How to decorate your rental home

April 17, 2020

Can you decorate your rental home without getting in trouble with your landlord?


A couple deciding how to decorate a rental home

A well-decorated room makes a house feel like a home! It's an expression of your personality and the first thing a guest will notice when the walk in. But when you live an apartment or another type of rental home, there can be limits to what you're allowed to do. Today, we'll give you some helpful tips for how you can decorate your rental home without getting in trouble with your landlord.

Things to remember before decorating


Before you go to the hardware store and pick out all of your decoration materials, there are a few things you need to keep in mind. While your landlord probably doesn't have a problem with you putting down a few rugs, they may have something to say about more involved decorations and modifications.

Read your lease


That lengthy document you signed isn't just legal jargon - it's an outline of what you're allowed to do while living in the property. It might take a little time, but it's important to read through it - especially if you have some decoration ideas in mind.

If you rent a home, duplex, or something other than an apartment, your lease could come from a template, or it could be specifically tailored for your landlord. However, there are a few standard rules that tend to appear in many contracts, like prohibiting construction or repairs without the consent or approval of the landlord.

If you live in an apartment in Texas, the Texas Apartment Association typically provides a standard agreement which most apartment complexes use and modify for their own use. According to the TAA standard lease agreement, painting walls and applying wallpaper aren't allowed unless approved by your management company or landlord. Unless stated otherwise, most lease agreements allow a small number of holes in sheetrock walls for hanging walls and mirrors. Finally, it states that any improvements you make become their property when you move out unless there is an agreement stating otherwise.

It's important to stick to these when decorating your rental home, as breaking them could result in losing your deposit or worse. But if you've read through your lease and found a lot of restrictions, don't despair! Landlords are often willing to make exceptions if you're transparent about your intentions.

Ask your landlord


While you're renting the property, it's important to remember that at the end of the day, this is your landlord's place. While your landlord might actually be a management company, they're still going to want to keep their property in good shape.

Before planning any decorations in your apartment, make sure to talk to your landlord or management company to ensure that they're okay with the modifications you have in mind. You might be surprised with what they allow if you're open about your plans and agree to return the property to its original state when you leave.

Get it in writing


When it comes to the relationship between a landlord and a tenant (you), it's always a good idea to get any agreements made in writing. This is especially true if they say they'll let you make modifications or decorations that might not be so clearly outlined in your lease agreement.

If they agree to let you go forward with your plans, write up a small description of the proposed changes and have them sign it. They probably deal with a large number of tenants and properties, so this document will serve as a reminder of that agreement and can come in handy when it's time to move out. This also ensures that both parties are clear on what is being proposed and what is being allowed.

Think about your deposit


Remember, any damage that you cause while decorating your rental property, or any piece of hardware or fixture that is missing will all need to be repaired or replaced. This will inevitably come out of your deposit, so when decorating your apartment or rental home, keep that in mind and make changes accordingly. 

This obviously includes large holes or damaged carpet, but it can also include the cost of painting over an accent wall if you don't return it to its original color.

Prepare to repair and replace


If your landlord agrees to allow you to make certain modifications, they'll usually require you to return the property to the original move-in state. If you do replace an original component, like a light fixture or light bulbs, it's important to hang on to the original. That way, you can replace them when you leave and take your personal fixtures with you.

Ideas for decorating your apartment or rental home


After you've checked in with your landlord and read over your lease, it's time to bring your special touch to your rental home!

Plants


Woman decorating her rental home with plants.

You don't have to have an entire indoor garden in order to bring some green into your place. Small potted plant arrangements can add that little touch of nature and can be made to compliment any design scheme. If you're worried about your ability to keep a plant alive, there are options for that, too! Cacti and succulents are hardy yet beautiful plants that will forgive you if you don't water them every day.

Removable wallpaper


This is exactly what it sounds like - wallpaper that you can remove when you're done! Not only does this make it ideal for a rental property, but it's great for people who like to switch up their interior frequently.

Accent wall


A rental home decorated with an accent wall.

Accent walls are a great way to add a little color to your rental home without having to go through the process of painstakingly painting every wall in your home. If you have a color scheme planned for the room, you can match your accent wall to your furniture, pillows, rugs, and artwork.

When you leave your rental home, you typically are required to return the wall to its original colors. With an accent wall, not only are you adding style to your home with minimal work, your ensuring that you have less to paint when your lease is done.

Shower heads


Many apartments have very basic shower heads. They're functional, but not necessarily visually appealing. Replacing your shower head can be an inexpensive and relatively easy way to improve your bathroom.

Lighting


Bulbs. Not only can a change in lighting make you place feel a little more welcoming, it can save you money on your electric bill. Often, apartments will use cheaper, less energy efficient light bulbs. Compact flourescent or LED bulbs are brighter, use less energy, and last longer.

Fixtures. Most rental properties have very basic fans and light fixtures, too. You can give your room an extra bit of personality by replacing the fixtures with something more suited to your style. Make sure to hang on to any original pieces, though. When you vacate the property at the end of your lease, you'll probably want to take them with you and your landlord will want the property returned to its original state.

Lamps. Having lamps can give you the ability to be flexible with your room's lighting. If you have a bright overhead light, you can put softer bulbs in a lamp, which can be perfect for a more relaxing vibe. You may even consider colored bulbs in your lamp. For example, blue and green bulbs bathe a room in a cool, calming glow.

Rugs


Rugs are perfect for decorating apartments or other rental units. There are thousands of designs, colors, sizes, and price ranges to fit your personal style and they can really tie a room together. Best of all, there's nothing to clean or repair at the end of your lease.

Artwork, posters, and pictures


A rental home decorated with photos on clothespins.

Perhaps one of the best ways to really put your personality on display is by decorating your wall with your favorite art and photos. While many rental properties will allow a small number of holes for hanging things, there are a number of ways you can hang pictures and art without making too much of an impact.

Adhesive. For example, adhesive strips or mountings strips can typically hold lighter posters and pictures without leaving a trace. There are also a number of adhesive-backed hooks (like "Command Hooks") that can be perfect for hanging frames that weigh a few pounds.

For a unique way to display your favorite framed photos, consider removing the frame's stand from the back. Then, line the back of the frame with adhesive strips and mount it seamlessly to the wall!

Wire display. For multiple photos, you may consider hanging a string or wire across a wall. This allows you to put up a number of light weight photos while only creating a minimal number of holes. You can then use clothespins or something similar to hang photos. This also gives you the flexibility to swap photos easily if you want change things up from time to time.

Drywall hooks. For heavier items, drywall hooks create a single small hole and can support a greater amount of weight than an adhesive.

Bookcase shelving


A rental home decorated with bookcase shelves.

Bookcases aren't just for books! Depending on your lease agreement, you may not be able to set up standard shelving. Using bookcases as shelves is a great way to display your favorite plants, pictures, and other decorations without putting any holes in your wall. They can even be a great place to store odds and ends if you're short on space.

Modular furniture


One of the first things you likely consider when beginning the decoration process is your furniture. Do you get a full-size sofa with footrests? Or do you opt for recliners and loveseats? Fortunately, you don't always have to choose. Modular furniture gives you the ability to change the layout of your living room to fit your mood and needs.

Take sofas for example. Traditional sofas are a single, connected piece. However, modular sofas are typically sectional, meaning you can arrange them however you want. You can put them together for a single, longer sofa, or split them up to make a smaller sofa and lounge chair. If you have guests over, you can even arrange them into a full size bed.

Wrap up


With a little creativity, you can take a standard, blank apartment or rental house and turn it into your personalized home! But as you add value to your place with decorations, it's important to protect your belongings. Contact your insurance agent to have your policy transferred, or if you need to get a new one. While not all lease agreements require renters insurance, it's definitely a good idea.

Young couple thinking about how to decorate their rental home.

Renters insurance is cheaper than you might think, and can help you replace lost items in the event of a disaster. If something should happen, you need an insurance company you can trust to guide you through the claims process so you can get back to living. Contact Germania Insurance to learn more about insuring your belongings within your rental home!

Read more: Looking to add a little more green to your place? Learn how you can start your very own indoor vegetable garden!

by Geoff Ullrich

About the Author

Geoff Ullrich is a writer and Content Marketing Specialist at Germania Insurance.