April 16

Should buy-to-let landlords allow their tenants to decorate?

Ground rules to avoid disputes and encourage tenants to stay longer

A survey conducted last year found that nearly half of all tenants surveyed would pay more in rent were they to be allowed to redecorate. In fact, the survey found that the typical tenant would be willing to pay an extra £150 for the privilege. That extra revenue is quite a carrot for landlords, but should you let your tenants redecorate?
Here are the pros and cons, and a few ground rules to set if you are considering allowing your tenant to decorate their home (your investment property).

Great news – your tenant wants to decorate!

On the face of it, letting your tenants redecorate is a great decision. You won’t have to hire decorators to do the job for you, and the cost savings can work out to be several hundred pounds.
In addition, when a tenant puts their own mark on a property, they tend to stay longer. This means fewer void periods and lower costs for you. You won’t have the aggro of finding and vetting new tenants, writing new tenancy agreements, and conducting viewings.

Oops! Why did you allow the tenant to redecorate?

On the other hand, a tenant’s favourite colour scheme might be your idea of death warmed up. A friend of mine once let his kid choose the colour for his bedroom walls and woodwork. He chose Manchester United colours: red walls, black skirting board and door frames, and white doors and window sills. When it was complete (together with a green carpet as the pitch) it looked pretty good, even if it was a little garish. My friend’s son then moved back into his bedroom and covered almost every inch of wall with posters of his favourite players.
This wasn’t the end of my friend’s issues with the room. When it came to redecorating in neutral colours, it took four coats of paint to cover up the silk red walls! Imagine having a similar problem when your tenants move.
Another problem you may find if you allow your tenants to redecorate is the quality of the finish. Unless your tenant is a professional decorator, you’re likely to experience a result that is not completely satisfactory.

You have choices when a tenant asks to redecorate

If your tenant asks to redecorate, or a prospective tenant asks if they can redecorate, you have three options:

1.    Refuse the right to decorate

Just say no. Make it plain that you don’t allow decoration by the tenant. You probably won’t win any prizes, and possibly miss out on some great tenants. But there are always other tenants, and you’ll keep the integrity of your buy-to-let property.

2.    Give them carte blanche to decorate as they wish

Just say yes. Let them have the run of your property, and leave the colour choice to them. If they want to put up wallpaper, let them. Just don’t let the shock show on your face when you inspect their handy work and colour choices.

3.    Let your tenant decorate, but give them rules

Let your tenants know that you also consider this property to be their home. Sure, they can decorate, but…

Set ground rules for tenants who decorate

There are several rules that you should put in place to control decoration by tenants. It’s best to include these in the tenancy agreement. For example:

·      Tenants must always check before decorating:

Make sure that your tenant checks with you before decorating. They should discuss colour schemes, and you should stop them from painting bare woodwork (it’s a nightmare to return to its original wood).
Also, you’ll want to check that the tenant doesn’t plan to cover any walls with wallpaper.

·      Have an acceptable colour list

It pays to stipulate what colours can and can’t be used by the tenant in your property. In this, you’ll need to be specific. Get a colour chart from a leading paint manufacturer, and mark the colours that ARE acceptable to you.

·      Decoration must be done by a professional

You may wish to stipulate that decoration must be undertaken by a professional decorator. This will avoid poor paint jobs and deposit disputes.

·      Always inspect before and after decoration

You should inspect the property before any decoration begins. This will give you the opportunity to ensure that any maintenance issues are dealt with effectively, and not covered up by new decoration or fixed poorly.
Inspecting after decoration has been completed allows you to ensure that it has been done satisfactorily. If it hasn’t, it will need to be redone, or you should put in place conditions that link directly to the tenancy deposit.

·      Be clear about the tenancy deposit

Make sure that your tenancy agreement includes clauses about how decorating without permission or poor decorating will affect the tenancy deposit. Ensure that you draw their attention to this clause when discussing the tenant decorating the property themselves.

Who should pay?

You should also discuss who should pay for decorating. If you stipulate that decoration must be undertaken by a professional decorator, you may have to do a little give and take. For example, you pay for the decorator, while the tenant pays for the materials.
Whatever you decide with regard to a tenant decorating your property and really making it their home, the final rule that you must observe is to PUT IT IN WRITING. This will ensure that there are no disputes about colour schemes, quality of finish, and who is going to pay.

In summary

Allowing your tenant to decorate offers many benefits. A tenant who truly feels at home is likely to stay longer and be prepared to pay more for the privilege of doing so. But there are also pitfalls which must be avoided.
How do you feel about letting your tenant redecorate? We’d love to hear. Contact the Ezytrac team today on  +44  01522  503  717 They could help other buy-to-let landlords maximise their profits.
Live with passion,
Brett Alegre-Wood


Should tenants be allowed to decorate

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