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Many tenants complain that when they rent a property, the tenancy limits them from doing some of the things they would like to make the property feel like "home". In this article we talk about options that tenants have to make rented property feel a little more homely.

The most important thing to keep in mind at all times is that as a tenant, you must act in accordance with the lease that you have entered into. The lease is a legally binding contract and if you breach its terms and conditions, you could be financially liable and any deposit you have paid could be lost.

It is expected that the property will suffer "wear and tear" as a result of you living there, however you will be responsible for any damage to the property or changes to the property that do not qualify as wear and tear. 

So what can you do within the limitations of the lease to put your own personal stamp on a property? You can certainly decorate with rugs, furnishings and ornaments that you own and which are to your taste. Furnishing a room with your personal belongings can quickly transform it from four plain white walls, a window and a door into something that reflects your personality and how you like to live your life. Also, while banging nails or screws into walls to hang TV's and pictures without landlord consent could certainly be a problem, a large mirror leaning against the wall can make a real statement and be a feature of the room.

But what about making more fundamental changes? Firstly, remember that the landlord will have a duty to provide a property that is suitable for you to live in. So if any appliances are not working, central heating systems are not functioning adequately, toilets or sinks are broken etc, then you should report this to the landlord and ask for them to repair or replace whatever is not working properly.

However, if you decide that you would like to make changes to the property to make it more suitable and homely, what rights do you have? You must remember that you are required to return the property at the end of the lease in the same condition that you received it, subject to normal wear and tear. However, if you are a good tenant, many landlords will want you to stay and may consider allowing you to make cosmetic changes such as painting a feature wall or room in a colour of your choice or putting up pictures. Where a landlord does allow this, it is important that you get their permission in writing. Where permission is granted, you will normally be required to return the walls/rooms to the original colour and condition at the end of your tenancy. You should keep in mind that if a property has been professionally painted before you occupy it, when you decorate at the end of the tenancy it will need to be to the same standards.

If the landlord gives you permission to change any of their fixtures and furnishings (for example changing blinds, light shades or curtains), you should again get agreement in writing about who will own the new furnishings and fixtures at the end of the tenancy and whether you will be allowed to remove them. Without any express written agreement, you should consider that any landlords fittings or furnishings you change will need to be left at the property at the end of the tenancy.

Some tenants might choose to make more significant changes to a property, especially where they plan to be there for the long term. Examples might include putting up a garden fence around the perimeter of the property or installing a bathroom cabinet. Once again, the overriding requirement is that landlord approval is obtained in writing before any changes are made. Where you do make such changes, it will be almost certain that these additions to the property will become landlord fixtures and will need to stay at the property at the end of the tenancy. However, where such changes "improve" the property, it might be worth asking the landlord if there are willing to share in the cost of purchase and installation.

Most landlords want their tenants to be comfortable and enjoy the property that they rent and to make it "their home". At the end of the day, a happy tenant usually results in a happy landlord. Accordingly, many landlords are willing to be reasonable about minor and cosmetic changes to their properties. However, we cannot stress strongly enough that to avoid any conflict with the landlord and to avoid financial penalty or legal action, a tenant should always act in accordance with the terms of the tenancy agreement and get written approval before making any changes to the property.


Want to know more?

Learn more about your tenant responsibilities. 

Read the answers to the questions we are most commonly asked by tenants.