Photo (cc) by Éamonn
Being a renter can make you feel like a renter. After a while, the cheap flooring and outdated kitchen can start to get to you, and you might find yourself wishing you just owned the place so you could fix it up. But, renters can personalize their space too. In fact, you can make quite a few improvements to a rental without breaking your budget – or your lease.
1. Paint: A coat of paint can completely transform a room. For example, my last rental was nearly perfect – except that the landlord had painted the walls the color of yellow snow. After trying to live with the horrible color for a few months, I finally invested $50 in some light gray paint and covered the walls in a single weekend. It was like living in a brand-new apartment.
2. Swap out the light fixtures: Light fixtures in rentals are usually cheap, brassy, and ugly. Fortunately, if you’re handy with tools, you can swap out the ugly fixtures for ones you like – and then just pop the ugly ones back in when you move out. And you can find cool, cheap light fixtures at resale stores. I purchased two wrought-iron chandeliers at the Habitat ReStore for about $50.
3. Replace the light switches: Replacing the light switches is a dirt-cheap and quick way to spruce up a room, especially since rentals always have the cheap plastic ones. You can find different styles at any hardware store. Etsy also has handmade light switches you can buy if you want a funkier look.
4. Create an open storage look: The kitchen cabinets in my rental were cheap and outdated, so I took them off. I removed the top cabinet doors, lined the backs with decorated shelving paper, and displayed my funkier dishes inside. In about 30 minutes, my kitchen went from typical rental to modern and cute. I kept the doors so I can reattach them before I move out.
5. Cover up ugly flooring: You can always cover up ugly linoleum or cracked tile flooring with a rug, or you can buy removable flooring to cover the entire floor. Hardware stores sell click-and-lock bamboo flooring and carpet squares that you can lay down without gluing.
6. Add more countertop space: Rentals never seem to have enough countertop space to hold your appliances – or even just to cook around. Several hardware stores and home decor places sell rolling kitchen islands or butcher’s blocks with no installation required. And if you buy one with wheels, you can just roll it out when you’re ready to move.
7. Add storage: The bathroom in my rental came with a tiny medicine cabinet, which wasn’t nearly enough storage space. I bought an over-the-toilet cabinet, a towel rack, and a storage shelf from a department store for about $100. Now I have all the space I need and I can take it all with me when I move.
8. Upgrade the tile (temporarily): While your landlord would probably flip if you ripped out the tile, you can still change it a bit. Tile stickers come in all sorts of different designs and adhere over your existing tile. Once they’re on, they look just like the real thing. You can find tile stickers at home decor shops and some hardware stores.
9. Improve the shower: You can easily replace the basic showerhead with a wrench and some plumber’s tape. I bought a $15 rain showerhead to replace the cheap one my landlord installed. The new showerhead has 10 times the water pressure of the old one – definitely a worthwhile investment for both me and the landlord.
While most landlords won’t care if you make temporary changes to your rental, you should get your landlord to agree to any more permanent changes – like painting – in writing before you start the project. With a written approval, your landlord shouldn’t be able to penalize you or keep your security deposit.