patio rules

Spring and summer are the seasons when tenants love to spend time outside, whether it’s enjoying the warm weather, hosting a cookout or encouraging their kids to “go play.” As a landlord, you want your tenants to enjoy the rental property, including the outdoor space, but sometimes the rules and regulations for patios and decks are not specified in the lease agreement, leading to problems.

Here are 4 points of interest to always include in your lease agreement or a patio addendum so that you and your tenant won’t have any miscommunication about what’s allowed and what is against the rules.

1. Furniture

It may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s often surprising what kind of things tenants will put out on a patio as patio furniture. From sofas to dining room furniture to boards and bricks, makeshift patio furniture can lead to unsightly curb appeal and might even be dangerous. In the lease agreement addendum, it’s a good idea to specify that patio furniture or outdoor/garden furniture in good condition is the only allowable type. Take it a step further and clarify that any type of indoor furniture is not allowed outside on the patio.

You may be asking yourself what the big deal is to have improper furniture on the patio. Indoor furniture can be damaged by rain, sprinklers or pests. If the furniture is moved in and out frequently, water and pests can be transported inside. If dilapidated, the furniture may pose a health hazard with the possibility of broken, rusted edges injuring someone. Finally, non-patio furniture simply looks bad.

2. Grills

Regulations on whether or not tenants can grill on the patio should be made to ensure the maximum safety for both tenants and your property. There are many cases of grills placed too close to a home, and the heat causes siding to melt, or sparks start a fire. Many landlords require tenants to place grills at least 10 to 15 feet from any exterior walls. You may also want to include language about the use or storage of any type of open flame grills, such as storing propane tanks indoors.

If you are putting restrictions on grills or banning open flame grills completely, it’s a good idea to spell out the consequences of violating the policy. An example of this might be that a first warning results in a fine and a second warning results in an official notice to comply (get rid of the grill) or quit the tenancy.

3. Plants and Planters

Allowing tenants to grow plants on the patio is a wonderful way to make a rental property feel more like home. Some landlords don’t want any planters or containers on the patio, while other landlords feel that it’s just fine as long as tenants follow the rules about them in the lease agreement. From container gardening to simply adding a touch of nature to an otherwise bare space, greening up a patio should come with guidelines and restrictions.

Examples of regulations for plants on the patio is setting a maximum size for the pot, asking that residents use natural dirt and planting material or that pots should not be placed in high traffic areas. The pots and plants should not detract from the appearance of the rental property and plants should be well cared for. Also, you should include in your lease addendum the requirement for tenants to use a protector under all pots to prevent water and dirt from staining the patio.

4. Décor

Many tenants want to put their own personal touches on the rental property and that includes the patio. However, what one person considers attractive and decorative may be awful to another. Also, adding décor may unintentionally damage the patio area. While landlords cannot list every single allowable décor, there should be some general guidelines on what tenants can and cannot do.

Examples of patio décor that you should be aware of include candles, tiki torches, rope lights, or other heat or fire source. Other examples include signage or other banners. Using the patio as storage should also be prohibited, so include language about what you will and won’t allow when it comes to laundry lines, bikes, mopeds, large children’s toys and more.

Let the Lease Agreement be the Guide

When it comes to patios at your rental property, whether it’s a single family home or an apartment complex, you’d be surprised at what kind of things tenants will do that may damage the property, affect other tenants and neighbors or simply look bad and detract from the appeal of your real estate investment. Putting detailed language in the lease agreement is the best way to make sure that you and your tenant both know what is allowed and what isn’t when it comes to patios.

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Comments

  1. Bob Gordon

    smart suggestions. Plants are a big issue in Colorado these days. Due to changes in State law, growing marijuana is now legal. But not all landlords want this associated with their property. Especially as indoor grown pot can have detrimental effects on a house. Another issue that comes up in Colorado, where it is very dry, is concern around grills. Many communities are now banning charcoal and gas grills. The later can be fuel accelerators in the event of fires. One community in particular, #GoldRun has had three buildings burn as a result of accidental fires made worse by propane gas tanks.

    • jennifer

      Great comments, Bob. It’s important for landlords and property managers to keep in mind that a patio is essentially an outdoor room and needs the same treatment as the rest of the rental.

    • Stephen Michael White

      Bob, the rental industry is paying very close attention to everything that’s happening in Colorado these days. I can see your state being a major influence in new laws and regulations for some of the “gateway” states like New York and California.

  2. No Nonsense Landlord

    I have seen all sort of stuff on the decks. I have seen kids mattresses where they people were airing them out. Clothes lines. Blankets, etc.

    You definitely have to have a few rules, and even then it’s no guarantee. If you are in an HOA, even more important.

    • Jennifer Maughan

      You are so right. As a landlord, you can’t ever assume that your idea of what’s appropriate for a patio is the same as your tenant’s idea. A simple patio addendum to the lease agreement gets everyone on the same page. Thanks for your comment!

  3. Sarah

    Hi there,
    I have a question, we moved into a 5-plex last year, and were told that we were not allowed to store personal property outside of the home. With this said, the land lord did eventually allow us to have our “outdoor patio set” set up outside of our door. Now she is saying that it is not allowed as it is “storing” personal property. Do we not have the right to enjoy the outdoors of our place, the table is being used on a daily basis, and is not being stored. We do not have a big yard, and it is the only place for my kids to do crafts outside, or anything outside for that matter. She is saying that the common area is only to be used now to access our rental unit.

    • Stephen Michael White

      Sarah, unfortunately it’s the landlord’s decision what is allowed as per the lease agreement. So if the lease agreement specifically states “no patio furniture”, then that is the rule. Since having patio furniture does not address or infringe (at least legally) any kind of housing laws concerning habitability, there is no rule/law that would give you the right to store the furniture outside. I would think that in most situations the landlord would be understanding and try to find some middle ground. Have you suggested maybe a different patio set? Maybe smaller or in a different location?

  4. Mary Sanchez

    Regard patios can the land lord tell you that a deck box that doubles as a bench is not patio furnature?

    • Stephen Michael White

      Mary, I can already get a sense of whats going on. If it has got to this point with the landlord chances are one of 3 things are happening – either

      1. you are frustrating the landlord in some way and it’s manifesting itself in petty things like a deck box
      2. the deck box is ugly or inappropriate for the space and the landlord doesn’t want it there
      3. the landlord believes in rules without exception

      Whichever is happening, my best advice is to pick your battles and decide if the deck box is worth arguing about. If it’s worth fighting for and the landlord doesn’t budge on his position, then you’ll be better off finding a new place when your lease is up. You and the landlord will likely not see eye to eye on many things. And if the landlord is really just an unreasonable person, and you’ll constantly feel like you’re disagreeing, getting out of the situation would be best for you.

  5. Liz

    Hello,
    We live in a large apartment complex where wag unit had a patio. There are no rules or restrictions about the patio or what you can put on it in the lease, so we have a propane grill, outdoor furniture, several potted plants, plant boxes attached to our patio railing, and a bamboo screen over the inside of the railing to give us more privacy. Recently, our property manager announced a “patio renovation project” and asked that all residents remove everything from their patios. However, we had not planned on clearing out our patio until move out, and removing some of our decorations, such as the bamboo and plant boxes, will be impossible without damaging these items. Because no patio restrictions or renovation addendums were mentioned in our lease, are we required to comply? I feel like you would never ask a resident to move all furniture out of an indoor space for renovation, so is this an unreasonable request for a private patio in good condition with tasteful decoration?
    Thanks!
    Liz

  6. Stephen White

    Liz, I don’t think you’re going to like my answer. But hear me out and have an open mind.

    Patio renovation has been a pretty popular trend lately. And not surprising when you see stories in the news about people dying from decks and patios that collapse. When it comes to renovation or improvements to the property (it doesn’t matter if it’s inside or outside the building) a property has the option to do so with proper notice. Which it sounds like you’ve been given.

    With regard to damaging items when removing them from the patio, keep in mind that decorations and anything added by a tenant should be non-fixed. In other words, not permanent or something that will have to be destroyed to be removed.

    The good news is that you have a property manager that cares about making improvements. A lot of tenants that reach out are begging for what you have! I’d say the grass is greener on your side. A little inconvenience is worth having a place you can be proud to live at. In my honest opinion.

  7. Stephen White

    Devin, not to deflect the question but.. is it too inconvenient to move the bicycle into the apartment? Maybe someone complained about it. Or maybe the other apartments are managed by another company with different policies (although that would be unlikely if the other apartments are in the same complex).

    My point is, is it worth the energy? Is having a bike on the porch a deal breaker for how happy you’ll be in the apartment? Who cares what the neighbors are doing or getting away with I guess is what I’m saying.

  8. Stephen White

    Hey guys, I ran across a good resource for you. It’s a court arbitration document regarding the use of privacy screens and I think it will help shed some light on the subject.

    As you’ll read the 2 parties were given a compromise but I’d hardly call it a victory for the tenant as there are plenty of provisions.

    The biggest reasoning I see for the limitations on screens, and this document supports this, is safety and overall aesthetic. Which I don’t think is unreasonable.

    http://www.housing.gov.bc.ca/rtb/decisions/2013/05/Decision2716_052013.pdf

  9. Shaidikia

    I want to have a graduation BBQ party outside. There is free space beyond my patio and I was planning on renting a tent and chairs for my guests. My landlord claims this is not allowed but I don’t see anything in the lease that prohibits it. What should I be looking for for this rule?

    • Stephen White

      The landlord has genuine concern about having that many people on the property. Any property owner would have those concerns. What happens if one of your guests trips on a tent stake and hurts themselves? Do you think they’ll sue you, or the homeowner?

      Not allowing large parties on the property is not an unreasonable request and would not need to be mentioned specifically in a lease.

  10. Hilary Oni Ayanru

    My lease states that ‘items such as outdoor furniture may be kept within the Tenant’s patio area’. But also has a clause ‘tenant will follow all rules made by landlord which are now in effect and any new rules made by the landlord during this lease’. At the beginning of June the landlord instituted a new rule banning patio furniture. Im I bound by this new rule?

  11. AgustinTadeo

    My landlord decided to place a hammock on my floor porch I asked her for a copy of the signed lease and she said she cannot found it, the porch it’s next to my room so I have not privacy but she said that I only have right to use the apartment and a parking space. What can be done?

  12. Vicki Luciano

    I am dieing of cancer and very week. When I originally moved here, the manager Crystal, said it would be ok if I put the scooter, the wheelchair and walker if I had to on the patio. Several years ago she moved to a different complex. We have been thru a dozen thief managers fired or moved since then. The guy they have here now is like a Nazi and so is the woman and they said I could not have them even though I use them daily, on the patio. They are not considered storage since used daily I believe according to the Disabilities act. I am on HUD and I’m too weak to move. They notified me on Wed and said I had until Monday or else….I’m getting the impression they have certain people they want to get rid of and I’m one of them. I’m too weak to move and I have NO MONEY who can move them and I would be confined and unable then to go to Dr or get Rx or food for me and my support dog. Don’t I have any rights in this matter to keep them on patio that is made of brick where no one can see anything on my patio and doesn’t bother anyone. Its about 7-8 ft tall and I would need my scooter and a ladder to reach the top to get a way to go over it if there was a fire. Please call me as I have only a couple of days to remove the equipment somehow. 408) 603-7410. Thanks

  13. natasha

    I have a question in regards to utility waste. I am a single mother of three kids 12,7,3. I am disabled due to very high aniexty and ptsd, I have no vehicle and rely on the bus system to go anywhere outside walking distance. my question is for the last two years I have a verbal permission to have a kiddy pool under these requirement to supervise it at all times to not leave it up and not make a mess, all has been great my grass Is also the only green grass in the complex. After I testified for the property against the meth house above me it has now become not only can you not have your kiddy pull but you can not have anything with water in it outside, even a bucket to fill water guns due to the fact that it is utility waste and installed without pior approval, it is summer we have no ac and the nearest water is an hour bus ride each water to a place where my ptsd is triggered, is this right

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