For large condominium projects…sometimes called planned unit developments (PUDs)…there are two phases to the common area landscaping…the installation toward the end of the building construction and the maintenance phase after the homebuyers move-in and occupy the project.

It is sometimes better to give the contract for landscaping and maintenance to the same company.  The installer of the landscaping material can then safeguard the warranty aspects of the landscaping during the first months of the planting by controlling watering, fertilizing, etc.

If any plants or trees die during this period, at least the builder is not caught in the middle between the original landscape contractor and the landscape maintenance contractor.  If the homeowner’s association wants a cheaper landscape maintenance company later, the original ground cover and other plantings have had time to fill-in completely…thus offering the opportunity for a final landscape walkthrough and clean break from one company to another.

A second issue to consider in the landscape maintenance contract is that the amount of work…and therefore the cost…varies depending upon the length of time after the initial planting.  Landscape maintenance costs are different for the first month, sixth month, and twelfth after planting…because of the different requirements for trimming, plant removal, fertilizing, weeding, disease control, and repair of irrigation.

The builder must study the requirements for each type of plant and tree to determine the amount of work being purchased in the maintenance contract.

What sometimes happens in a landscape maintenance contract is that the builder is enticed by a low-ball, minimum cut-and-trim contract bid…with such things as tree trimming, disease control, plant removal, and fertilizing billed as extras to the contract.  This type of contract can create problems for the builder and the homeowner’s association…as no cap exists on landscape maintenance costs in this type of arrangement.

A better method is to research the planting and maintenance requirements for each type of plant or tree in a standard gardening manual…and then formulate a maintenance contract scope of work section with the help of the landscape architect (or include this task in the landscape architect’s scope of work).

The builder can then spell out the landscape maintenance requirements in detail for the project…so that landscaping contractors are bidding apples-to-apples…instead of hiding certain maintenance costs as extras.