How to ask your landlord to let you do DIY in a rented home

Renters are often left out of the fun of DIY, signing away their right to paint or hang pictures on the wall as part of their tenancy agreement.

Less than a third of private sector landlords allow tenants to decorate, despite the fact that 43% of those tenants would pay more in rent if they were allowed to make a place their own.

Landlords may be reluctant to give creative freedom to inhabitants, worried they’ll go too ‘out there’ and it not be to the taste of future tenants.

They may also be wary of letting you do DIY if you’re not qualified, as fixing mistakes is generally costlier than not making them in the first place.

That said, it’s not always a conscious decision on the part of a landlord.

Many use boilerplate tenancy agreements and, without previous tenants asking if they can decorate, simply haven’t considered the possibility.

There’s no law forbidding you from requesting permission to make changes your rental home. Admittedly there’s also no requirement for the property owner to say yes, but in a classic case of ‘don’t ask, don’t get’ you should definitely broach the topic.

Gregory Smith, property expert from PriceYourJob, tells ‘While landlords are responsible for making essential repairs in your home, they are not responsible for making or allowing non-essential “improvements”.’

According to Gregory, the first thing you should do before requesting any changes to a property is check your tenancy agreement. See if there are any specific clauses relating to DIY, as they permission may already be granted on the condition you return things to their original state when you move out.

He says it’s better to leave a papertrail, adding: ‘Put your request in writing, either by email or letter, and explain why you would like the improvement.

‘If the improvement is for a specific reason, for example, you have a disability or if the property has a health and safety risk, then ensure you include this in your writing. If you have a long term disability that affects your day, then your landlord must make reasonable adjustments by law.

‘You may also be entitled to a disabled facilities grant to fund any work, so make sure this is included in your request as this will you’re your case more favourable.’

Be detailed about what you bring to the table too. Do you have a construction skill and can add value to the home? Have you always paid rent on time and been a model tenant so far? Do you promise that the work will be done to a certain standard? Will you be be able to put everything back to how it was before once you leave?

It’s also worth considering whether the hassle is worth it for your circumstances. If you’ve got a few months left on your lease and you aren’t sure you’re staying longer, it’s not in a landlord’s best interest to let you change up the home.

Gregory adds: ‘If you do intend on staying in the property for a significant period, however, then it may be in your favour to mention that you would like to continue being their tenant for a while.

‘Landlords would much rather have a long term tenant in place rather than frequent short term lets, as they prefer a steadier income.’

Really sell yourself and your home improvements, making it a mutually beneficial deal for both sides. Don’t forget to leave the door open for negotiations (like a longer fixed term tenancy or a rent reduction if you’re paying for renovations) either.

Then, you wait.

Us renters know from experience that some landlords aren’t what you’d call responsive – especially when a request isn’t urgent.

If you feel like you’re getting ghosted, Gregory recommends sending a follow-up email, but advises trying ‘not to make any agreements without written confirmation.’

Renter-friendly decoration ideas

Gregory says: ‘There are plenty of ways to decorate your rented home, without causing damage to the property and risking you losing your deposit. Great renter-friendly decoration methods include:

Removable wallpaper – this is peel or stick wallpaper, which can be hung up easily onto walls or cupboards and will remove cleanly and without leaving a trace.

Command strips – these are great for hanging up picture frames and curtain rods, removing the need for drilling holes and leaving marks on the walls.

Rugs – a simple way to update tired looking floors or cover up an old carpet that may not have been updated for a while.

Lampshades – update a plain light fixture with a lampshade that can dramatically alter the room’s appearance. These can be placed on with minimal effort and can easily be taken off once the time to move out comes.’

Again, because there’s no legal requirement for a landlord to allow cosmetic alterations, you’re somewhat at their mercy.

Avoid getting into disputes where possible, and don’t withhold rent or just go for it without permission – you may be breaking your tenancy agreement and end up losing your deposit.

In lieu of the response you want (or any at all), you unfortunately don’t have much recourse. When your tenancy ends, look for somewhere that offers more flexibility, and embrace ‘renter-friendly decoration’ in the meantime.

Be aware, too, that a landlord may choose to raise the rent or end your tenancy and look for higher paying tenants once you’ve upgraded a property.

It’s a risky business adding value to someone else’s asset, but if you have a great relationship with your landlord and your tenancy is secure, there’s no harm in asking what you can do.

Unfortunately, unique or ambitious DIY projects are likely to remain a mainstay of homeowners, representing a bad deal for a landlords who want to sell or rent later on.

But, if you approach it correctly, you might be able to make a rented space your own with paint, pictures, and furniture – as long as you put things back before you move out that is.

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