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Tenants can only make alterations to the premises if the landlord gives consent. The best option to discuss the need and reason for any alteration before going ahead with it.
This guide covers landlords (or head-tenants) and tenants (or sub-tenants) in a Residential Tenancy. This applies to the majority of share accommodation and residential property rental situations. To confirm it covers your situation visit What is my share accommodation situation?
Who can make alterations and additions to the premises?
Before making any kind of alteration or addition to the property, the tenant should carefully consider whether they need the landlord’s consent and how it might affect the long-term value and nature of the rented premises.
The tenant can only install a ‘fixture’, or make structural changes to the rented premises if the landlord agrees to it. Before the tenant can attach a fixture or make structural changes, the landlord’s agreement to it must:
- be put in writing,
- describe the nature of fixture or structural change, and
- include any terms any other terms or conditions which the landlord’s agreement is subject to, such as whether and how any fixtures can be removed
The best approach to any kind of addition or alteration is for the tenant and landlord to discuss it and come to a mutually convenient agreement. Landlords should be aware that tenants may sometimes need to install fixtures or change the premises to suit their needs. Tenants should also remember that the premises is the property of the landlord and that any changes they make could effect its long-term value.
Fixtures vs Fittings
A ‘fixture’ is a good that the tenant brings onto the rented premises, and which becomes part of the rented premises. Fixtures are normally attached to the premises in some way. Common examples of fixtures include carpets, gas stoves, or built in air-conditioners.
Goods brought onto the premises that are not fixtures are called ‘fittings’ and include blinds, portable ovens, free-standing sheds, and portable air conditioners. The tenant only needs the consent of the landlord to install fixtures, not for fittings.
Can the landlord refuse agreement for fixtures or structural alterations?
The landlord can only refuse to give consent for fixtures or alterations if it is reasonable to do so. If the tenant believes that the landlord’s withholding of consent is unreasonable, then they can apply to the Tribunal for an order allowing a fixture to be installed or an alteration made. The Tribunal is most likely to make an order in favour of the tenant if the proposed alteration is relatively minor. If, however, the proposed alteration involves structural changes, cannot easily be rectified / removed, involves internal or external painting, is prohibited by law, or is inconsistent with the nature of the property, then the Tribunal is more likely to not make an order.
How should fixtures be removed?
When agreeing to a fixture or structural change, additional terms about fixtures may be added, including the following:
- whether the fixture may be removed
- when and how removal may be performed
- whether the tenant is obliged to repair any damage caused to the premises by removing the fixture
- whether the landlord is obliged to pay the tenant compensation if they are not allowed to remove the fixture
What can the landlord do about alterations they didn’t consent to?
If the tenant attaches a fixture or makes a structural change without the landlord’s agreement, the landlord has 2 options:
- Waive the Breach - the landlord can waive fixture or change even though it is a breach of the tenancy agreement and treat it as an improvement to the property.
- Apply to Tribunal - the landlord can take legal action by applying to the Tribunal. Possible remedies may include removing the fixture and the landlord being paid compensation.