Make your mark, with permission

Retaining your own personal style when renting can be achieved, reports Kim Dungey.

Injecting their own personality into a rental property while not upsetting the landlord can be a balancing act for tenants.

Not owning property means not having to worry about maintenance and not having to pay rates or insurance, but it can be difficult for tenants to make a space their own without making structural changes or losing their bond when they leave.

Ali and Gavin Alderson moved into their Waldronville rental three years ago.

In that time they have transformed the flower and vegetable gardens, put up a fence and replaced blinds and curtains, reasoning that doing a certain amount of work to a house that is not their own is worthwhile if it makes it feel like home.

While others wait until they have bought a house before investing in good quality furniture, Mrs Alderson says she has bought and sold furniture several times to suit different rentals because going in with ''old couches and things'' would drive her ''mad''.

Setting a rental property up the way they want it and keeping it tidy makes them ''feel good'' and the curtains can be taken with them when they leave.

''We did it off our own bat, because we wanted to do it and we wanted it to look good for us.''

''But as far as painting the house [goes], we're not going to do that ... That would be just putting value on for the landlord and our rent could go up even higher [as a result].''

In general, leaseholders should seek permission in writing before making major changes and pack away any original fixtures that they are replacing so they can be reinstated when the tenants leave.

Property Management Works owner Denise Robinson says a few owners insist on tenants running all changes by them first, while others share common concerns such as occupants using nails, thumbtacks or Blu-Tack on walls.

The changes tenants request permission for most often are to put in a vegetable garden, paint a room and put up their own curtains.

One owner she knew was not happy when tenants put a dartboard in their lounge and left small holes from wayward darts all over the wall, but another tenant who recently asked if she could repaint a dark blue ceiling would probably be allowed to, provided she used a neutral colour and did a good job.

Property Scouts owner Milton Weir says some tenants use adhesive strips to hang pictures, thinking they will be easily removed without causing damage but after a year or so, they will almost always take paint off: ''We come in to do the exit inspection and there's a whole lot of little round marks all over the walls. That can be disappointing, especially if the paintwork's relatively new.''

''The other thing that can be disappointing is that, especially in student rentals, they'll pin photographs on walls. It might be fine having 20 photographs pinned to the wall above the bed but at the end of the tenancy, that's 20 or 30 little pinholes all over the wall that really stick out.''

At the start of tenancies, he tells tenants to use only the picture hooks that are already up and to leave them in place for the next occupants coming in.

''The Residential Tenancies Act says that at the end of the tenancy, they're responsible for any damage that isn't normal wear and tear and really, if it's a year-long tenancy in a standard rental property, you shouldn't be able to tell at the end of the year that the tenants have been there.''


Tips for tenants

• If you know you will be in a house long term, ask the landlord if you can paint the walls. You could make a case that you are improving the property and its value, particularly if you are covering over a dated colour. If this sounds like too much work, ask if you can paint a feature wall.

• If you can't paint the walls, painting your furniture will brighten up the space. Use one colour to tie together mismatched secondhand pieces or a neutral such as white or grey to ensure your furniture will work in whatever house you move to.

• Like furniture, curtains and lightshades can shift when you do. Replace old curtains with simple pre-made styles in affordable fabrics, such as calico, and swap tired, boring light fixtures for more interesting ones (checking with an electrician first if there are safety concerns).

• Customise drawers and cupboards with pretty glass or ceramic knobs. If the cupboards are ugly, ask if you can remove the doors to create open shelving.

• Personalise your space by hanging favourite pictures on a small clothesline or pinning them to a bulletin board that you have covered with fabric.

• Attach foam pads to the backs of big artworks and lean them against the wall. You can also rest an oversized mirror against a wall to reflect light and make a room appear larger.

• Ask if you can use removable wall decals (but don't apply them to freshly painted surfaces and always test in an inconspicuous area first).

• Use a large rug to add colour and hide unattractive flooring. It will also protect carpets from damage.

• If you would like an upholstered bedhead but are not allowed to make holes in the walls, make a tall one that rests on the floor. In New Vintage (published by New Holland), no headTahn Scoon suggests attaching foam to MDF board with double-sided tape, then wrapping wadding firmly around the board and stapling it to the back with a staple gun. Repeat the process with a lightweight upholstery fabric such as linen.

• Get creative with storage. Think industrial lockers, old ladders, and ottomans with hidden compartments. no headModular storage fits any size or shape of room and is easy to take with you when you leave.

• In a small house, stick to a monochromatic colour scheme so the eye can move easily around the room without distraction, and choose furniture with legs that sit higher off the floor, allowing you to see under them and adding to the sense of space.


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