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10 Renter-Friendly Home Improvement Ideas That Won’t Void Your Lease 

You’ve found your new apartment. The rent and location are excellent but not the decor or aesthetics. 

What can you do about it? You ask yourself, “Will my DIY work void my renters insurance? Will any alterations I make void my lease?” 

The term “unauthorized alterations” can be as scary as it sounds. It can mean losing your security deposit. You might even get billed for the work management has to do to restore the property to its former state. 

Here are renter-friendly home improvement ideas that will keep you out of trouble with management and make your rented spaces your own. But first, a few words about the contracts that affect life in your rented spaces. 

Understanding Your Lease and Renters Insurance Basics 

Your lease spells out the terms of what you can and can’t and must do to live in your new spaces. The terms that probably concern you the most are those regarding when you must pay the rent and how much is due. But there’s more to it. For instance, your lease might spell out your rights when it comes to decorating your place and warn against making those previously mentioned unauthorized alterations. 

Basically, that means you can’t do anything, such as painting or wallpapering your premises, installing kitchen cabinetry, rewiring, or making other changes that will outlast your residency. If you do, the property owners might redo the apartment to its previous condition —such as painting it the original color — and charge you for the material and labor costs. It can get pretty expensive! 

Read your lease to see your rights. If in doubt about any home improvement plans, ask first. And get all approvals in writing. That can be as simple as an exchange of emails or text messages. 

Your renters insurance protects your finances, up to your coverage limits, if your belongings are lost or damaged due to fire, theft, vandalism, a burst water pipe, or any other event that can cost you your personal items. 

Your renters insurance will also pay for medical costs if someone is injured while visiting on your property or you’re held legally liable for the accident. 

Your coverage might also settle for the loss or damage of your personal property stored off-site, even in the trunk of your car. And if a fire or destructive weather event leaves you without a home while repairs are underway, your coverage might pay for temporary housing for weeks or longer. 

Your policy isn’t likely to be voided unless you add rooms or otherwise make such extensive alterations that your rented residence no longer reflects what your policy covers. That’s pretty unlikely. Just remember to add renters insurance to your checklist of things to consider when apartment hunting

Here are the ten renter-friendly DIY projects you can easily and inexpensively undertake. 

1. The Magic of Removable Wallpaper and Decals 

Welcome to your neutral shade of white apartment. Landlords tend to paint rented spaces white because the color goes with everything, but it may not be your preferred shade. However, your property manager won’t let you choose another coat of paint. 

The answer might be renter-friendly wallpaper. Peel and stick wallpaper, in theory, goes up and comes down easily and leaves no permanent evidence of its use. Paper and wall and floor decals of this nature will definitely personalize your spaces. Then, just peel them off before you move out. 

Measure the space carefully before applying the paper so it won’t be crooked. Unsightly bubbles can occur if you don’t smooth out your work on the wall surface. 

As you make plans to move out, reserve several hours to painstakingly remove your temporary wallpaper or decals. Some experts suggest using a hairdryer or other heat source to loosen the adhesive. 

2. Updating Lighting Fixtures Without Rewiring 

Anytime you start messing around with electricity, you’re probably in trouble with your apartment lease. Your lighting might be scant, weak, or dull, but rewiring new lighting fixtures would almost certainly be a pricey, unauthorized alteration unless you got permission — in writing — before calling an electrician. 

But how else are you to install wall sconces in that shadowy hallway or under-cabinet kitchen lighting if your place isn’t wired for the practical or ambient lighting you need? 

Fortunately, you don’t have to take on the cost of rewiring or the hassle of getting permission to make major upgrades. There are all sorts of battery-powered lighting options. Say your spaces already have mounted fixtures, but the wiring doesn’t work. One solution is puck lighting. You can use these bulbs in lamps that no longer work or wired units with wiring on the fritz. Just glue the puck lights in place and run the lighting on batteries. 

Motion-sensor rechargeable strip bar lighting can easily fit under kitchen cabinets, in closets, or in bathrooms. 

What if your sofa and lamp table are positioned so far from the wall that you don’t want to run a cord and cause someone to trip? While your renter’s insurance will protect your finances if a guest is hurt in such an accident, it’s still an ugly sight. It’s also a great excuse for a battery-powered lamp. No straggly cords, no injury waiting to happen. 

With a screwdriver and a drill, you can mount battery-powered sconces on the walls, leaving behind only a couple of tiny holes that you can easily patch. 

Want a great no-effort DIY home improvement idea for your rented house? How about solar-powered outdoor lighting for the patio, flower beds, or walkways? Just stick the lighting units in the ground and let natural sunlight power them. 

The point is, there’s a lot you can do in terms of lighting to give your space a warmer look or greater functionality without even considering the wiring. If you plan on having friends over often, lighting is a key factor in any renters guide to hosting a big game party

3. Maximizing Space With Creative Storage Solutions 

Rarely (if ever) is your major concern about moving into your new apartment going to be that you have too much space for your furniture, and you feel like you’re rattling around in a warehouse. It’s usually the opposite problem of too little space for too much stuff. If you’re moving in together, you need to know your partner’s preferences when it comes to space and storage, too. 

Again, there are renter-friendly home improvement ideas to the rescue. 

One common complaint, especially if you have an older apartment or rented house, is the cramped closet space. Inexpensive items, including trays, boxes, hanging bars, and other storage units, fit easily into the space you have. 

You can also buy standalone bookshelves for items you’d like to display. Or mount shelves installed with screws and brackets, once again leaving only minimal screw holes, which you can patch up before you leave. 

If you wish to spend a bit more money, you can hire human organizers — individuals more gifted than you in the art of using every square inch of available space. 

There’s an upside to cramped living quarters: it might keep you from hoarding items you don’t need. That will make your next move much easier and less costly. 

4. Incorporating Greenery for a Breath of Fresh Air 

That “breath of fresh air” comment isn’t just an expression, as you probably learned in junior high how plants consume carbon dioxide and release oxygen. Vegetation can also add visual appeal to your space. 

Best of all, plants are cheap for what could be years and years of utility.

Young couple decorating their rented home with plants

Just remember, each species has different needs. Simply deciding to water all your plants on Tuesdays and Saturdays might be too much hydration for some plants and not nearly enough for others. Go online and read about the species you’re considering. 

Some of the hardiest home foliage include monstera, snake plant, spider plant, peace lily, and cacti. 

5. The Power of Contact Paper 

Like peel-and-stick wallpaper and decals, contact paper goes down and comes back up relatively easily. 

It’s common to think of contact paper as being what you put down on kitchen cabinet shelves, and that’s certainly one use. But you can also use decorative paper with the look of granite, marble, decorative concrete, or other textures for countertops and around kitchen sinks. 

You can’t hire a contractor to upgrade your rental kitchen, but you can buy a few dollars worth of contact paper to “install” granite countertops and give your space an entirely new look. 

6. Refreshing Your Kitchen With Cabinet Hardware 

Property managers save money every way they can. One easy way is through cheap kitchen cabinetry. There’s not much you can do about that, but you can upgrade the handles to go on those cheap cabinets. You’d be surprised what a difference such a seemingly minor change can make. 

For this, all you need is a trip to the nearby hardware store and a screwdriver. You might end up spending more on hardware than the cabinets are worth, but you can fool the eye. Your living spaces will look far more high-end with such an easy, rental-friendly DIY home improvement. 

Keep the old hardware so you can reinstall it. Or, worst case, leave it behind. Few landlords will complain about the upgrade. 

7. Flair For Floors Without the Fuss 

Bare floors that are scarred, scratched, and battered-looking aren’t too appealing. They might also contain urine stains and other damage you don’t want to consider from previous tenants and their kids and pets. 

A rug can do wonders to at least cover some of the mess. It can be a relatively cheap touch that makes a stylish statement and goes with you when you leave. 

Or change the flooring altogether. Flair Floors is one of many examples of peel-and-stick flooring that can hide flaws in the original flooring and enhance your living space in a big way. Choose from hundreds, if not thousands, of color and texture options to beautify the ground beneath your feet. This solution typically lasts at least five years. 

If you want to present a clean apartment to your property manager, you’ll want to take extra care in removing your peel-and-stick flooring. After peeling every tile, apply adhesive remover to remove the gunk. You can also use baking soda to loosen and dry up the remaining adhesive so you can vacuum or sweep it away. 

8. Dress Up Your Windows 

If you live in a city, you probably have lots of neighbors. Window treatments serve the very practical purpose of letting you live in a home, not a fishbowl. Those window treatment options also help cool your place in the summer by keeping out radiant sunlight and warmer in the winter by blocking drafts. 

Most pleasing of all, your curtains, drapes, blinds, or other window treatments can serve as dramatic focal points of visual design. 

If your apartment or rented house already comes with drapery that you hate, take it down carefully, store it away, and put it back up before you move out. Now, you have window coverings that will be an aesthetically pleasing addition to your next home. 

9. Bathroom Boosts for Your Bliss 

If apartment dwellers hate the tiny closets, the bathrooms are probably next in line for criticism. Rental bathrooms tend to be small, squalid, and boring. 

You won’t change the size of your bathroom, but you can make it seem larger. Install mirrors if what you have is inadequate, and keep the clutter level down to maximize the appearance of spaciousness. Lighter colors, such as white, cream, sky blue, and yellow, also make a space seem larger than if the coloration is much darker. If you don’t get permission to paint your walls a lighter shade, pick up the color palette of your towels, rug, shower curtain, and other “take with you” decorative elements. 

The bathroom is another space where you might consider peel-and-stick flooring and wallpaper. Finally, the same decorative cabinet hardware trick you used in the kitchen could also work wonders here as an inexpensive appearance and quality upgrade. 

10. Hanging Art Without Leaving a Mark 

You may have learned how to patch nail holes in walls before leaving your rented spaces, but you’ll have nothing to patch if you leave no holes. That’s the thinking behind using adhesive strips, suction cups, and hooks to hang art and anything else you’d like to display on your walls. 

The advantage is you can take the hangers down as you move out, leaving the walls unmarred. 

If you can weigh your art before hitting the hardware store, you’ll have a better idea of the strength needed for your hanger. If in doubt, go with the strongest you can find. If you have a lot of artwork, you should also consider that when determining how much renters coverage you need

Navigating Landlord Approval and DIY Limits 

One reason many people eventually end up buying their own home is they can do with it what they want — which is another way of saying you might save your most impactful home improvement DIY ideas for that eventuality. 

In the meantime, consider these renter-friendly DIY tips. Before taking on larger projects, it will be easier to get permission if you’ve established a personal connection with the property owners. For example, your landlord might refuse your request if you’re dealing with a faceless corporation but approve it if you live in a duplex and the homeowners live in the next unit. 

Don’t get frustrated with rejection. Rejoice in the various renter-friendly improvements you can make to your rented house or apartment. 

Protect Your Improvements and Belongings With Renters Insurance 

Now that you’ve made your rented space a real home with these renter-friendly home improvement ideas, you’ll want to protect what you have financially. If something does happen to your home — anything from burglary or fire to natural disaster — you’ll want to get a settlement as soon as possible. 

That’s why you need renters insurance. In fact, many property owners won’t let you sign a lease without proof of such coverage. 

Reach out to a knowledgeable and helpful renters insurance agent at Acceptant Insurance. Call us at (877) 405-7102 or get a quick online quote. You can also find an office near you and meet with us in person. 

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