Most renters are unwilling to spend a dime on apartment renovations because they don’t own the property, but there are ways to personalize your space without breaking the tenancy agreement. Homeowners have much more leeway when it comes to renovations, but some changes may require permits and approval from the local condo or homeowners association.
Whether you own or rent, here’s what you need to know about renovating your apartment:
- Can you renovate your apartment?
- Why should you consider renovating your apartment.
- Renovation ideas for your apartment.
Can you renovate your apartment?
It is possible to renovate your apartment, but the type of work that can be done depends on whether you are the tenant or the owner of the unit.
“Tenants must obtain written permission from their landlord before making irreversible changes to the rental unit. When making reversible modifications, tenants should restore the unit to its original condition before moving out,” says G. Brian Davis, co-founder of SparkRental, a property management software company. “Otherwise, they risk the landlord withholding some or all of their security deposit in an attempt to return it.”
If you own the unit and plan to make irreversible changes, you may need to get permission from your condo or homeowners association. Permits may also be required for major renovations. Check with your municipality before starting any work.
Generally, you are free to remodel the interior of your home without approval from your HOA. Outdoor projects may require HOA board approval, as your individual unit is considered secondary to the overall well-being of the entire community. You can find your HOA’s guidelines in covenants, conditions, and restrictions established by the association, but in general, you may need board approval to:
- Renovations visible from the outside of your home.
- Moving or adding plumbing or electricity.
- Movable load-bearing walls.
Why should you consider renovating your apartment
Whether you are a tenant or an owner, there are many advantages to remodeling your apartment. However, tenants may encounter more restrictions and will need their landlord’s approval before making changes to the property.
“Landlords sometimes allow tenants to make changes that make the unit universally more appealing. But they usually don’t allow specific or current tenant-specific changes,” says Davis. “Sometimes they will make exceptions if the tenant has signed a lease-to-own agreement and is working on purchasing the property.”
Here are several reasons to consider renovating your apartment:
- Increase the comfort of your home. Your comfort should be reason enough to make changes to your surroundings. If you are a tenant, small changes can make a big difference. If you are the owner, you have more control over what you can modify to increase your comfort.
- Troubleshoot a security issue. Security issues should be addressed immediately. Residential leases must include a promise from the landlord to keep the property in good repair and to comply with health and safety laws. Landlords are generally responsible for addressing security issues within the unit, but if you live in an attached unit, your HOA may be responsible for security issues in common areas.
- Increase the value. Tenants generally have nothing to gain by improving the value of their apartments. Homeowners have more reasons to invest in their units. Renovations can potentially increase the value of your home, but there’s no guarantee you’ll get back the money you spend.
- Improve functionality. Landlords are required to make “reasonable accommodations” for tenants with disabilities, Davis says. “The line becomes blurred as to where the distinction lies. For example, in an apartment building with assigned parking spaces, it is reasonable to change the space assigned to a disabled tenant to be near the entrance, but it is not reasonable to renovate the parking lot,” adds Davis. “Similarly, it’s reasonable to install handles in the shower, but not to install an entirely new shower.”
- Increase efficiency. New appliances, lighting, plumbing, and even windows can help increase the efficiency of your apartment. Increasing the efficiency of your unit is a common reason for landlords to retrofit, although tenants are unlikely to want to cover the upfront cost in exchange for lower utility bills unless they do not have a multi-year lease.
- Update the style. Updating the style of your apartment can be done whether you own or rent. If you plan to make irreversible changes, be sure to ask your landlord for permission.
- Prepare the unit for sale. If you plan to sell the unit, renovations should only be done if they contribute to its sale. Cosmetic fixes and updates or upgrades that add value can help attract potential buyers.
Renovation ideas for your apartment
Tenants can personalize their apartment without breaking the lease or the bank. For more permanent changes, be sure to get written approval from your landlord. If you violate the rental agreement, your landlord could keep your security deposit, take legal action, or even evict you.
“In most cases, when landlords allow alterations to the property, they’re only allowing licensed contractors or their own trusted handymen to do the work,” Davis says. “Tenants who do their own renovations often do shoddy work.”
Here are renovation ideas for tenants:
- Replace light fixtures. Light fixtures in apartments are generally inexpensive. You can swap them out for chandeliers, pendant lights, or track lights and replace them again when you decide to move. According to HomeAdvisor, you can pay as little as $15 for a simple light fixture or as much as $5,500 for something a little more fancy. If you hire an electrician, it can cost between $40 and $125 per hour.
- Install a new showerhead. Not only can a new showerhead have multiple settings to choose from and increase water pressure, but there are also energy-efficient options to save water and reduce your water bill. Showerheads can cost between $75 and $100, with installation costing around $50, according to home services directory company Angi.
- Removable floor. The options for temporary flooring are nearly limitless. Peel and stick flooring or floating flooring can be tailored to your tastes and easily removed when you decide to move. The price of removable flooring depends on the type and finish. For example, peel and stick vinyl flooring can cost around $1,000 for 200 square feet of peel and stick vinyl planks, professionally installed, according to Fixr, which provides cost guides, comparisons and sheets. cheat sheet for hundreds of home improvement, installation and repair projects.
- Peel and stick tile. This option can give your floors, bathroom walls, and kitchen backsplash an affordable makeover. When you’re on the go, peel and stick tiles are as easy to remove as they are to apply. It can cost between $1 and $5 per square foot, according to Real Simple.
- To paint. A fresh coat of paint can transform any room, but be sure to ask your landlord for permission before painting. Bob Vila reports that painting a 10 by 12 foot bedroom costs between $300 and $750.
- Removable wallpaper. Another option to improve the walls of your apartment is removable wallpaper. It can add color without damaging your walls and comes off quite easily when you move house. Pricing for removable wallpaper starts as low as $1 per square foot, but varies by brand and pattern.
- Add shelves. Install shelves for extra storage space or to showcase your favorite photos, plates and keepsakes. The national average cost of labor and materials for a 25 linear foot project is between $352.18 and $558.67, according to Porch.
- Upgrade hardware. Home hardware can be swapped out to suit your aesthetic, then swapped out when you move. Most cabinet hardware installation projects cost less than $1,000, according to Angi.
Owners are allowed to update their unit in almost any way they wish; however, there are still gray areas.
Kitchens, for example, are usually the focal point of any home renovation. You have complete control over all your cabinet, appliance, flooring and countertop upgrades. Apartment and condo kitchens are typically small, but there are plenty of ways to maximize the space you have. Task and mood lighting can also help improve the usability of the space. However, kitchen renovations can be expensive. HomeAdvisor reports that the average kitchen remodel cost is around $25,626.
You also won’t need approval to replace the shower head, paint the walls, change the tiles, or upgrade your vanity in your bathrooms. If you have a small bathroom and don’t want to knock down the walls, you can make better use of the space by keeping baskets under the sink for storage or adding shelves and hooks to the walls. The average cost to remodel a bathroom is $11,187, according to HomeAdvisor.
Remember that if you plan to move or add plumbing or electrical, move load-bearing walls, or make visible changes to the exterior of your unit, you may need permit and an HOA approval.