What if Your Lease isn’t Clear?
In a perfect world, a lease would represent the bargained-for understanding of the parties and both landlord and tenant would be totally clear on what each term meant. Unfortunately, landlords often use boilerplate leases that frequently go unread by tenants, resulting in situations where no one actually knows off the top of their head what is and is not permitted by way of alterations. What do you do if your lease doesn’t explicitly tell you whether a particular type of alteration is allowed?
In cases of smaller, less invasive DIY projects, one of the best things to do is to contact your landlord and ask for permission to make the desired improvement. If you simply tell your landlord that you would like to repaint the master bedroom, for example, they may have absolutely no problem with it so long as you paint it back to the original color before you move out. In a similar vein, landlords are typically amenable to a few nails in the walls for hanging pictures, so long as the nails are removed and the holes patched upon termination of the lease.
In situations where you want to make more large-scale, permanent improvements, such as remodeling the kitchen, landlord permission may be harder to secure. However, many landlords can be convinced to go along with these types of projects if you explain that it will be drastically improving the value of the property. Obviously, you can’t take a remodeled kitchen with you when you move out, so the landlord will get to reap the benefit of an increase in the property’s value.
The key in either situation is to talk to your landlord and get explicit permission – whether a particular improvement is allowed is ultimately always up to the landlord’s discretion.
What if Your Landlord Denies Your Request to Make a Particular Improvement?
Unfortunately, a no from your landlord most definitely means no. Your landlord has complete discretion to deny your request to alter the property for any reason or no reason at all. At the end of the day, they own the property.
Of course, this by no means prevents you from making your apartment into a space that is very truly your own. Simply seek out non-permanent decorating solutions, such as temporary wallpaper, adhesive hooks for hanging artwork rather than nails, and area rugs in place of new wall-to-wall carpeting. You can even make easily reversible changes (like removing interior doors from closets or bedrooms) as long as you save everything and restore it to its original condition when you move out.
ConclusionIt is only natural to want to make the place where you live reflect your own tastes and personality. Hopefully, your lease will explicitly allow you to make certain changes to your rental home or apartment. If the lease is not clear, or if it says that the desired improvement is prohibited, you can still ask your landlord for permission to do the project and they may be open to it. Even in cases where your landlord denies your home improvement request, you can find many satisfying, temporary decorative solutions that won’t put you in breach of your lease.
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