The overarching goal of any condominium corporation should be to make the community a better place to live. Achieving that goal isn’t necessarily straightforward. There is a lot that needs to be taken into consideration. Individual homeowners may all have different (and sometimes conflicting) demands, and board members will likely butt heads from time to time. Then there is the budget. Creating a budget that everyone can agree on and work within is challenging.
One of the very first steps for any condominium corporation is to draw up landscaping guidelines, or a detailed scope of work as it is commonly referred as. But what should you include?
1. Lawn care standards
Turf generally takes up more space than any other landscaping feature. Your turf is likely the centre of attention for your property. Keeping everyone’s lawns looking lush, well-trimmed and cared for should be top of the list for any condominium corporation.
In addition to maintaining a set length of grass, you should also remember to include other lawn care features like edging, aeration and pest control. Keeping lawns healthy requires regular maintenance, and stipulating in your landscaping guidelines how often your landscape management company is expected to fertilize or over-seed your lawn is important. Over fertilizing can be just as damaging (or even more so) than under-fertilizing so consult your landscape management company about the best products and frequency of service needed to deliver the results you are looking for.
2. Responsibility for maintenance
Some condominium corporations stipulate that each homeowner is responsible for the care and maintenance of their own property or portions of it like garden beds in the front and rear yards and the landscape management company may service common areas only. Others choose to have the landscape management company service the entire property. Both options have their advantages and disadvantages, but the most important thing is that responsibility is clearly delineated and understood. Another great idea is to draft a site-map together with your landscape partner outlining areas you expect to be serviced.
3. Pruning and trimming
Lawns may take up the space but shrubs and trees define a property and neighbourhood. Keeping them orderly and trimmed is no easy task. Different species will grow at different speeds and in different ways. Pruning at certain times of the year is essential for the healthy development of some plants, but potentially detrimental to others. Setting guidelines can be tricky and should be managed by an expert using proper horticultural techniques. Work with your landscape partner to understand when services will be performed and why this is best for your property.
General rules that require subjective interpretations can be problematic to enforce, so ideally you should have rules dictating the types of trees and shrubs on site and rules pertaining to the care of each species.
4. Clean up responsibilities
With all that mowing and pruning, not to mention leaves, there will be a lot of debris on the ground. Make sure you don’t overlook this in your scope of work. Clearing up yard waste makes a huge aesthetic difference. Keep in mind that organic matter can be used as compost, but you’ll need to set guidelines how this is managed on your property. You should also outline what is considered debris. Organic debris can consist of the above mentioned but what if a tree comes down on the property? At what point is the service billable? You should also create guidelines about human debris or garbage? Picking up wrappers, boxes and bags blown onto the property may be part of your regular service, but how will you handle that couch or shopping cart left behind by a tenant or possibly a neighbour.
Ultimately the best way to enforce landscaping standards is to address issues before they arise. Create a simple and straightforward approval process that allows homeowners and landscapers to work in harmony for the greater good of the property. Set clear expectations and procedures for managing additional work that may be required from time to time.
Put the community first
More important than any single rule is the principle the community comes first and before the interests and preferences of any one home owner or board member.
Call in the expertise of professional landscapers like Garden Grove for more information about creating fair and enforceable landscaping guidelines for your condominium corporation. We can give you insights into everything from lawn care to the planting and maintenance of different species of plants.
Written by Paul Lammers
Paul Lammers is the vice-president of operations with Garden Grove Landscaping. Garden Grove provides Commercial Landscape Management Services across the Golden Horseshoe, GTA and Southwestern Ontario. Paul may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 1-866-996-1099.