27 Mar 2018

What landlords want you to know about decorating rentals

When you move into a rental place, it’s normal to want to make it your own by hanging pictures or even painting an accent wall.

But when you’re renting you must remember: Any changes you make may need to be reversed once you move out – and landlords are entirely within their rights to use your money to do it.

That’s why renters have to walk a fine line between making themselves feel at home and making changes that will cost them their bond.

But all is not lost. Sometimes, modifications can be made with the owner’s approval. In fact, sometimes they’ll help out with costs. Just make sure you’re 100 per cent clear about the stipulations of your lease, and that you have fully informed the landlord before you pick up a paintbrush or hammer. Communication is the key.

“I’ve had tenants who’ve been really keen on DIY – and they’ve done a great job – so I’ve been happy to give them pretty free rein, so long as I’m informed,” says Richard, a landlord with two rental properties.

Richard also has plenty of experience with tenants whose “improvements” were anything but. These are a few of the most common upgrades that tenants attempt and landlords hate.


There’s an excitement with moving into a new home. And, to many, that means breaking out the paint.

“I totally understand that no one wants to live in a beige box, so I use about three neutral colours in my rental properties,” Richard says. “If you want to paint, please ask. Depending on the colour, and how easy it will be to paint back over – it’s something I would consider.”

Experience has shown that it’s not the colour but the skill that’s the sticking point.

“I’ve had tenants get paint on the ceiling, on the trim, on the doorknobs and outlets. I even had one tenant who painted around the pictures they’d hung on the wall, and around the furniture that was placed up against the wall,” says Richard.

Hanging pictures

Filling in holes in the wall is one of the most common issues landlords have to deal with after a tenant moves out.

“Everyone likes to put up pictures, and fortunately there are less destructive hanging methods, which is great,” says Richard. “But not everyone sees the benefit of Blu-Tack over thumb tacks.”

Installing window treatments

Those cheap vertical blinds are so ugly. Your impulse to put up a curtain rod or roman shades is completely normal. But the holes you have to drill into the wall to mount the window treatments, like those for your pictures, will require patching once you move out. Landlords fume every time they see big screw marks around the window frame.

“Repairing those holes is time-consuming,” says Richard. “And if I have to pay a handyman – or if I have to do it myself – it’s coming out of the bond.”

Mounting a TV

What’s worse than hammering nails into the drywall to hang pictures or curtains? Drilling holes in the wall to mount your flat-screen TV.

The screws have to go directly into the centre of studs, so it’s not unusual for a renter to screw 10 to 20 holes into the wall. At worst, the TV will crash to the floor because it wasn’t mounted correctly, possibly injuring someone, shattering the TV and taking a chunk of the wall down with it.


You would think that planting a few tulips would delight a landlord. But that’s not necessarily the case.

“As a landlord, I want the most maintenance-free rental as possible,” says Richard. “I pay for a basic lawn-mowing service, but I do not want to keep up a garden.”

Pots and planters are the best bet if you’re renti


Updating appliances

If you’re not a fan of that noisy old refrigerator in your rental, it’s perfectly fine to swap it out with a new one of your own – as long as you talk it over with your landlord first, and then reconnect the old one after you move out.

“Unbeknownst to me, a tenant bought a new fridge and sold the old one – which was owned by me,” says Richard. “So as we were doing a walk-through when they were moving out, they couldn’t understand why I was a bit annoyed when I walked into the kitchen and saw a gaping hole where the fridge was meant to be.

“Things went downhill from there, as they also couldn’t understand why I planned to withhold the cost of a basic replacement fridge from their bond!”

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