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10 Rental Updates Your Landlord Doesn’t Need to Know About

by on Jun 15, 2022

Source: Skonahem

This is not a post about deceiving your landlord. This post is about updates you can make to your rental that more than likely don’t need your landlord’s permission. My husband and I are landlords. Rentals are a part of our full-time job; so here are some things WE wouldn’t mind you doing if you lived in our rentals … and I bet your landlord might feel the same way. If you’re sick of ugly apartment cabinets and want to cover them, or just can’t stand the light fixtures in your space, here are some simple ideas for you.

bathroom vanity with updated hardware

Change up the kitchen cabinet or bathroom vanity hardware

New knobs can change a bathroom or kitchen, and they are really easy to change. I would buy some fun ones that you might use again … maybe in your new home or on a piece of furniture. Make sure you store all the old knobs with all the screws so you can easily put them back on when you leave.

Don’t do: Don’t drill new holes. You do need to ask permission to drill any new holes. Don’t switch the hardware out with something you would need to drill a second hole or a hole in a different place. If your cabinet does not have hardware then you need to ask to drill holes.

Rental Updates without asking your Landlord's Permission

Create your own walls with pieces of furniture

Need more rooms or spaces? Create them with furniture.

open kitchen cabinets

Remove your kitchen cabinet doors

If your rental has ugly doors and you happen to have some awesome kitchenware that needs to be displayed, then go ahead and remove them. Make sure you store your kitchen cabinet doors in a place where they will not be damaged. Make sure you are extra careful if they are painted just to be thoughtful. Don’t want to remove the doors? You can make temporary cabinet covers by concealing ugly doors with removable adhesive paper (contact paper).

Don’t do: Don’t lose all the hinge hardware or putty fill the door holes. Remember, kitchen cabinets are a very expensive fix so store them well. Not storing them well will probably cause you to have to pay a hefty price.

A woman is painting the walls of a room purple.

Do use temporary wallpaper

If you have a landlord with a “no paint policy” check out the paint-able and totally removable wallpaper from Tempaper. There are many brands of temporary wallpaper and as long as it is installed and removed well it will more than likely be okay with your landlord.

Lights hanging overhead in different rooms.

Install plug-in pendants

If you are allowed to drill into the wall then there should be no problem with installing a hook into the ceiling. This is an easy way to make your rental look custom and then take that custom look with you when it’s time to go.

Don’t Do: Use the wrong hook or hardware to install into the ceiling. Doing this will make the hole bigger than it needs to be and a not so easy fix for your landlord. 

Source: [left] Vintage Revivals; [top right] Etsy; [bottom right] Huffington Post

The shade of a light fixture covers the bulb on the ceiling.

Do switch up the shades or bulbs of your light fixture.

There are so many ideas out there to spruce up existing fixtures. Make sure your store the original shade or bulb so you can return it when you leave.

Don’t Do: I think changing the light fixture without permission is a bad idea. It never hurts to ask but don’t be mad when your landlord says no. My husband is a general contractor and even he won’t install a new light fixture in one of his rentals. Why? If the licensed and insured electrical company installs your fixtures, then if something goes wrong, only they are liable. How do I, as your landlord, know you know electrical work? If something happens then I am liable. If you are that passionate about it, tell your landlord you will pay for his electrician to come install it and then re-install the original one when you leave. Safe people are happy people, right?

Source: The Heathered Nest

closet door with curtains

Do take the closet doors off

Again, as long as you store them well and put them back on when you leave then your landlord should have no problems with this removal.

Pictures decorating the wall of a room with a light colored rug on the floor.

Do use rugs to cover ugly floors

Whether it is gross carpet or really ugly vinyl … a rug can right some wrongs. If you have ugly kitchen vinyl, buy a vinyl sheet remnant and cut it as large as you need it to be. Turn it over to the white side and paint it. Use rug tape and you have a water friendly and mop-able way to cover some serious ugly.

Inspiration: Apartment Therapy

roman shade covering old blinds

Do install outside mount roman shades to hide ugly or broken blinds

Outside mounted roman shades are the perfect way to hide your ugly, broken, or outdated rental blinds. They’re easy to install and very affordable.

On the left a cupboard filled with dishes has a colorful orange and green abstract background and on the right a dining room with black polkadots on the wallpaper.

Do use contact paper

You can contact paper on walls, your kitchen cabinets, your fridge, your door and so many other places. You can even use frosted glass contact paper on a window to give you privacy.

Source: [left] Blogher; [right] Ruffles and Stuff

A woman painting the wall of a room pink.


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Your rental can feel like your home with these simple updates. On another note, while I would be fine with all of these updates, if you are not sure…go ahead and ask your landlord anyway. A trusting landlord will let you do more but you do have to gain the trust at first. Love this post and want more? You’re in luck, because we’ve got lots of great posts planned specifically for all you renters so stay tuned. 

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  1. Contact paper on cabinets? Inside on shelf, sure, but on doors or frames? Not a great idea, especially if painted. Peeling off paint or gumming up finishes is likely to cause even the nicest of landlords to get upset. And with the quality of adhesives that vary widely, what seems to come off easily today may become a nightmare to remove later when the chemicals bond over time.

  2. @laura H. You do make a great point. For some landlords it might be good to ask. I would definitely not want someone to put contact paper on painted kitchen cabinets or brand new cabinets for sure. I do think most people only have the patience to place contact paper on the inside of the cabinets and usually it is an easy fix to clean. Thanks for your insight and thanks for reading.

    1. Yeah, my complex even has it in the lease that you’re not allowed to use adhesives on the wall (even command strips). The paint they use is the cheapest of latex and layered.
      I always fill my holes before leaving, fix or replace moldings that’ve been damaged on an oopsie, touch up glue on linoleum, easy/cheap things like that.

  3. I’ve swapped out light switches for funky ones. Also always change the shower head to one you like.

  4. I was recently thinking of applying contact paper over our rentals cabinets. However, I’m second guessing after reading that it’s not the smartest thing to do. What would you recommend instead? I’m looking for a way to brighten up my small kitchen, and the cabinets are counteracting with my idea..

    1. I bought poster board and put that on the cabinets with a small piece of tape on sides and top and bottom. Then I covered the cabinets with contact paper. It looks wonderful and I can take it off anytime I want

      1. That’s such a great idea! I’ve been wanting to cover up the ugly cabinets in my rental, but have been afraid of using contact paper lest it not come off well and turn into a nightmare when we decide to move . Moving is challenging enough! What kind of poster board did you use?

  5. Just saw this older thread.
    I m a landlord and I have 14 units. I ve been doing it for 26 years. I replace the kitchen cabinets every 5 years in the apartments because of abuse. Counters every 2 years. You wouldn’t believe how many people don’t know not to cut on formica.

    The biggest advise I would give to tenants — declutter ! They all seem to have enough stuff to fill a house instead of a 2 bedroom apartment.

    Then I would say clean. Most are not clean. I clean my own house continuously. You need to keep an apartment clean also.

    Last just try to coordinate your furnishings. Most of the above wouldn’t work ( contact paper NO, temp wallpaper No)

  6. I recently moved into a rental house and I built my cat a small outdoor enclosure that backs up to a window so she can go in and out of the open window with no damage to the rental. The only problem is, I live in an extreme weather kind of city. I don’t know if it’s safe just to lean the entire enclosure on the side of the house without anything holding it to the house, but I also can’t drill into the side of the house to secure the enclosure. Do you have any rental friendly tips on how to safely secure the enclosure? I’m almost ready to give up on the idea, but my cat loves the outdoors, I just can’t let her roam because we move so much, and she’d get lost! I really want to try and make this work for her.

  7. @Hannah Rose Love the creative idea for your sweet cat. I think the first thing I would do is maybe ask the landlord. It will probably be a “no” to drilling into the exterior but is there a window close to a fence where you could secure it from the other side? That would still need an okay from the Landlord too. I don’t know your landlord I know some can be tough but you never know.

  8. @Kim, Actually, I’m a property manager and contact paper is absolutely fine to put on cabinets or any flat surface. Just be sure the brand you’re using has the right adhesive that’s gentle on any material. We use it to update some of our properties and I’ve had absolutely no problem with it. As a matter of fact, it actually protects the original surface so when they leave just peel it off and you’ve got and unscratched surface! I think it’s imperative that renters feel like the property they are paying for every month feels like their home and should be free to decorate in order to achieve that.

  9. My apartment manager will not allow me to secure my Ikea tall cabinet to the wall. It is a safety issue as when I open the doors of this cabinet it falls forward. Is there any other way I can secure this cabinet so that it will not topple over without securing it to a stud in a wall?
    thank you very much.