Tenants often want to personalize their apartments. They may feel more at home by adding special touches that go beyond pillows and plants. Decorating requests can include changing paint colors, hanging pictures, adding ceiling hooks for plants, and installing attached shelving. Your decorating policy needs to be clearly outlined in the lease agreement. You also need to explain your policy regarding any financial penalties that will be collected if your guidelines are breached. Usually this is handled by holding back part or all of a rent deposit.

Here are some questions to consider when deciding on your decorating policy.

Will you allow your tenants to repaint? If so, can they use bright or dark colors or only a lighter neutral palette? Will you require them to restore the repainted areas to the original color before moving? If your tenants do not do an adequate repainting job, will you hold back some of their rent deposit?

What about wallpapering? Although this is an infrequent request, you still want to cover this in your guidelines. Keep in mind that proper wallpaper hanging and removal requires skill.

Will you allow the installation of track lighting? Anything permanently affixed to your property is legally yours and cannot be removed without your approval. Track lighting can be an attractive feature, but you may want to pre-approve the style of fixtures and the installation location. A professional electrician may be needed to handle the wiring for safety concerns and to be code compliant. Who will pay for that expense?

Can tenants hang their own blinds or curtains? If so, do you want to restrict the colors so that the exterior window treatments are harmonious with the other apartment windows on your property? What type of current rods will you allow?

What type of hardware will you accept for hanging pictures? Do you want to restrict the size of hangers and the weight of the hung objects? What about ceiling hooks for plants? Attached shelving? Large fixtures will leave holes big enough to requiring spackling. If you have textured walls or ceilings, it can be difficult to match the original texture.

Will you allow your tenants to refinish or paint built in-bookshelves or floors? If done properly, this type of renovation can enhance the appearance of an apartment and add value to your property. If done poorly, it can be difficult or impossible to remedy.

While some decorating or remodeling done by tenants may improve your rental property, it will always depend on the quality of workmanship. If you decide to allow certain remodeling options, you might agree to supply the materials at no cost. We recommend that you give pre-approval on any fixtures, paint colors, hardware, etc. Only you can decide how stringent or lenient you want your decorating guidelines to be. Whatever you decide, protect your property by making sure that your policy is clearly stated in your rental agreement.