The Tenant’s Guide to Rental Property Improvements

Rental property improvements

We always want our properties to look better, no matter if we own the place or rent it. We wish to live in a cosy and beautiful home and for it to reflect our personality.
Unfortunately, this can be quite difficult for tenants as they face the limitations of a contract. Most of the times, landlords are the ones responsible for house repairs. Improvements, on the other hand, are carried out by renters. Which means you’re probably far away from MTV Cribs. But don’t give up just yet. You can still make your home pretty and inviting. In fact, you can even persuade your landlord to pay for some improvements.
In this article you’ll learn:

Improvements For Rented Homes

The first question a tenant might ask is “What improvements am I allowed to do to my rented flat?” It depends on whether you rent from a housing association, privately or a council home. It might also depend on what city you rent in. For example, if you rent in an expensive city like Chicago in the U.S., the rules might be far different than when you rented in London. Be sure to check on the rules!

      • Housing association or council property – in this case, you are responsible for decorating the property. For minor decorating, you obviously don’t need permission. There are cases, though, which will require a written consent – usually for bigger projects such as changing the kitchen furniture and appliances or dividing a room into areas. Make sure to double-check your tenancy agreement. For some of the improvements, you’ll be able to get a compensation in the end of your tenancy so make sure you’re well informed.
      • Private property – if you rent your home from a private landlord, you will need to ask for a written permission to execute any improvements*. Usually, the landlord will agree to non-destructive upgrades if you promise to restore the original appearance of the property when you’re moving out. You will have to pay for all changes from your own pocket which is acceptable only if you have a long-term and secure type of lease, such as the pre-1989 regulated tenancy or secured tenancy. Otherwise, you bear a great risk of losing money. You will also need to do your move out cleaning eventually, so plan everything accordingly.

There are, in fact, some improvements that your landlord may agree to pay for – the mutually beneficial ones. But you have to make sure he sees the benefits for himself. After all, this is a business for him and he’s already responsible for all repairs so you need to give him a good reason to invest more money.

*You need to know your landlord’s and your own rights and obligations and conduct a thorough research before you plan and conduct any improvements.

Photo adapted from Tom Merton | CC 2.0

rented home improvements

Planning Property Improvements

Now that you have a general understanding of what you can and cannot do, it’s time to plan things out. It’s really important to have your ideas outlined before you pitch them to your landlord. You will need to answer these questions for each improvement project:

          • Will this particular alternation benefit the landlord and how exactly?
          • Who will be responsible for making the changes happen?
          • What is the exact step-by-step process?
          • What will the costs be? Is it worth it?

Asking Your Landlord About Property Improvements

The hardest part is to ask the landlord for a written consent. Your approach is equally important to everything you’ve done so far. Here are some basic guidelines on how to pitch an idea to your landlord:

          • Make sure to get the owner on your side from the very beginning of your relationship. Be a good tenant from day one. Pay your rent, take a good care of the property and when the time comes to ask for something, it will be more likely that the landlord will say “Yes”;
          • Don’t appear to be pushy or too critical about the house. Instead, try to emphasize on the positive outcomes of the projects. If these improvements will help attract new tenants in the future, make sure your landlord knows it. When talking, use words such as “dated” and “worn out” rather than “ugly”;
          • We’ve discussed it above. You need to be 100% sure what and how you want to alter. Don’t annoy your landlord with vague suggestions and don’t give him a complication without having to offer a proper solution;

Asking Your Landlord to Pay For Improvements

Now, if the improvements are beneficial to your landlord, you might be able to ask him to pay the cost. Your request will be more powerful if you’re just about to move in and haven’t yet signed a contract or if you’re about to renew your contract for the next period. Those are the “sweet spots” because your landlord wants you to agree to the tenancy. Here’s how to negotiate the improvements:

          1. Make sure you know both yours and your landlord’s rights and obligations
            Make photographs of the area you want to improve – you will need those when you write your request
          2. Write and send your request. Make sure you save all communication on the matter and have your agreement in writing. It should include: What exactly will be improved; The beginning and end date of the renovation process; Who is responsible for payment and how it’ll be done.
          3. Offer your research. It will be more likely for the owner to agree if he sees that you did the heavy task of finding out everything for him and the only thing left is to pay the money
          4. If you’re handy and able to make the improvements yourself (such as paint the walls in a lovely colour). This will save the landlord some money for labour and you’ll show him that you don’t mind getting your hands dirty for the common good
          5. Check out if there are any incentives as for the energy efficiency schemes and do your research on how could you and your landlord take advantage of them

It’s important to remember that you need to follow your contract. If the owner refuses your ideas, you can’t just stop paying your rent (and for some reason there are people who think it’s ok). You also can’t just execute renovations without permission. So before acting, make sure that you both have an understanding of what will happen and who will pay for it all.

Photo adapted from Phil Roeder | CC 2.0

home improvements for rented flats

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