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Making Improvements to Your Rented Home

An Englishman’s home is his castle, so the saying goes. Man, woman or child, everyone wants to live somewhere comfortable that truly feels like home. And if it reflects their personal taste, so much the better.

And that’s no different for renters. Magnolia walls aren’t for everyone.

Indeed, research has revealed that tenants in the private rental sector are increasingly likely to want to personalise their homes. 73% of those surveyed have carried out DIY jobs at their own expense and of those, 23% spent more than £500 on home improvements.

As longer-term tenancies become more common and demand for high quality property continues, the rise of the rental renovators keeps growing. 

Here we explore how to make improvements to your rental place without risking the wrath of your landlord. Or jeopardising your deposit.

Who’s Responsible for Making the Improvements?


Your landlord is responsible for all repairs and must ensure your property is fit for human habitation. But they’re not obliged to redecorate or make cosmetic improvements unless it’s for health and safety or disability reasons.


For example, they must carry out and pay for improvements if they receive an improvement notice from the council due to a health risk.


And if you have a disability, your landlord must make reasonable adjustments if you ask them.


There’s no official guidance, but landlords will generally redecorate a property every five years or at the end of a long-term tenancy. It’s in their best interests to keep it in good decorative order to maximise rental and keep tenants happy.


It can also be argued that it’s in their best interests to let tenants loose with a paintbrush. If they allow them to put their own stamp on the place, renters will feel more at home, take better care of the property and be more likely to sign a new contract to stay on even longer.


I Want to Make Improvements. Do I Need to Ask My Landlord?


The mantra for all tenant-landlord relationships is communication. So yes, speak to your landlord first.


Changing anything within a property without permission could mean you don’t get your deposit returned, may have to pay to change things back or even face eviction.


Before you pick up the phone or draft that email, carefully consider your plans. How long are you hoping to stay in the property? Will you be there long enough to really benefit from a retiled bathroom or spruced-up kitchen cupboards? Make sure your investment and the effort involved in the work is really worth it.


And keep in mind that your landlord might increase the rent if your property becomes a nicer place to be thanks to your financial outlay.


Whether you’re dreaming of double glazing or simply contemplating new curtains, have an honest conversation with your landlord:

  • Find out what their attitude to improvements is: are they generally receptive or will they need some persuasion?

  • Outline exactly what you’d like to do and when

  • Reassure them that the work will be carried out to a decent standard

  • Point out that you pay rent on time and look after your home

  • Suggest the option of reversing changes like painted walls at the end of your tenancy

  • Highlight how the changes could add value to the property: could they therefore cover some of the costs, reduce rent for a set period or agree a longer fixed term tenancy agreement?

  • Ask for an agreement in writing before going ahead with any work: what’s being done, who’s paying for what, a schedule of works and any change to the rent

  • Keep it polite and friendly and be prepared to negotiate


Making Your House a Home


If your landlord gives you the green light, then it’s all systems go. Keep that agreement in mind and enjoy your revamp project.


These tips will help you get the balance right between indulging your inner interior designer and keeping your landlord sweet:


Painting and decorating


It’s likely you’re surrounded by neutral walls in your rented home. Whether pure brilliant white, barley white, almond white or the ubiquitous magnolia, the lack of variety could prove a little dull.


Changing a colour scheme is a welcome way to breathe new life into a property. From a fresh lick of paint from the hundreds of hues available to a splash of pattern on a wallpapered feature wall, they all add a dollop of personality.


But proceed with caution! Avoid painting an entire room in a bold colour, especially those that can split opinion such as dark purple or bright pink. It’s likely your landlord will want this to be painted over before you move out (remember to make a clear agreement) and the darker the colour, the trickier the task.


And if you have any doubts about your own decorating skills, get the professionals in. Yes it will cost more but you and your landlord will have the reassurance of a job slickly done.


Upgrading furniture


For unfurnished properties, then the world is obviously your oyster when it comes to furniture. 


But when you’re sitting at a dining table that’s seen better days or the storage provided in a furnished pad is a little limited, a refresh could be in order.


Replacing large items is an expensive job and not recommended. For example, buying a new sofa that you’d then want to take with you when your tenancy ends, would incur storage costs for your landlord. They’d need to keep the original sofa somewhere safe for the tenant who moves in after you.


But you could give existing pieces a revamp. The chances are that your TV unit doesn’t match your bookcase which doesn’t match your table. Furniture paint can work wonders to give rooms a more cohesive look at minimal expense.


And if you suspect your furniture has come from that great Swedish warehouse off the dual carriageway, there’s plenty of inspiration online to give it your own unique twist. Again, just check this is all OK with your landlord. 


If storage is a little on the snug side, you should easily get permission to put up some shelves to keep your books, DVDs and ornaments. You may have to fill in any holes to the walls if you take them with you when you vacate the property.


If they refuse shelves and you spot a gap in a room, a freestanding storage unit will also do the trick. Check out car boot sales and local selling sites to grab a bargain and something a little more unique.


Pictures and mirrors


Nails and screws leave a hole, Blue-Tac can leave a grubby mark or peel off wallpaper. How can you hang anything on a wall if your landlord is extra protective or extra stubborn?


The simple solution is to use sticky-back picture hooks. These marvels mean you can attach your favourite print or family photos without reaching for a drill. Use them to easily create a stylish and non-permanent wall display to truly personalise your home.


With mirrors, be aware of the weight limits for stick-on hooks. Instead, you can prop a mirror on a mantelpiece, shelf or floor which comes with the added bonus of creating the illusion of extra space.


Soft furnishings


One of the simplest and most affordable ways to add a splash of character to a room is through your soft furnishings. From colourful cushions to lively rugs and textured throws, anything goes to inject style and personality.


Apart from changing the curtains, none of these require permission from your landlord and can go a long way to boosting that homely feeling.


Everyone has the right and the ability to create a space that reflects their taste and suits their lifestyle. Keep the dialogue with your landlord open, respect their wishes and you can relax in your rented property knowing there really is no place like home. 

For more advice about making the most of your rented property, check out the MakeUr Move blog.

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