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Landlord-Friendly Ways to Upgrade Your Rental Home

A living room with a grey couch, brown coffee table, white brick walls, and plants placed decoratively around the room

The number of people in the United States who rent their home, rather than own it, has increased dramatically over the decade from 2010 to 2020. In fact, more people were renting in 2017 than ever before. Despite this unprecedented rise, many people don’t necessarily want to be renters. Per a 2016 survey on homeownership, 65% of respondents claim they are only renting due to their financial circumstances and 72% claim they would like to purchase their own home in the future.

Though renting comes with many personal and financial benefits, it can be difficult to feel at home in a rental. No matter how spacious your apartment is or how comfortable you make it, no rental is perfect. It may have out-of-date appliances or accessories or features that just don’t align with your tastes. You may not even be able to modify your rental to make it feel more like home, since you need to get permission from your landlord before making any major changes.

However, you aren’t completely out of luck if you want to upgrade your rental and make it feel more like home. You should always double-check with your landlord before making any changes to their property to ensure you aren’t accidentally breaking your lease, but there are several minor upgrades that can make a major difference in how your space looks and feels. As a bonus, many of these upgrades are affordable, reversible, and easy to do on your own, especially if you’ve got the right tools and supplies for the job. Whether you’ve just moved in or have been in the same place for years, here are seven landlord-friendly updates you can make to your rental home:

Change the Cabinet Handles

Cabinets are a major feature of most kitchens, bathrooms, and storage areas. You may not be able to paint or switch out the cabinets themselves, but you can change the cabinet handles without much trouble. Depending on the current hardware, all you’ll need is a screwdriver and your new cabinet handles. The type of screwdriver you need depends on the type and size of screws already in place, making a screwdriver set is a great option if you’re working with different handles or screws in the various rooms of your home. All you’ll need to do is use the screwdriver to remove the old handles, and then use the screws to secure the new ones. 

As far as shopping for new handles goes, feel free to think outside the box with your selection; there’s no end to what you can do in terms of color, shape, and material. Since you can re-install the original handles before you move out, it’s entirely based on your own preferences, making this a great opportunity to add your own unique flair to this home. If you want to get extra creative, you can try using leather pulls, fun ceramics, unique glass shapes, or a combination of different types of handles in the same room. You can always look at major retailers, design shops, and thrift stores for new ideas, or ask friends, neighbors, and relatives if they have any spare cabinet handles from their own home improvement efforts.

Switch Out Lighting

You can also try to change the lighting and lighting fixtures throughout your home. If you’re feeling a little ambitious, you can try replacing mounted lighting features with your own. This offers a lot of creative leeway and allows you to further customize your space in a way that suits your tastes and needs. In many instances, you just have to unscrew the existing fixture and replace it with your own. In others, you may have to do some rewiring to connect the new fixture. Before starting this project, make sure you shut off your electricity and are knowledgeable about how to do it correctly and safely.

If you aren’t comfortable changing mounted fixtures or don’t want to worry about rewiring, there are a few other ways you can change your lighting. Just changing the lightbulbs in your existing fixtures can transform a room and create a new atmosphere. Similarly, you can buy a new lamp for the same effect, as well as an additional decorative flair such as tool-free, easy-to-install under cabinet lighting.

Use Reusable Wallpaper

Many rental homes and apartments have neutral-colored paint on the walls for easy upkeep and widespread appeal among different tenants. You likely won’t be able to re-paint the walls in your home, but you can put up reusable wallpaper and decals to add some color and style without damaging the paint. It may sound intimidating to install wallpaper without the help of a professional, but it’s a straightforward and sustainable project you can do yourself, as long as you’re careful and take your time.

Once you find a print, pattern, or design you like, you’ll need a safety knife and squeegee to install it. You can use the knife to cut the paper precisely, so it’s properly lined up on the wall and use the squeegee to remove any air bubbles. Wall decals are typically much smaller and less of a commitment to apply, but you’ll still want to take your time and use a squeegee to smooth it out. It’s important to take the time to put up wallpaper and decals correctly; doing so will make it that much easier to take them down, save them, and reapply them at your next rental.

Place Tile Stickers 

If the tile in your bathrooms and kitchen aren’t suited to your taste, you can use tile stickers to cover them up. Placing stickers over tile is a simple way to upgrade a kitchen or bathroom without replacing the tile itself or damaging it when you leave. Tile stickers are highly customizable and give you the freedom to decorate your rental home however you like. Whether you use accent stickers to spruce things up or completely cover all the tile, it’s an affordable option that’s just as easy to install as it is to remove.

To place your tile stickers, all you really need are the stickers themselves. Depending on how your stickers are packaged or if you want to further modify them, you may need a utility knife to cut exact borders. Be sure to count out how many stickers you need before you begin, and always test one or two first, just to make sure they work on your tile and you know how to apply them successfully.

Hang a Gallery

Nothing says “home” more than putting up your own pictures, artwork, and decor. For many renters, hanging up pictures in their new home is a given, but you can take a more unique approach to displaying your photos and art by creating a gallery. Home galleries add a great visual appeal, show off your personality, and help you feel more comfortable in your new rental. 

Before anything else, make sure you ask your landlord how they’d like you to hang things up. Some may not mind if you put holes in the wall, but others may want you to use some type of poster putty or adhesive strips. If you’re allowed to put holes in the walls, it’s generally best to use a nailing hammer and small nails to hang framed pictures. You’ll also want to use a tape measure to ensure your pictures are evenly spaced out on the wall. You can create a gallery in any room of your home, but they tend to work well in living rooms and bedrooms, especially as an accent or featured wall.

Replace the Showerhead

Making upgrades to your home isn’t just about improving how it looks — it’s also about improving how things work and function. These types of upgrades are often more difficult to do, but replacing the showerhead in your bathroom is straightforward, highly beneficial, and easy to reverse when it’s time to move out.

To make this upgrade, you’ll need to purchase a new showerhead, remove the old one, and then attach the new one. Removing the old one may be as simple as unscrewing it, but you may also need a wrench or pair of pliers, depending on how it was secured. Follow the instructions that came with your new showerhead to attach it. Then, you can make the switch again before moving out; just be sure to store the old showerhead in a place where it won’t get damaged or lost.

Add Some Greenery

Finally, bring some life into your home by decorating it with plants. Not only are there myriad physical and mental health benefits of having plants in your home, but they are also an affordable way to liven up your rental home. Indoor plants are also incredibly easy to take with you when you move out, making them a great investment no matter how long you live in your rental.

There are countless ways you can use plants to decorate. You can always place them on tables and counters throughout your home, but you may want to try something new and different. Think about creating a plant gallery as a way of making an accent wall, installing hooks in the ceilings for hanging plants, or devoting a set of bookshelves just to your plants. You can always experiment with a variety of different plants or decorations until you find the perfect one for your rental home. 

You may be renting this house or apartment, but you still want to make it your own. As long as your landlord approves of your projects, it’s worth taking the time to make it feel like your home for as long as you live there.