Decorating a rented property: what can and can’t you do?

Decorating a rented property can always run the risk of causing friction between a landlord and tenant.

While many tenants are desperate to personalise their home without losing their deposit, landlords worry about any permanent changes that may occur to their property.

It’s important therefore, for both landlords and tenants, to know what can and can’t be done when decorating a rented property:

Decorating a rented property starts with the contract

It is important to stress that tenants must adhere to the terms of the tenancy agreement and seek permission for changes to anything they do not own.

The tenancy agreement sheds light on the grey areas of decorating a rented property, before any controversial “home improvements” may take place.

Ultimately, most tenants will find landlords have control over any permanent decoration written into the contract.

This might include wall painting, wallpapering or hammering nails into walls.

Landlords and tenants should communicate early

It’s strongly advisable for tenants to discuss decoration with landlords at an early stage.

You may find that some landlords are fairly lenient over modifications, provided that they aren’t too garish and could improve the aesthetic or value of the property.

In this case, tenants decorating a rented property may be in the landlord’s best interests.

Recent research from British Wallpaper brand ‘Graham and Brown’ found that a fifth of tenants would pay an average of £72 more per month for the opportunity to decorate a rented property. That’s £850 more a year!

We at Keatons, however, appreciate this simply isn’t always feasible. So we’ve devised a few cunning personal touches that tenants can make without giving their landlords a headache:

1) Take advantage of rugs

Many tenants will look up longingly at the bare walls of their new home when they should instead be looking down at the floorboards.

When decorating a rented property, buying rugs will provide fashion, utility and comfort.

With a softer underfoot feel than wooden floorboards, laminate and even carpet, rugs provide an opportunity for tenants to express their style without damaging the interior of the property.

Mutually beneficial for both tenants and landlords, rugs lower the likelihood of tenants damaging flooring by adding an extra level of protection, while also keeping the property extra warm on those chilly winter nights.

2) Add modular shelving to large rooms

If a landlord feels uncomfortable with tenants decorating the walls of their rented property, one creative solution is to invest in large statement furniture, such as a modular shelving unit.

Modular shelving is flexible storage designed to be configured in a variety of ways.

Placing these free-standing storage units against a wall in any large room can instantly revolutionise the feel of the room without inflicting permanent damage to the walls.

While tenants are rarely permitted to make renovations to a rented property, a modular storage unit can also double as a temporary room divider.

3) Use furniture to decorate effectively

An unfurnished property provides a blank canvas for a tenant to express themselves however they wish.

By allowing tenants to purchase their own furniture, landlords also needn’t worry about damage to their belongings.

Although a landlord may have stricter rules for a furnished apartment, this still doesn’t mean tenants can’t get creative with minor purchases!

Why not:

    • Lean a step ladder against a wall to create a makeshift set of shelves (with no holes drilled into the wall!)
    • Balance a trendy, varnished plank of wood over old books or magazines to make a side table
    • Position a set of drawers under window and place pillows on top to create a cosy window seat
    • Turn a stool into a nightstand then add wooden planks between the steps to increase storage
  • Add pretty cushions or a throw to quickly cover up an ugly sofa

If you are renting a furnished property, you must ensure that you receive an inventory at the beginning of your tenancy that lists the condition of every item provided by the landlord. Make sure you agree with all information on the inventory and keep a copy for your records.

This document will be very important for when you move out. As the tenant, you are responsible for the items listed on the inventory and so any damages incurred during your tenancy could impact on your deposit.

4) Add plants to your rented home

When decorating a rented property, many tenants face the challenge of livening up their home effectively.

By harnessing the power of mother nature and placing plants in every nook and cranny, tenants can literally breathe life into their home, without upsetting their landlord.

Cheap, colourful and fashionable yet clean, easy to maintain and unlikely to cause any lasting damage, plants provide a very happy medium for tenants and landlords.

Best of all, they make a great welcome gift!

Decorating a rented property: A conclusion

Ultimately, the degree of flexibility should always be made clear between a landlord and tenant when decorating a rented property.

If you’re ever in doubt, consult your tenancy agreement, speak with your landlord and get their written permission before making any changes.

Whether tenants are given little room for manoeuvre or the world is their oyster, with a creative touch and a little TLC any tenant can turn their house into a home.

Find out more with our FAQs for tenants.

Finding your next property

If you haven’t already starting looking, you should be using the Movebubble app to search for your next home. It allows you to chat directly with friendly agents (like us).

Download the app here or visit their website for more renting advice.

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Keatons blogs are written by a selection of our experienced industry experts.