The Realities Of Decorating As A Tenant

Friday, July 14, 2017

When you are renting your home, there’s no doubt that there are some issues in your way when it comes to decor. 

Unlike homeowners, you will be restricted on what you can and can’t do by the details of your tenancy agreement. Some of these details will depend entirely on the landlord and how much leeway they are willing to give you. Some landlords, for example, will be more than happy to give you free rein to do anything that you want. Others will absolutely micromanage, refusing to let you make even the smallest of changes. If you refuse to obey their rules in pursuit of your own style, it could lead to some awkward questions when the time to move finally rolls around - not to mention the occasional property inspection that all landlords are entitled to! 

When you think of a guide to renting a property much of the time, it will focus on the legal side of things. That’s all well and good; it’s necessary in fact - going into a tenancy unaware of your rights and obligations is likely to cause big problems further down the road. So while the legal and essential side of renting is something you need to be well-informed on, there’s a second guide that you need: a guide to renting that also discusses how you can still have the stylish, wonderful home you want - but without making an enemy of your landlord! 

The best way of doing this is to focus on a few rules. Rules are useful as most of us are disinclined to break them; even if they’re self-imposed, we find ourselves wanting to conform along with them. So to that end, why not set yourself some strict rules for what you will and will not do when it comes to decorating as a tenant? 

If you’re in need of some inspiration about what might apply, then here are a few ideas to get you started. Raise your right hand and declare…

“I Will Not Do Anything That Cannot Be Repaired In A Single Day.”

The single day timespan is useful, because it gives you a direct marker point if you are not sure if you should go ahead and do something. It gives you a way of dividing a line between what’s easy to remedy and what requires more work.

There’s a practical application here, too. Say you decide to walk on the wild side and play with decor themes and ideas without your landlord’s permission. That’s not a good idea, but there’s no denying that thousands of tenants do just that every year - it would be naive to suggest it doesn’t happen. 

If your landlord gives you notice (which should be 24 hours) that they intend to visit, then having applied the “one day fix” rule is hugely beneficial. It means you’re going to be able to reverse anything you suspect they won’t like, within the standard time frame of notice that your landlord is obligated to give you. 

It’s worth mentioning that the one day rule doesn’t just apply to each individual area. If you decide to install a new light fixture then sure, that passes, because it will only take a day to put that back to how it was when you moved in. If you then go and repaint the entire bathroom, that too passes because it would only take a day to put right. The only problem is, now you have two days worth of changes, just in different areas of the house. Keep the one day rule firm throughout the entire rental, so you can go around making quick changes if you need to. 

“I Will Never Do Anything Structural.” 

Structural work is tough enough at the best of times, when you’re the owner and can do largely as you please with the property. When you’re a tenant, it’s a complete no-go area. Structural changes can not only invalidate your tenancy, but could even break the law or building code for your landlord. Even if you have your landlord’s permission to knock down or erect a wall, for example, it’s just not worth the time, hassle, and expense of doing it. 

Save the structural changes for when you own your own home. Anything else is just asking for huge issues to come crashing down on top of you - perhaps even literally. 

“I Will Always Check Details With The Landlord.” 

Let’s say you have done the right thing and checked with your landlord before you launch yourself into a decorating blitz. You ask for permission to paint the bedroom, which your landlord gives. Job done - right?

Not necessarily. Everyone has very different ideas about what would constitute acceptable decor. You might think that a red feature wall is an excellent idea, and recent designs trends would tend to agree with you. Your landlord, on the other hand, might have more been imagining a unified neutral colour - and will be quite shocked to find themselves confronted by something more stark. 

That’s why it’s always worth adding details to your request. So rather than: “I want to paint the wall, is that okay?”, be specific and ask: “I want to paint one wall red and the other three white, is that okay?”

Of course, if your landlord says that you can do anything you want then take this at face value, but try to have their claim in writing (or email) just in case they ever try to argue the point. 

“I Shall Not Do Anything I Don’t Know How To Do.” 

There’s a time and a place for experimenting with DIY, painting techniques, and all those other projects you have been eying on Pinterest and fancy trying out for yourself. Without a doubt, that time and place is definitely - definitely - not while you are renting. 

Only experiment with decor that you have direct prior experience with and know you can do to a good standard. Anything else is just asking for trouble, especially if - on the conclusion of your tenancy - your landlord decides to withhold your deposit so they can rectify what you have done! So keep it simple and in your experience level for the best results - and for the best possible relationship with your landlord.

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