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Rental DIY decor don'ts: what landlords want you to know

Beige is dull and orange is totally on-trend. But don't paint those walls without permission, and be aware that you may be charged for the cost of returning them to their original colour.

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 in a colour other than beige.

But when you're renting, you must remember: any changes you make may be reversed by your landlord once you move out — and a landlord is 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 avoid making changes that will cost them their security bond.

* How to get that rental: What landlords want you to know
* Six home decor tips for renters
* Reversible ways to put your style into a rental home


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've fully informed the landlord before you pick up a paintbrush or hammer. Communication is the key.

Most rental agreements are very clear about what changes tenants can and cannot do. Make sure you know what's allowed before you paint a wall, hang a picture or plant some flowers.

"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 in Auckland's eastern suburbs.


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.


Most rental properties are seriously lacking in personality and pizzazz. But there are plenty of ways to add colour and style without jeopardising your bond.

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 — it's the skill that's the sticking point.

"I've had tenants get paint on the ceiling, on the trim, on the door knobs 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.


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

Want to add some style to the bathroom? If you're a renter, we suggest a curtain for the shower, rather than the window.

"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 blue-tack over thumbtacks."


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 tend to 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."


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 backyard of your rental isn't exactly an urban oasis. If you're a keen gardener, opt for pots.

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.

So you splurged on a new fridge... that's great, but remember, the old one belongs to the landlord. Don't sell it or give it away.

"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 best if you're renting.


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 — so 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 — on TradeMe," 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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