How to decorate your rental property

How to decorate your rental property

5 ideas for decorating if you rent

Everyone has different tastes, and your home should be where you feel most at ease and comfortable in your surroundings.

If you’re renting, though, your landlord will have the final say on whether or not you can decorate your home. We have some ideas that will let you make your house feel like your home without risking upsetting your landlord or breaching your tenancy agreement.

Before we begin…

Just remember that if you buy extra furniture or furnishings as part of your rental home makeover, those items might not fit or suit wherever you live next. Hopefully, you’ll be settled in your current home for several years to come, but consider whether it’s worth spending a lot of money on items that you might not want (or be able) to take with you to your next home.

Easy, non-permanent ways to redecorate your rented home

1. Upgrade your walls without painting

Landlords who will let you repaint or wallpaper are few and far between. It’s possible, though, to personalise your space by adding colour or decoration to your walls without making permanent changes. 

Wall decals are peel-off stickers available in all manner of designs, sizes and colours. They’re easy to apply and will peel off after use, even if they’ve been stuck on for a very long time. One word of advice: don’t apply wall stickers or decals on any wall that receives a lot of direct sunlight. The exposed paint on the walls can become bleached by the sun over time, and your decals will shield parts of the paint, allowing those parts to retain the original colour. When you peel off your decals you might find that silhouettes of the decals remain…

You can also buy peel-off wallpaper. After you’ve used it, you might wonder why on earth you ever bothered with paste, brushes and traditional wallpaper! Like decals, this type of wallpaper can be easily removed. 

It’s unlikely you’ll be able to remove wall decals or peel-off wallpaper carefully enough to use on other walls in future, so regard them as single-use items.

2. Upgrade your floors without recarpeting

If your rented property’s carpet looks a bit threadbare or is just not to your taste, you can add rugs for comfort underfoot or just to add a bit of colour. Many rented properties are painted in neutral tones to appeal to more potential tenants, but you can create your own colour scheme through coloured rugs and other accessories (see below). 

Wooden floorboards are easy to clean but they can feel cold underfoot and allow heat to escape. Again, well-placed rugs can eliminate the cold and add a personal touch to your decor.

3. Choose new furniture wisely

If your rental property is unfurnished, you’ll need major pieces of furniture such as sofas, beds, wardrobes - this is an expense, yes, but it means your house will feel very much like home. Using masking tape, map out on your floor where these items will go and how large or small they’ll need to be to fit into the available space. Always check door widths and be sure that you can get new furniture in and out without damaging walls or doors. 

For furnished or part-furnished accommodation, you can choose extra items of furniture for additional storage space. For example, rather than buying a TV stand, opt for a cabinet with drawers or shelves to keep consoles, games, books and other living room paraphernalia out of sight.

Wooden furniture can be painted to add some colour or interest; choose one or two bold colours to bring a touch of brightness to an otherwise neutral colour scheme.

4. Accessorise

Careful use of throws, cushions, plant pots, photo frames and pictures or wall art can tie your colour scheme together. These are all items that you can easily take with you to your next home, too. If there are already accessories in the property that don’t fit the aesthetic you want to create, make sure you keep them somewhere safe and return them to their original rooms at the end of your tenancy. If your landlord won’t allow you to use nails to hang wall art (or if you’re just nervous about banging a nail through hidden wires or pipes in the walls), opt for adhesive, removable picture hanging strips. Follow the instructions carefully to avoid pictures dropping off the walls! 

5. Lighten up

You can easily replace old or tired-looking lampshades, and you may also consider it worth investing in some new light fittings - these might seem like relatively minor features of your room but you'll be surprised at what a difference they make to the overall interior design. Make sure you keep the originals and replace them at the end of your tenancy, so you can take your purchases with you and leave the property in the state in which you found it. 

Living rooms and bedrooms always look more comfortable and inviting if you use wall lighting or standing lamps rather than the main overhead light, so invest in a few lamps, too.

Is it legal to paint your rented home?

The law is clear about landlords’ and tenants’ respective obligations to repair property but it's pretty quiet about decoration. You’ll need to check your tenancy agreement to see what it says about redecorating your rented property as there may be a clause that will affect your ability to change anything about your interior. 

If there’s nothing in your contract that says you can decorate, you’ll need your landlord’s permission to do so. Get that permission in writing to protect yourself, and agree in as much detail as possible the changes you want to make. Take photos before and after to avoid disputes later on. If your landlord doesn’t like what you’ve done to the place, they may be entitled to retain part of your deposit to pay for it to be redecorated.

If you’re currently looking for a rented property or are coming to the end of your tenancy and are hoping to renew it, you could ask to include a clause that allows you to decorate your home (and agree the terms of that clause with your landlord). 

Hopefully, though, the above ideas will give you enough scope for personalising and brightening up your rented accommodation without having to spend a lot of time and money redecorating. If you end up replacing your landlord’s furniture or furnishings for your own (until the end of your tenancy, at least), remember to keep their belongings safe. You could pop them in the attic or basement (check that those places are dry and pest-free) or consider renting a small self storage locker for those items and any of your own that won’t fit into your rented home.

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