Decorating rental properties: What are the landlord’s responsibilities?

By 6 min read • February 1, 2024

Interior appeal: a key factor in tenant experience and property value

Many landlords underestimate the importance of maintaining their rental property’s interior décor. While you’re probably well aware that investing in your property’s aesthetics can make it more appealing to prospective tenants and improve tenant experience, have you also considered how maintaining your property’s decor can shape your reputation as a landlord and your investment’s overall profitability?

The rule of thumb when decorating rental properties is to keep the décor tasteful and neutral, helping your property to appeal to a wider audience and keeping things looking bright and fresh. Generally, paler, more neutral shades are recommended for rental properties – magnolia and very pale shades of blue, grey, beige, and green are all popular choices.

Decorating your property to a high standard before welcoming your first tenant is a great start – but be prepared to refresh and redecorate time and time again to keep your rental property looking good. Rental properties are often subject to significant wear and tear, particularly if you manage a house in multiple occupation (HMO) or a short-term let.

If your rental property is starting to look tired or your tenant has requested a change to its décor, you may find yourself with lots of questions. Who is responsible for paying the decorating expenses? What decorating requests am I legally obliged to cater to? Why do I need to redecorate so often? In this article, we answer all these questions and more, outlining and clarifying your legal responsibilities as a landlord for maintaining and updating your rental property’s décor.

What legal responsibilities do landlords have for decorating?

No specific rules or laws govern how rental properties should be decorated or how often landlords should redecorate. The Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 simply states that residential rented accommodation should be “provided and maintained in a state of fitness for human habitation.”

While the law does not specify any specific rules surrounding decorating rental properties, it does make it clear that landlords must provide tenants with safe and comfortable living conditions. Therefore, if wallpaper is peeling because of damp problems or mould has left the walls discoloured, this is something that a landlord should resolve as soon as possible, first addressing the underlying problem and then redecorating to repair any damage the problem has caused to the décor.

As well as redecorating when issues arise, landlords should regularly assess the condition of their rental property’s decor and consider whether they would feel comfortable living with it. This is something that can be checked during routine property inspections.

If the paint is peeling or there are stains, damage, or discolouration to the walls – basically, if the décor looks a little old or tired, then it’s time to start planning a refresh.

Why does décor matter in rental properties?

Maintaining a rental property’s décor has many benefits for both the landlord and tenant, and it’s not all about the aesthetics! Regularly updating or refreshing your property’s interior décor helps to keep it looking great and feeling homely and cosy for tenants. Let’s learn why looking after your rental’s décor is such a smart move.

  • Retain existing tenants – Tenants are more likely to renew their lease and stay longer if the property is well-maintained and attractively decorated.
  • Create higher demand – Well-kept and visually appealing properties tend to attract more interest from potential tenants, helping landlords fill vacancies faster and avoid costly void periods.
  • Justify higher rent – Properties with modern, fresh décor may be able to ask for higher rent, as tenants are often willing to pay more for properties that look attractive and cared for.
  • Boost the value of your investment – Regularly refreshing your property’s interior design can help to increase your property’s overall value, making it a more lucrative investment in the long term.
  • Maintain the property’s appearance and condition – Consistent upkeep of a property’s décor can help to maintain and preserve the overall condition of the property, potentially reducing the need for costly repairs down the line.
  • Ensure comfort, safety, and habitability – A well-maintained property that is comfortable, safe, and habitable is not only appealing to tenants but also a legal requirement.
  • Enhance your reputation as a landlord – Regularly decorating and refreshing your rental properties reflects positively on you as a landlord, helping to foster a good relationship with current tenants and building a positive reputation among prospective ones.
  • Improve tenant satisfaction – Tenants are more likely to be satisfied with their renting experience if you ensure the property is attractive and well-maintained, leading to fewer complaints and issues.

When and how should landlords decorate rental properties?

When and how you decorate the rental property is really down to you and the tenant, as well as what best suits your circumstances.

In an ideal world, landlords should decorate rentals between tenancies to minimise tenant disruption. It makes sense to assess the condition of your property’s décor every time a tenant moves out and make use of any void periods by decorating. If your tenants come and go frequently, decorating between tenancies is the most convenient approach.

However, if you have long-term tenants or your property suddenly requires redecorating mid-tenancy due to damage, the decorating may be unable to wait until your tenant vacates the property.

If this is the case, you’ll need to discuss with your tenant when the most convenient and least disruptive time is for you to decorate. Depending on the extent of the job, you may prefer to wait until they are away on holiday or out of town for the weekend. Otherwise, you’ll have to work together to find a time that suits both parties.

Ok, that’s the ‘when’ covered, but what about ‘how’? If you’re wondering whether landlords are obligated to use professional decorating services, then the answer is no, they don’t. In fact, most landlords will tell you they’d never dream of paying a professional to do a job they could easily carry out themselves. That being said, it’s important to only tackle the decorating yourself if you’re confident you can do a good job of it!

Are landlords obliged to decorate at a tenant’s request?

While landlords are responsible for ensuring their rental property remains comfortable and habitable, this obligation does not extend to decorating the property every time a tenant requests they do so.

If your tenant requests that a room be redecorated, it’s important to consider their request and reasons. Is there a legitimate reason for redecorating? Is the property due to be redecorated soon anyway? Is the tenant a good tenant who you’d like to keep? If you answered yes to any of these questions, it may be worth obliging their request.

If the tenant’s only reason for wanting to redecorate is to personalise the property to their taste to make it feel more homely or comfortable, then you may want to consider letting the tenant decorate the property. The thought of this may strike fear in your heart, but of course, the process would be carefully planned, and terms would be agreed upon before the tenant started slapping black paint on the walls. There can be considerable benefits to taking this approach; after all, if a tenant invests time and money into decorating the property, they are unlikely to move out any time soon, and long-term tenants can be a landlord’s best friend. If the property is decorated tastefully and to a good standard, it also saves you a job and could even boost your property’s value.

Is the landlord obliged to pay for decorating expenses?

In most cases, yes, it is the landlord’s responsibility to pay for decorating the property.

The only instances where the expense may fall to the tenant is if the tenant has had permission to redecorate the property to their taste or if the property needs redecorating due to the tenant causing damage beyond what is considered ‘fair wear and tear’.

In both scenarios, clear communication and written agreements are key. Landlords should ensure that any arrangements about decorating and who pays for it are clearly outlined in the tenancy agreement to avoid misunderstandings or disputes later.

Maintaining décor for rental property success

While a landlord’s legal obligations for decorating are somewhat ambiguous, landlords can fulfil their responsibilities by focusing on maintaining interior decor that is comfortable, clean, and neutral.

Ensuring your property’s décor is attractive can have numerous benefits, including higher tenant retention, increased property demand, justification for higher rent, and, ultimately, increasing the value of your investment.

To keep a rental property’s interior design in tip-top condition, landlords should conduct regular property inspections, use void periods to refresh or redecorate the property, maintain open communication with tenants, and take a proactive approach towards décor maintenance.

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