Can a tenant redecorate their rented home?

Can a tenant redecorate their rented home?
20th February 2024

Although many people still think of renting as being a temporary housing solution, the reality is that increasing numbers of tenants are living in the same property for several years, with many relying on the private rental sector to provide a long-term home. 

According to the most recent data from the English Housing Survey (2021-22), private tenants are living in their home for an average of 4.4 years – up from 3.8 years a decade ago – and nearly a third have been renting in the sector for ten years or more.

While younger tenants tend to move more often, in the 45-64 age cohort:

  • 65% have been in their current home for more than 3 years
  • 44% have lived in the same home for more than 5 years

And in the 65+ cohort:

  • Nearly two-thirds have lived in their current rented home for 5 years or more
  • Around 45% have been in the same home for at least 10 years

So, while there’s currently no legal obligation for landlords to allow tenants to redecorate, if they’re intending to live in the property for several years and are spending a third of their income on rent, it’s fair to let them tailor their home to their own tastes.

We’d suggest that as a matter of good practice, landlords shouldn’t refuse tenants’ reasonable requests to make changes. That might include repainting in the colour of their choice, hanging pictures and mirrors and putting up shelves.

It’s also worth noting that if Labour come to power in this year’s General Election, they have already pledged to permit renters to make “reasonable alterations to a property”.


Who pays for redecoration?

It is the landlord’s responsibility to maintain the condition of the property, which is likely to need redecorating around every five years. So, if tenants have already been in situ for a few years when they request redecoration, it’s reasonable for the landlord to either cover the whole cost or share it with the tenants.

However, if the property décor is in good condition and the tenants simply want to change it, then it can be considered reasonable to ask them to pay.

How landlords and tenants can protect themselves

Under the terms of an assured shorthold tenancy agreement, tenants are expected to hand back the property in the same condition as it was when they moved in (with an allowance for reasonable wear and tear). So, if landlords are going to allow tenants to redecorate and make alterations, it’s wise for both parties to put the terms and expectations in writing so there aren’t any misunderstandings.

For example, a landlord might require the tenant to:

  • Check the colour with them before repainting, so they can either approve it, or make it clear the room/property must be repainted in the original colour at the end of the tenancy.
  • Use approved painters/decorators to carry out the work, so they know it’s been done to a professional standard.
  • Consult the landlord before drilling any holes for wall hangings or shelves, so both parties can agree what will need to be returned to the original condition at the end of the tenancy and, importantly, ensure pipework and electrics won’t be affected.



Take out insurance that will cover any damage

Whenever works are taking place in a property, there’s a chance that damage might occur. If that has been caused by the tenant, the landlord can make a claim against any security deposit held and, if the cost of repairs is more than that, they can pursue the tenant.

To help protect themselves financially, tenants can take out their own insurance that covers accidental damage to their landlord’s property (subject to exclusions), which can also ensure their deposit isn’t affected.

If tenants are using contractors to carry out redecoration, it’s important to check that they have their own liability insurance that will cover any accidental damage they cause.

Both landlords and tenants can easily get an insurance quote online via our website or call our team of insurance specialists on 01903 890044 to discuss the right level of cover.

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