Should Tenants Be Allowed to Renovate Rental Apartments?


Two people painting a room white


As more people opt to rent due to a rise in the cost of living or because homeownership appears out of reach, a common question arises: are tenants allowed to renovate their rental apartments? One of the limits to renting as opposed to owning a home is that a renter cannot necessarily decorate it as he or she might like.

When considering repairs or improvements for a rental property, in most cases the owner, manager, or landlord is responsible for this. However, occasionally, there will be a tenant who would like to renovate a property at their own expense. Should tenants be allowed to renovate? It depends!

It stands to reason that an owner may be reticent to allow just any renter to renovate. However, with solid planning, it is possible to reach an agreement for renovations that benefits both parties.


Considering Allowing Your Tenant to Renovate

Common requests by renters include painting, changing light fixtures or flooring, upgrading bathroom fixtures, or redoing the garden. If your tenant has requested to make significant renovations, you will need to approximate the cost of returning the property to its original state when a renter leaves and the renovations render the property less attractive.

Consider if the security deposit would eventually pay for this expense. If the answer is no, you should consider if you really like what the tenant is proposing to do to the property. If not, just decline permission.


You Need the Details

It's important to know exactly what a renovation entails. If any type of demolition is programmed, professionals should be doing it. Painting, staining or minor renovations potentially can be done by a tenant. If tenants begin home improvements without your permission in writing, as an owner you should formally request them to stop. Transparency on the part of both parties is essential.


Beware of Renovations Involving Utilities

Tenants, unless they are qualified professionals, should not be allowed to renovate electrical, plumbing, or HVAC systems. Some work on these systems may even require specific permits, so letting a tenant attempt improvement is ill-advised. If your tenant is a plumber, electrician, or general contractor, he should not be renovating any of these systems.


Who Pays?

Here a property owner has several choices. If you reach an agreement with your tenant, you can split the costs 50-50. If you do not wish to dedicate funds to an improvement, you can give permission while stipulating that the tenant is responsible for any expenses. You can also opt to pay for the entire renovation if you like the proposal and the work will increase your property's value.

Ideally, any issues regarding improvements should be addressed directly in your lease agreement, If the lease does not include a clause about improvements and who must foot the bill, add an addendum to the lease, when the issue emerges.


My Tenant Made Unauthorized Renovations

If a tenant decides to alter your property without your permission, you need to inform the tenant that you are aware of the renovations. This can be done by letter or email. You also need to specify that the renovations violate their lease as they did not seek permission.

If you approve of the remodeling done, you may choose to let them know that they will not be required to return the property to its original state at the time of entry, but that they will need to pay for all expenses as they did not inform you or seek your permission for the work.

If you do not approve of the renovation, inform the tenant that they must return the property to its original state before leaving. If they do not comply, any costs to return the property to its original condition can be deducted from the security deposit. If the security deposit is insufficient to cover the costs, you may opt to evict the tenant or file suit in small claims court to recuperate your expenses.

two people giving high give, holding paint rolls in their hands


Are There Any Benefits to Allowing a Tenant to Renovate?

Minor renovations made by a tenant can be of benefit to the upkeep of the property, such as painting, or staining wood trimming. Often owners will want to cooperate and supply the necessary materials, while the tenant supplies the labor.

This kind of cooperation is a win-win situation as the property owner or manager does not have to pay for labor, and the tenant does not have to pay for the materials. The important thing is that all the details must be agreed upon before any kind of work can begin.


The Bottom Line

All properties require improvements with time. By keeping up with repairs and maintenance, and doing the occasional renovation, you should be fine. If a tenant proposes a renovation, it may be in your interest to consider the proposal. In any case, all terms should be clearly stated for your benefit and your tenant's.