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Renovating Apartment Rentals | What You Should Do Before Renovating

June 28, 2012

If you're considering renovating an apartment rental that you're living in, you probably want to live in a nicer place pretty freakin' bad. Typically, most occupants don't even think about renovating their living spaces, because there's no long-term benefit. Once you leave your rental apartment, all your renovations are lost and handed over to someone else for free. However, there are certain situations in which it actually makes a lot of economic sense to renovate your apartment rental.

If you're looking to renovate, read these four steps BEFORE you start deciding to change your apartment. These 4 considerations could save you plenty of money in the long run.

4. Consider Moving Apartments

If you want to renovate your apartment that badly, it might be a better idea just to move into a new apartment or a buy a fixer-upper for yourself. Calculate the renovation price for your current apartment, and compare it to the extra $$$ you'd pay for a nicer apartment rental in the next 5 years. If the renovation prices are more than the cost of a nicer apartment, it's generally a better idea to move! You'll save yourself the work of renovations and the hassle of having to explain to your landlord what you did with your apartment: it's almost always a better deal.

Note: This "5 year" rule usually applies to all rental decisions: use it especially if you're deciding between renting or buying!

3. Make Sure Your Renovations Are Reversible

Most landlords will not be happy if you make any major changes that must be kept when you leave the room that you're renting. So before you do anything, CHECK WITH YOUR LANDLORD. Let's say that one again. CHECK WITH YOUR LANDLORD.

Oftentimes, small renovations are fine, provided they can be reversed once you stop renting the room. For instance, painting the room a Bright Fuchsia is fine as long as it can eventually be restored to Rental Prison Grey. Knocking out a wall and replacing your bedroom with a full sized bar is not acceptable.

How do you know if a renovation is sufficiently reversible? CHECK WITH THE LANDLORD. After all this, it's still inevitable that some of you won't check. CHECK WITH YOUR LANDLORD.

2. See If You Can Have Your Rent Reduced

On the other hand, once you've checked with your landlord, some of them will actually be very supportive of your renovation. Perhaps you're tearing out rotting walls, or recaulking a dirty bathroom that's been there fifty years without a cleaning staff. Depending on the size of the building and the niceness of your landlord, you can probably now ask for some compensation for the long-term improvements you're adding to your apartment. For instance, this particular family of apartment rental renovators actually saved themselves $400 a month on a lease after doing $19,000 in repairs to their apartment: a fair deal, in the long run.

Note, however, that your improvements can't be superficial, but instead be renovations with permanent value. Painting your walls Bright Fuchsia won't get you these discounts, as stylish as it is.

1. Ask for a Long Term Lease

If you've done all this work to improve your rental apartment, you'd like to at least live in it for a while, right? Believe it or not, some apartment renters who decided to completely renovate their apartments were kicked out in '07 no more than two months after the renovations finished. How do you prevent this from happening?

If you're going to go to all this effort, ask your landlord to grant you a long term lease: 3-5 years at the minimum. With the assurance that you'll be able to enjoy the fruits of your labor for a long time coming, those renovations will feel that much more satisfying.


Got it? If you've made it through these four steps without being dissuaded, you're now ready to renovate your rental apartment, on the one condition that you don't forget to check with your landlord. Seriously, don't forget. Nothing I say here will matter if your landlord decides to do his own thing and tell you a flat out NO, only to have you kicked out a few months later because you ignored him.

Trying to find an apartment where your landlord WON'T kick you out? Get the full details about any compaints or issues for any apartment from AddressReport