It’s Your Tenant’s Home, but Your Property
In this article, we’ll look at an issue that most landlords face at least once: should you allow your tenants to decorate your property? The answer may come down to the tenant responsibilities you have written into the tenancy agreement.
Why You Should Allow Tenants to Redecorate
Your buy-to-let property will be your tenants’ home. You want your tenants to feel at home and enjoy their home – this should encourage them to remain in your property for longer, and that’s good for your bottom line because you’ll suffer fewer costly void periods.
It is likely that they may wish to decorate, to make the property feel more ‘homely’. Good for business. It saves you the cost of decoration, and your tenants put their stamp on their home.
Why You Shouldn’t Allow Tenants to Decorate
On the face of it, allowing tenants to decorate has many advantages, but it could spell trouble for you. While the property is your tenant’s home, they have tenant responsibilities they must adhere to, and it is still your property. You are still the owner and must think practically.
Your tenants may wish to move at some time in the future and you will need to find new tenants. How likely are you to find new tenants with the same tastes as your departing tenant who:
- Painted little Johnny’s bedroom in the colours of his favourite football team?
- Decorated the master bedroom like an 18th-century French boudoir?
- ‘Done up’ the living room to resemble the local Odeon cinema?
You could be left with an extremely expensive redecorating bill. One that could so easily have been avoided by ensuring the tenant knew their tenant responsibilities.
Tips to Help You Decorate so Your Property Feels like Home to Tenants
According to a HomeLet survey, only 43% of buy-to-let landlords let their tenants decorate. Yet doing so could help your tenants feel at home. These tips will help you set guidelines and tenant responsibilities that ensure any decorating that tenants do will be a happy compromise.
· Choosing a Colour
Rental properties are often painted neutral colours, so they appeal to the widest range of tenants. Light colours also bring space to the property and can help it feel larger and more open. If your tenant wants to change the colour of the walls, then the colour they choose must be agreed with you.
Light and non-obtrusive colours are best, but what if the tenant wants a deep purple feature wall in the living room because it matches their purple leatherette furniture? One way around this is to ensure that within the tenant responsibilities you include the obligation to return the property to the original colours before they move on.
· Keeping Standards up
Not all tenants are good decorators. In fact, many will be lousy. A poor painting and decorating job will need to be put right. To avoid this, you could stipulate that if the tenant wants to redecorate, the work must be carried out by a professional – or a contractor of your choosing.
· No Redecoration for the First Year
A new tenant is always something of a gamble. Even if you have vetted them comprehensively, there is no guarantee that they will become a long-term tenant. They may decide that the area just isn’t for them, or their circumstances may change. There are many reasons a tenant may wish to move just a few months after moving in. Now, while this is a rarity, it can happen. Do you really want to take the risk of a tenant redecorating as soon as they move in, only for them to leave a few months later?
You’ve prepared your property for new tenants. It has been cleaned and decorated to a high standard. There is no need for any decoration to be done for a good few months, or perhaps even a year. The longer a tenant remains in a property, the longer they are likely to remain. So, if they want to redecorate, stipulate that they must not do so for at least six months or even a year after first moving in.
· Work with Your Tenants, Not against Them
Happy tenants are the easiest tenants to deal with. If your tenant comes to you with a request to change the decoration in the buy-to-let property, try to find a compromise rather than delivering a curt “No”.
Often, you can come to an agreement where you lay out the tenant’s responsibility to keep the property in order while also returning it to the state it was in when they moved in. This is a fair compromise. They get to make your property their home, and you are not left out of pocket with redecorating costs.
· Layout Tenant Responsibilities in Your Tenancy Agreement
Put your tenants’ responsibilities regarding the décor in your tenancy agreement. You may wish to include stipulations that cover:
- Types of wall coverings
- Use of professional decorators
- The need to make good any decoration and return to the original state (as described in the property inventory)
By ensuring that these tenant responsibilities are in the tenancy agreement, and explaining them to the tenant, you should ensure that your property is cared for by a tenant who considers it to be their home and that you won’t be landed with a costly redecoration bill should the tenant leave.
Your buy-to-let property is your tenant’s home. Naturally, they will want to make it feel like their own space and may request to change the décor, paint, move things around, or hang pictures on the walls. You must be wary of this: decorating can be expensive, so allowing tenants a free run on the décor can end up with you footing a huge bill to return the property to an acceptable state should your tenant move out.
However, working with your tenant you should be able to find a compromise that satisfies you both. When such a compromise is reached, make sure that the tenant responsibilities are included in the tenancy agreement – in writing – and that decoration is carried out to a high standard.
Remember, as a landlord, your priority is generating the best return possible on your investment. To ensure a successful investment you must balance both tenant needs and managing your property.
Live with Passion,