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Decorating a tenanted property  Q&A

Posted by Deborah on 12/06/2024
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We constantly get asked about decorating a tenanted property from both landlords and tenants. Here are answers to some of the more frequent questions – these are in no particular order:

Should I let my tenant decorate their home?

Our answer is nearly always yes. With the caveat that any agreement made between yourself and your tenant is summarised clearly in writing. Also, you may as an example, agree that they can paint a particular white wall to purple. In this type of scenario, make sure you include a clause in the tenancy agreement, that the wall would be painted white again at the end of the tenancy.

Most tenants will want to make the property feel like their home. They are more likely to stay longer if they’re allowed to put their personal stamp in it. That said, this may be a different scenario if you’ve agreed for a short 6-months -1 year tenancy and have just had the property decorated.

So every scenario is different but this is our rule of thumb.

Also, make sure you have a good inventory before they go in. This will mean that the standard of the décor at the start of a tenancy is clearly documented. This protects both landlords and tenants from any ‘recollections may vary’ scenarios!

Is it a landlords responsibility to decorate whilst tenants are in situ?

This really depends on the length of the tenancy and the type of tenant you have. If your tenant is not able to decorate for a whole host of reasons but they are good, long-term tenants, then you would all benefit from the house having a re-fresh every few years.
We have a fabulous portfolio landlord who budgets for upgrades on all his properties. Every few years he gets his houses re-painted and has new carpets laid. This is regardless of how long that particular tenant has been in. This means that when a tenant leaves, his properties are an easy and quick turnaround. That said, his tenants rarely leave.

What is the best colour scheme in a tenanted property?

Always neutral – White or magnolia wherever possible. Unusual or difficult to match colours will cause you a headache down the line. Instead of a quick touch up, you’ll find you’ll need a whole wall or room re-paint at the end of a tenancy.

What sort of flooring is best?

Hardwearing and again neutral. If carpet, go for a good quality underlay. This is a higher cost initially, but the carpet will last far longer.

Hard wood, tiles or laminate on the ground floor will also give you more options regarding accepting pets. You may not think you want to now, but allowing pets again often means longer tenancies. These types of flooring also weather better than carpet, especially in high traffic areas. Don’t skimp on the quality of these. I’m not saying go for the most expensive but any good carpet/flooring company will be able to guide you to the best value v’s durability ratio.

Who’s responsible for marks on walls created during a tenancy?

A tenant is expected to return a property back to the standard it was at the start of the tenancy, subject to wear and tear. It’s the wear and tear element that can be tricky. It comes down to the standard of the property when they moved in, what’s in the tenancy agreement and how long the tenants have been in situ.

If as an example, there was a few marks on the walls when they move in, they’re there for 3 years and when they leave, there are a few more, our view would be that this is the landlords responsibility. If on the other hand, the walls were freshly painted when they moved in, they’d only been on for a year and there were a number of marks on the walls, then this, in our opinion would be the tenants responsibility.

This is why we always carry out a pre-exit inspection, so any tricky conversations like this can be had a few weeks prior to the end of a tenancy.

What happens if wallpapered walls get damaged?

Firstly, please try to avoid letting out a property with wallpaper. It never ends well! But if the wallpaper is already up and it would be too costly to remove at this point, then you will need to factor in the following: What was the standard of the wallpaper at the start of the tenancy? How old was it? Is it in a high traffic area and likely to get damaged? How long were the tenants living in the property?

You also need to be aware that regardless of the term of the tenancy, a tenant cannot be expected to provide ‘betterment’. This means that, should they damage wallpaper that cost you £50 a roll 10 years ago, they cannot be expected to pay for this to be replaced like for like. So whilst there may be some costs due by the tenant, it would be on a pro-rata basis.

Should I allow my tenants to put up shelves and pictures, or change colour schemes?

Our normal answer to this question is yes. Its especially important to be flexible with this request if you want your tenants to stay for a longer term.

But make sure you have something in writing, confirming that they will ‘make good’ any changes, or damage to the walls at the end of their tenancy.

Although, it may be that you like what they’ve done and are happy to keep it but as per my previous comments, please make sure you document this.

Do I need to replace carpets during a tenancy?

This comes down to the age of the carpets in general. An industry rule of thumb is that carpets should be replaced every 7-10 years and that laminate would be roughly the same, although better quality hard flooring will last far longer than this.

You also need to be mindful that carpets can stretch and become threadbare on stairs, which would then make it a trip hazard and must be replaced as soon as you’re aware of this being the case.

Who’s responsible for the cost of re-decorating the property at the end of a tenancy?

This is another area that depends on the standard of the décor when the tenancy started and how long the tenants were living there.

If the property was decorated throughout, you have a robust inventory from the start of the tenancy to prove this and the tenants were in for less than 2 years, I’d say you have a good case for insisting that a certain level of re-decoration is carried out at the tenants cost.

But if as before, the décor was already a few years old and/or the tenants have been there for 5 or more years, then in our opinion this would be a landlord’s cost.

This is the area of the greatest number of disputes between landlords and tenants. Its why, as an agency, we never start a tenancy without a comprehensive inventory in place at the start.
An informal pre-checkout meeting is always a good idea. This will help to iron out any of these potential disagreements before the end of a tenancy.

Can tenants insist a property is re-decorated?

No. That said, its best practice to do so for longer term tenancies, but there’s no legislation that would back up this request. With the only caveat being the safety aspect regarding carpets, I’ve mentioned previously.

If I want to re-decorate, can my tenant refuse?

Yes they can. A tenant is entitled to ‘quiet enjoyment’ of their home. If they feel this would impact on that, then they are in their right to say no.

In our experience, they rarely do. Its in everyone best interest to keep the property up to a good standard. We have had some instances where tenants work from home and worry about the intrusion, or elderly tenants who feel nervous about having strangers in their homes but a sympathetic landlord or agent can normally ally any fears or concerns.

Anything I’ve missed?

Do you have other questions regarding the decoration of your property, or other rental property related questions? If so, please don’t hesitate to contact Deborah or John at CAM Lettings: info@camlettings.co.uk – we’d be happy to help. Or feel free to leave your comments below.

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