As a property manager, you're always busy with tenants moving in and out, calls coming in about leaky faucets and having to decide when to replace windows, floors and roofs.
So when it comes to worrying about irrigating the grass around your properties, planting trees or designing elaborate landscapes, consider hiring a professional landscape designer or contractor.
To find the best fit for your landscaping projects, you first must define your needs and determine whether a professional landscaping company can meet your expectations.
Before hiring a professional, it's important to decide what landscaping projects-if any-you plan to handle on your own, says B.J. Santavy, president of the London (Ont.) Property Management Association and director of residential operations at Skyline, an apartment rental company in Guelph, Ont.
For example, if you have a building superintendent who handles certain grounds care tasks, make sure to define his role and how it's different than the services a landscape company will provide.
"Are the garden beds to be turned?" Santavy says. "And if so, how often? Is there going to be weed control? How about watering? If we're spending money on plants and greenery, who will be doing the watering?"
If you've decided to hire a landscaping company but are unsure how or where to start your search, Santavy suggests driving around and checking out the landscapes around other properties in your area. If you see something you like, call the property manager and ask if you can have the name of the professional landscaper. You also can ask a local apartment association for a list of reputable companies to consider.
Referrals always are a solid first step in finding a trusted contractor, but it's still important to conduct independent research, regardless of the information you received as part of the referral process. Another way to identify a trusted, credible contractor is to check if the company is part of a local landscaping trade organization, says David Hinton, president of Landscape Manitoba and owner of landscaping company Weed Man Winnipeg.
"Typically, members of landscape associations are committed to the industry, certainly taking extra steps to do education and training, to give back to the industry," Hinton says.
Certification also should be a primary consideration in deciding which company you should hire. If you're looking for a company to do a particular type of work, make sure it has the proper certification. Certifications are available for everything from patio installation to applying pesticides, Hinton says.
"If the application of control products for weeds is involved, make sure people have a license to do it," he says. "If they just have a backpack in the back of their pickup truck, do they know what they're doing?"
Once you've found a landscaping company that's a good fit for your building, put together a contract that both parties sign. The contract should outline your expectations and goals, ensuring everybody is on the same page. Then, after the work begins, constant communication is crucial to avoid potential issues related to the expectations and goals outlined in the contract, Santavy says.
"Communication is key with any contractor, and in particular with landscapers," she says. "Have regular meetings once a month, setting aside an hour with him or her to walk the property. Make sure you're clear on what the expectations are, as well."