Paint it black: redecoration limits in a rental property

With most of us spending more time where we live than ever before and even top-flight professionals working from home, the desire to create comfortable surroundings can’t be suppressed. As the saying goes, ‘there’s no place like home’ but what if your home has been decorated by someone else and you don’t have the right to change it?

That is the scenario faced by many tenants who inherit a bland interior from a landlord and are contractually prohibited to wield a paintbrush. But is personalising the interior of a rented property as restrictive as it’s made out?

Check the tenancy agreement
Although most letting agents will use a standard tenancy agreement, they can be altered for each property. Before signing, check what is detailed about redecoration by the tenant – there may be a pre-set list of alterations that are banned – repainting, hanging items on the walls, drilling holes and installing extra shelving are common ‘off limit’ activities. If you have a relocator who you know will want to make a property feel more like home, you could approach the landlord via the agent about what could be allowed.

Will the deposit be jeopardised?
Any unauthorised alterations made without the landlord’s permission may jeopardise the deposit coming back in full. Even if the redecoration or additions are an improvement to what was there at the start of the tenancy, a landlord may withhold some or all of the deposit to cover the costs of putting the property back to its original state as noted at check in.

Will a landlord ever say yes to alterations?
The answer is: quite possibly. Redecoration costs are usually picked up by the landlord, which can put a strain on their finances, so if a tenant wants to make changes that improve the property, there could be room for a conversation. The landlord will probably want to agree paint to colours or plans in advance, and stipulate that a professional trade carries out the work, chosen from a pre-approved list of contractors.

With renting now a lifestyle choice for many, some commercial-style landlords are starting to offer properties where redecoration is encouraged. One such scheme is Blackhorse Mills in East London – brought to the capital by L&G. Tenants can decorate their rented home however they like, choose from a number furniture packs and bring their pets along.

Where do tenants stand on the reversal of changes?
A landlord may be more obliging when it comes to small changes, especially if the tenant is happy to reverse what has been done, at their own cost, before the tenancy ends. For instance, it may be possible to put up shelves and hang pictures on the wall as long as the tenant fills in any holes and makes good the paintwork.

Temporary ways to personalise a rented property
If the rental provides an unchangeable blank canvas, it’s all about the accessories. Rugs, cushions, lampshades and throws are a great temporary way of injecting colour into a room, and can be packed up and moved to the next property with ease. And ‘leaning’ as an alternative to hanging items on the wall is actually having an interior design moment – so tenants are free to prop mirrors and picture frames against a wall or on the mantelpiece, although it’s wise to apply some felt pads to the back of the frames to protect the paintwork. If tenants really want to make their mark on the walls, they can explore removable wallpapers and decals.

If you have more questions about tenants’ rights and tenancy agreements, contact Klippa Relocation for professional advice.

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