in your best interest.
- Let your property management company recommend contractors for the future, especially if they have a hands-on understanding of your community and its needs
This advice applies to more than just landscapers and/or inexpensive contractors. Snow removal companies are another place where the wrong decision could result in unhappy residents, or bigger issues like property repair in the Spring.
What to do when your landscaper consistently does not meet your community’s expectations.
Large property management companies may try to require you to use their in-house (or preferred) vendors in exchange for lower pricing. Keep in mind that unless there is specific wording in your management agreement, you DO have a choice in the vendors who work on your property. With that being said, if you are totally dissatisfied with the services that are being provided and your property manager has attempted to work with the provider, it is time to solicit bids for the service. Some questions to keep in mind before you go to bid:
Is generic service going to be enough to keep residents happy and property values in check? If not, then your property manager needs to review the specifications for the service that is being provided. A tight scope of work for bidding helps to eliminate problems and set expectations for any vendors that may be selected to provide a service.
Do you have the ability to build relationships with the specific contractors working in your community, or similarly, will the contractors assigned to your community be consistent? This is important as many vendors will sub-contract some or even all of the work. You will want to assure that you are getting what you were sold.
Does your property manager understand what type of contractor will be a good fit for the community? Though you as the Board have the final say on the contractor selection, your manager is generally the one to bring the vendors to the table for bidding. It is beneficial that the manager understands your community’s expectations and properly communicates that to the vendors who will be bidding.
Will the property manager (and contractor) take into account the personality of your community when arranging services? For example, a community with a high percentage of new families may require a landscaping schedule that takes into account sleeping newborns. This is just one example of community preferences that can come into play when an ongoing service is being contracted. Again, the specifications that are developed should be very specific (when possible) about the timing of services.
The bottom line is that working closely with your Property Manager in developing a realistic and thorough set of specifications will not only help to select the right contractor to perform the service, it also provides you with concrete performance expectations that can be documented in the event your contractor is not living up to your expectations thereby making it easier to exit a contract should it become necessary.