Should you allow tenants to 'personalise' your property?
It's a dilemma faced by all landlords. Should you allow your tenant to personalise or decorate your property? And if so to what degree?
The issue which taxes most landlords is where to set the boundaries. Do you allow the tenant to paint the walls, landscape the garden, and hang new doors? What about putting up pictures? Every landlord will blanch at the thought of nails being hammered into pristine plaster.
For some landlords allowing the tenant to personalise the property means just choosing curtains and moving the furniture around a little. Others will go the full hog and allow the tenant to completely redecorate. There are plusses and minuses with each approach. There is also the middle ground to consider.
Why do tenants want to personalise their rental?
The trends in the private rental sector are changing. The lack of affordable housing and the difficulties young people face in getting on the property ladder mean more people than ever are looking at lifelong renting. And it's not just young people. More families are coming into the private sector and many of these tenants are looking for the security of a long-term lease.
A long-term tenant is great news for a landlord. No more scrambling around finding a new tenant every six or twelve months with all the hassle, work and expense that involves. Added to that the property is never empty, there is constant cash flow and long-term tenants generally make the best renters causing few problems for the landlord. There are benefits for the tenant too in that they have the security of a long-term tenancy without the uncertainty of finding a new home regularly with all the inconvenience that brings.
But because the tenant is in a long-term commitment and won't be looking for a new place to live anytime soon they naturally enough want to make their rental into their own home. And that means personalising and decorating it to their taste. They don't want to stick with the neutral paint schemes favoured by landlords.
Is this a deal breaker?
For many tenants possibly not. Though many who are looking for a long-term lease will want to decorate. And something a landlord may like to consider is that a survey by Endsleigh Insurance found many tenants would be prepared to pay a premium for the right to decorate.
This brings us back to the question we originally posed. Should you allow tenants to 'personalise' your property? Let's look at the benefits and drawbacks from a landlord's point of view.
Benefits of allowing your tenant to decorate
These are quite easy to sum up:
- A tenant who decorates is more likely to look after the property.
- Encourages long-term renters.
- Could generate a higher rent.
- Saves you the job of doing the decorating yourself.
Drawbacks to allowing your tenant to personalise your property
Again this is quite straightforward:
- It's your property you decide the decor.
- Allowing a tenant to decorate means you will have to redecorate before a new tenant moves in.
- The tenant could be a DIY disaster leaving you with the expense of clearing up after them.
It is this last point which stops most landlords from allowing their tenants to personalise their property. You could be left with an absolute disaster if your tenant is a graduate of the Frank Spencer school of decorating.
Purple walls, wonky shelves, chunks of missing plaster not to mention unhinged doors. The time and expense involved in clearing up and redecorating could seriously harm a landlord's business. It could even affect the property's value.
Not a good idea then?
It depends. If you are letting on a short-term basis you should absolutely not allow the tenant to decorate or personalise the property. It simply isn't worth the expense, time and hassle of having to redecorate every six to twelve months.
However, longer term lets are a different story. If you want to encourage your tenants to put down roots and stay for years than it may be that allowing the tenant to decorate is the right choice. A tenant needs to feel at home. That their home is their own. And it is human nature to take better care of something we think of as our own than it is of something we are only in temporary care of.
If you do decide to let your tenant personalise your property it is important to set those boundaries we discussed earlier. Remember we're not just talking about a splash of paint on the kitchen wall here. There is the garden to consider along with exterior doors, walls and fences. This is why you need to set boundaries and expectations. You don't want tenants taking it on themselves to build an extension.
Your tenancy agreement needs to spell out exactly what the tenant can and can't do in terms of internal decor. It should also cover the garden and outdoor areas including the garage if there is one. The important thing is to be specific.
Specify that the walls can only be painted rather than papered. Actually this one should be top of your list. Removing hideous wallpaper and repainting and possibly re-plastering the walls can be a long and expensive task. And talking of paint you can list acceptable colours. It is easier for you to paint over light colours than it is vivid purple.
Make it clear that anything other than cosmetic changes require your approval in writing. The tenant would need your permission to hang new doors for example. You might also want to extend this to building shelves. You could also restrict decorating to certain rooms. Or forbid the use of nails and screws on walls.
Whatever your boundaries are you need to be explicit in the tenancy agreement. And if you are quite happy to give the tenant carte blanche you can do so. But you may want to think twice about that approach.
Protect yourself with an inventory
Whether you allow a tenant to personalise the property or not you should always prepare an inventory before the start of a tenancy. An inventory protects you against the worst excesses of a tenant and provides essential evidence in case of a dispute. If the tenant really has gone over the top with the decorating leaving you with an expensive clean up job you will have the inventory to support you when you withhold their deposit.
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