Should You Renovate Your Rental Home?

By Steve Graham, Networx

The home improvement bug seems to bite everybody these days, even renters. It’s tempting to upgrade a rental, either to add a personal touch or make the home more comfortable. Your landlord may encourage a remodeling project because he knows you are more likely to stay past the typical one-year lease if you have invested in upgrading the home. He also knows some projects will make the house more attractive and valuable to the next renter. However, there are legal and financial questions for both the renter and landlord.

Will the landlord allow the project?

Renters should always check with the landlord and read the lease before starting any renovation project. Whether repainting a room to remodeling the kitchen, ask for permission and read all the fine print. Even if the landlord approves, he or she might still withhold a security deposit, evict, or sue. A lease is a binding contract that takes legal precedence over a verbal agreement.

Will the city allow the project?

Even if they approve a project, landlords may not be aware of local building codes and restrictions. Make sure any addition or remodel meets code and has the proper permits. The landlord may force you to undo your work if he or she finds a code violation. A homeowner may also be sued — a case that would likely involve the remodeler, i.e. you.

Who will pay for the project?

A landlord may allow the project but offer no help with payment. The landlord would get all the added value at no cost, so you would have to really want the upgrade to agree in that case. On the other hand, if you provide a high-quality project, the landlord may offer to cover costs upfront or credit your rent to pay back the project costs. Either way, keep all receipts and keep track of your time spent on the project.

Who has liability for the work?

Like any project that doesn’t meet code, a landlord or homeowner could face legal liabilities for shoddy or dangerous work. Again, they could turn around and sue you for any damages they are required to pay.

Will you have to undo the work?

Finally, you probably don’t want to have to redo your work or undo all your work. If an absentee landlord does not see your work until you are ready to move out of the home, you may be asked to revert everything to its original state. This is probably unlikely if you discussed the details of the project and cleared everything with your landlord.

However, you may need to restart a paint project if you did a poor job or got a little too creative. In a Denver rental, some artistic tenants painted a brick pattern and graffiti on the stairway of an apartment, as well as snakes in a jungle on the bathroom wall.

The landlord said the artists were clearly talented, but he couldn’t re-lease the apartment with snakes and graffiti on the walls. They repainted the walls, but made a mess of the floors in doing so. The landlord still refused to return the security deposit.

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Arabella j.
.2 months ago

I feel happiness to read the content that you are posting.


Eternal Gardener
Eternal Gardener5 years ago

When renting we only rented houses with a compatible interior style!

Trish K.
Trish K.5 years ago

Will be sitting down with landlords to paint over the wall paper.
It is in every room and there is no place for the eye to rest.
It drives me insane.

gerlinde p.
gerlinde p.5 years ago

i´ve invested so much i my rented place, i think i could have bought the new landlord says it`s not his concern what i invested before he bought the house.

Jane L.
Jane L.5 years ago

I have leased here so long. I do what I want. Hey, I should have bought the place. Eleven years rent down the drain. I have on occasion pay for repairs and shorted the rent check by that amount and send the receipt.

Robert O.
Robert O.5 years ago


John S.
Past Member 5 years ago

But I've always written down what I was going to do, and then have them sign that I can do it. That way it's not an imposition on them. I always got my security deposit back in full.

Vera Y.
Vera Yuno5 years ago is not an easy desicion because it will be a wasting money eventually, because it is not your property. But, if you are unhappy where you live what it matters is that you are not happy. So a bit of a money wasted may make you happier eventually. And that has no price

Victoria M.
Past Member 5 years ago

probably worth it if you are going to live there for a long time..especially if it just paint.

Elizabeth P.
.5 years ago

forgive me -- I have so little time, so I am just here briefly for points to put towards the animals ...