How To Handle Tenant Requests For Rental Improvements

By Elise Nelson on May 7, 2021

As a property manager, you may find yourself faced with one challenging question from tenants: “Can I make improvements to my rental?” These improvements can be anything from installing curtains to painting the walls to completely replacing carpeting or flooring. Tenants may even ask to switch up the rental property’s landscaping by adding gardens or fences. On the surface, any rental improvements your tenants want to make may seem harmless. However, it’s important to remember that the “improvements” may end up looking worse than planned, or they may change the property’s value, which can cause quite a headache for you later. it is your property, not the renter’s, so it’s completely up to you to say yes or no. Here’s how to make the right decision. 

paint samples and color blocks

Image via Pexels

Consider the rental property’s future

When a tenant asks about making improvements to their rental, you should think about what effects the changes could have on the property after the tenant moves out. As noted, it’s important to consider whether the improvements will add value to the property and bring in more interested renters in the long run.

You may also want to consider how difficult or costly it would be to revert the rental to its original state. Some property managers do allow improvements to the property, but only if the tenant agrees to put the rental back to its original state before they move out. The tenants may be subject to fines if they don’t do so.

Request a clear and detailed copy of the renovation plan in writing 

Whether you’re feeling confident in the rental improvements or you’re on the fence, you should work with the tenant to put a detailed renovation plan in writing. The tenant should be as clear as possible about what ideas they have for the property, how much the improvement will cost, if the improvement will be permanent, and so on. Keep the agreement on file to ensure that the tenant follows the plan and doesn’t leave any surprises. If the agreement is for the tenant to revert the changes before they move out, be sure to hold on to the plan until their lease is up.

If you don’t want to approve the renovations, explain why

Remember to stay professional and courteous throughout the entire negotiation with your tenant. You don’t want this rental improvement project to cause any animosity in an otherwise decent tenant-property manager relationship. You may decide to decline to renovation proposal, and that’s perfectly okay, but make sure that your tenant understands why. Try as best you can to offer an explanation for the refusal, whether it be the cost, the effect on the rental’s value, etc. If you explain your decision, your tenant may be less likely to try and go around you by moving forward on the project behind your back. Try to make sure they understand that the decision is not personal; it’s just the best choice for the property.

person holding mini wooden house

Photo by Kindel Media from Pexels

Discuss who will pay for the renovations 

Deciding who will pay for the rental improvements can be a little tricky. After all, it was the tenant’s idea, but it is ultimately your property. If the tenant makes any changes without your permission, they’re typically responsible for the cost, especially if the changes need to be reverted. However, you may want to cover a portion of the cost or its entirety if the improvement will ultimately benefit the property value. Some property managers will split the cost of a renovation with the tenant, while others agree to the renovation only if the tenant pays in full. Again, it all comes down to if the renovation will benefit the property long-term, or if it will only benefit the current tenant. No matter the decision, you should be sure to include the payment terms in the renovation plan.

Consider adding an upgrades clause in future lease agreements 

If your lease agreement currently lacks an upgrades clause, it’s not too late to add one for any other tenant requests. Likewise, you may want to make sure a clause is included in all future lease agreements with new tenants. This way, you’ll have an exact plan in writing for how you want to handle tenant requests for rental improvements. suggests covering all your bases with three different lease clauses: “improvements by the landlord, improvements by either party,” and “if alterations devalue the home.” In the latter event, you may wish to hold some of the tenant’s security deposit to pay for putting the property back to its original state.

Of course, every situation will be different, so it’s still important to evaluate things case-by-case. However, you can at least have a general statement in the lease agreement telling tenants to speak to you first about all home improvements and state the consequences if they break this rule. Handling requests for improvements to a rental property can be tricky, but just remember to think about the situation long-term and remember that you can make any decision you feel is right for the property.

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