How to Renovate a Rental Home Without Losing Your Security Deposit


How to Renovate a Rental Home Without Losing Your Security Deposit

Young couple enjoying their newly renovateed, modern kitchen
Source: Photo by Becca Tapert on Unsplash


Thinking about doing some minor improvements to your rental home, but dread the thought of losing your security deposit? 

You’re not alone. 

Every year, millions of Americans face the possibility of forfeiting their security deposits when they move out of their rental homes. Sometimes it’s because they damaged the property, but often, it’s only because they had no idea what they couldn’t change about the rental—like drilling holes where holes shouldn’t be.

With a little bit of planning and some careful choices, however, you can avoid losing your deposit and use it for your next vacation instead.

In this article, we’ll give you our best tips for renovating without risking your security deposit.

Step 1: Read the Lease and Discuss with Your Landlord

Before anything, ensure that you review the lease agreement again to check what you can and cannot do. Most will allow decorative changes below a certain value, drill small holes for picture frames, and repaint the walls, but not all leases are the same. 

Rereading the contract will give you a starting point to discuss with your landlord. Then you can ask for written consent to proceed with your plans. If they don’t want you to proceed, try letting them know that it’ll benefit their investment property for the long run. If you’re doing anything major, like landscaping for a garden in the backyard, then it might even boost the property value.

Step 2: Plan and Budget Properly

The next step is to budget your renovation project. Remember that you still have to pay your monthly rent. If you don’t have a lot of savings, consider using a credit card or inquiring if your landlord wants to split the cost of materials—just make sure not to go over budget. 

Our tip is to renovate just enough, so you upgrade the home without taking on too much debt. If your project is too expensive, you might need to consider other options, scale down your plans, or slowly renovate the home over a couple of months.

Step 3: Spruce Up Furnishings and Fixtures

Anything that isn’t nailed down is usually considered furnishings. These are easy fixes to spruce up or replace without breaking the bank. Fixtures, on the other hand, are installed into the rental property, but can sometimes be easily replaced (e.g., faucets, lights, and door hardware).

A simple change of paint, curtains, and lighting can do wonders for your living space. Even just upgrading your furniture makes a small but significant difference!

Here are a few ideas for you to start with:

  • Upgrade your showerhead and faucets.
  • Get new doorknobs and deadbolts; Matte black is a popular choice!
  • Add room dividers to separate rooms.
  • Install floating bookshelves for additional space.
  • Erase stains from wood furniture with a wood finish restorer.
  • Replace old light switches and outlet plates, or upgrade to smart switches. 
  • Use temporary solutions like peel-and-stick tile backsplash, stainless-steel-effect contact paper, rolling islands or kitchen carts, or large rugs.

Just remember to keep all the original fixtures (e.g., doorknobs and showerheads), so you can reinstall them before moving out. Or, if you’re landlord approves of the renovations and covers the cost—make sure it’s written down so you have more than just a verbal contract if they change their mind

But, if you buy them yourself, the good thing is that you can bring all your fixtures with you to your next home.

There’s so much more you can do to decorate up your home without doing anything permanent or spending a lot of money. You’ll be surprised how much these small changes can contribute to the atmosphere of your home!

Step 4: Do Professional Grade Work

Finally, make sure you do quality work! If an owner has to redo your improvements, they will usually charge you for this.

So, be sure the work you’re doing is done well. There are some upgrades that you can definitely get done yourself, but for many others you may need to hire an expert. 

If you are going to do some of the improvements yourself, make sure you’re not taking any shortcuts in everything you do. When you cut corners, you run the risk of damaging the property in the long run—and losing your deposit as a direct result. 

For all your improvements make sure you are:

  • Buying quality materials
  • Executing the project the right way
  • Getting an expert when necessary 

You should always make sure you get DIY advice from experts—and not just your neighbor or a quick Youtube video. And if you’re not sure, then you can always refer to your landlord and see what they’re comfortable with. If you’re an electrician, then they might trust you to upgrade the lighting. However, if you’re not, they might be more comfortable with a professional. 

Renovate Responsibly to Protect Your Security Deposit

Make the rental property feel like home by doing small improvements—with approval of course. Simply read through your lease agreement, discuss your plans with the landlord, budget properly, and have fun turning the house into the home of your dreams without breaking any security deposit rules!

If you have any other questions regarding renovating a rental home, comment below. Our team of property managers is happy to help you navigate the project.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Signup for regular real estate updates and tips for the Metro-Detroit area