Renovate Your Apartment on Your Landlord’s Dime
Tired of living in a shabby apartment? Interested in updating the dingy carpets and scuffed paint job? Think that you’ll have to live with what you have just because you’re a renter and not an owner? Not only is it possible to renovate a rented property, but you may even get your landlord to shell out some of the renovation funds.
Naturally, renovations that are seriously needed such as damaged or broken items will need to be taken care of before aesthetics, but even minor cosmetic updates may be something you can negotiate. Your landlord will probably not approve your request for new hardwood floors paid for out of his own pocket, but he’ll likely be willing to consider re-tiling a bathroom with scuffs and broken tiles, painting a dingy, dirty wall that’s hard to clean, or updating old and dated fixtures.
If you are considering an update to your rental, here are some steps to follow when trying to get your landlord to pay for renovations:
Establish yourself as an exemplary tenant.
Landlords like tenants who pay their rent on time, sign longer leases, don’t disturb other tenants, or call to complain about every little thing. If you stay in your landlord’s good graces you will gain bargaining power. You’ve been an excellent tenant, so why shouldn’t the landlord help you out by paying for renovations? While you shouldn’t act like you’re owed a renovation, you can mention the fact that you’ve been an ideal tenant, and it doesn’t hurt to throw a promise to sign a longer lease after the renovation into the mix.
Point out unreasonable living conditions in writing.
Landlords do have the responsibility of meeting reasonable standards concerning the livability of the rented property, so if you feel that the area needing renovation does not live up to standards, that’s your starting point. Record proof of the problem with a camera and make at least two sets of prints. Mail one to your landlord via a certified letter, along with an explanation of the issue and a request for a renovation. It’s helpful to not sound combative in the letter; it’s more likely that a landlord will side with you if you give them the benefit of the doubt before getting accusatory. Remember, honey works better than vinegar.
Keep a record of your communications.
In case you’ll need to prove that your landlord was aware of the needed renovations or that they agreed to the renovations, but never completed them, it’s best to keep a detailed record of any communication you have with your landlord. The easiest way to do this? Keep your communication in writing; regular mail is best, but e-mails can suffice if necessary.
Do the leg work for your landlord.
Landlords often don’t want to spend the time finding a contractor, getting estimates, and comparing prices, even if they’re willing to pay for renovations. To prompt your landlord to take action, offer to find a contractor and get some quotes on your own. This way, the only thing the renovation will cost your landlord is money with none of his time wasted. And don’t forget to throw it out there that it’s a tax deduction for them and it is improving the value of the property. Sure, it may be somewhat superficial, but if they know that you understand how they are personally invested in the decision it can help.
Figure out the payment before the renovation begins.
Before a contractor lays one tile or puts a paint roller to the wall, make sure your landlord understands that he has agreed to pay for the renovation, and be sure that the method of payment is agreed upon. Is your landlord going to pay the contractor directly, or is he going to give you money to give to the contractor? Make sure you have this payment agreement in writing in case your landlord fails to pay the contractor and you’re left with a half-finished renovation.
Offer to do some renovations yourself.
If you take pride in your living space and foot some of the bill for minor updates your landlord will take notice and understand that you simply care about your dwelling and aren’t just trying to take advantage of him. If you simply want to paint a bedroom, update the blinds, or plant some flowers out front, go ahead and ask permission and say that you’ll foot the bill. These are inexpensive things to do, but it shows good intentions and will build a case later for when you ask for a possible renovation down the road.
As a landlord myself I know a good tenant when I see one. If you come to me with an excuse to why your rent is late every month, don’t treat the house with care, and then come to me expecting to throw in a new stove just because even though the old one isn’t broken, I’m not going to bend over backwards to make it happen. On the other hand I’ve had a tenant that pays on time, takes very good care of the property, and has requested to put in a bit of their own landscape and replace the shades on their own dime. I have no problem with this and when they later came to me about an issue with an appliance or other update they wanted done to the house I’m far more willing to accommodate.
It’s not impossible to get your rented property renovated on your landlord’s tab as long as you know how to negotiate. Set yourself apart as a perfect tenant, paying you rent on time every month and causing no trouble, and do the research yourself to save your landlord time. Keep a record of communications and show your landlord that the apartment needs the renovations through pictures. Follow these steps, and you may get those updates you’ve always wanted. But as always, keep in mind that unless it’s a safety issue, broken item, or something covered in the lease agreement, they generally aren’t obligated to make cosmetic renovations. You can do your best to convince them to pay, but every tenant-landlord relationship is different.
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About the Author: Jeremy Vohwinkle is a Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor® and spent a few years working as a financial planner. Today, he helps people make the most of their money by writing about personal finance here and elsewhere on the web. Jeremy is also Coach at Adaptu and a regular contributor for other publications such as Intuit, and American Express. Be sure to follow Jeremy on Twitter or Google+.