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Working with Tenants Who Want to Make “Improvements”

Mark Purtell
2 min read

Almost every time a tenant moves in, it seems they want to add their personal touch to the unit.  Often this is as simple as painting, taking a door off a room to open the space up, or drilling a hole in the wall for cable TV.  Although your goal as a landlord is to service the tenant, you need to draw the line somewhere at these requests.

The most common request I receive is to paint a room or two.  This seems like a reasonable request, but I always follow ask the following questions:

  • Who will be doing the painting?
  • What experience do they have painting?  (The last thing you want is a paint-by-numbers dropout splattering pink paint all over the new white carpet.)
  • What color is the paint?  I always ask the tenants to show me the color of the paint before they decide to pull a Michelangelo on your ceiling.  I am looking for neutral colors that I will not need to paint over when they move out, at the very least, or a paint color that will not require eight coats of primer to bury in the drywall.

Classic example of bad tenant redecorating:

You should consider is how much time and money it will cost you to restore the unit back to the condition it was in before the tenant signed the lease.  I have had tenant request to install fans, replace bathroom sinks, and even install hardwood floors.  Before you say “ok” to these types of tenant projects, figure out if the “improvement” to your unit is easy to reverse and what the cost in terms of time and money is to you.

Who Should Pay For Upgrades?

Don’t be afraid to divide the cost of the project between you and the tenant.  If the tenant is insistent upon getting a vanity, I will offer to pay for the half the cost and they get to pick which one gets installed.  In order for this to happen, I need to be on the verge of replacing it anyway and I have final approval the vanity they pick out.

If the tenant request is too egregious, don’t be afraid to say “no”.  It is your building and you ultimately need to look out for your best interest.  However, there will be that time during your final walk through when the lease is over and you will discover a giant neon green wall in a bedroom, so don’t be too alarmed when it happens to you.

Do you agree with this article?  Do you think my views on landlording are outrageous or dead on?  Share your thoughts below.  Thanks for reading and commenting.
Photo: Matthew Huchinson

Note By BiggerPockets: These are opinions written by the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions of BiggerPockets.