Can Your Tenant Make Cosmetic Changes to Your Property? - Article Banner

Imagine walking into your Charleston rental property after your tenants move out to find the walls were painted electric blue or the ceiling tiles were given a mural. 

This is not only a surprise, it’s expensive and time-consuming to fix. 

In general, tenants are not permitted to make cosmetic changes to your property. They can hang pictures and make the home as personalized as possible without altering the actual home. That means no different paint colors, no swapping of appliances, and no changes to floors, fixtures, or outdoor spaces. 

Make sure you’re clear with your Charleston tenants about what is allowed and what is not allowed. If you want to let them do something different with your space, make sure prior approval is granted and boundaries are set. 

All of this starts, of course, with the lease agreement. 

Charleston Lease Agreements 

The lease agreement should state whether or not tenants are allowed to make cosmetic changes to your property. 

In general, we ask that tenants do not make these changes. They might think they are creating improvements, especially if they want to put in new lighting or lay tiles down in the bathroom. But, this is not their property. It belongs to our owners, many of whom made specific decisions about flooring, lighting, and paint colors. 

The lease agreement that you and your tenants sign is in place to protect you and your property. You will want to make sure there is a clause that prohibits tenants from making cosmetic changes or alterations without prior approval. 

What if Tenants Request Prior Approval?

You want to provide a great rental experience. You want your tenants to stay in place and sign a lease renewal when their tenancy comes to an end. 

If you have great tenants in place, you may be willing to make concessions when a request comes in for a specific cosmetic change. Maybe they want to paint a bedroom wall, for example, if a new baby is expected in a few months. They might want to invest in a modern washing machine or a refrigerator of their own. Perhaps they want to plant a fruit tree in the backyard or install video cameras outside the doors. 

When you decide to grant permission, make sure it’s in writing and make sure you specify who will pay for the cosmetic changes. You’ll also want to indicate whether you expect the tenant to return the property to the condition it was in before the upgrade was made. So, if they paint a wall, you can require that they repaint to the original color before they leave. 

Unauthorized Changes are Lease Violations 

Lease Agreement ViolationWhen your tenant makes a change without obtaining your approval first, they’re in violation of their lease agreement. You’ll want to send a letter asking them to come into compliance. If they don’t, you will have to take the action yourself and you’ll also have the option to evict them. 

We recommend that owners are open to making any changes the tenant requests, especially if it will add value to your property or address a change that you’d likely make anyway. If tenants want to make a cosmetic change at their own expense, make sure you have a process for approving it and ensuring it does not devalue your property or put you at risk. 

If there’s a specific tenant you’re working with or a question you have about changes at your own property, we’d love to hear your story and offer any advice we might have. Please contact us at Charleston Home Rentals.