ARTICLE Clare Chapman  

If you’re dying to renovate or make some handy additions to your home but you’re renting it, for the most part, you’re out of luck.

With a high proportion of people renting dwellings – according to the 2013 Census, nearly half a million New Zealand households rented their home – a lot of the population can’t renovate. However, with consent from the landlord, there are some options available to renters.

As a general rule though, without the landlord’s consent, the law states that a person renting a property cannot undertake any renovation. “The general position regarding any type of renovations is that a tenant cannot make them, unless such renovations are made with the prior written consent of the landlord or in accordance with the tenancy agreement. A landlord cannot withhold that consent unreasonably. What is reasonable will depend on the circumstances of each situation,” Real Estate Institute of New Zealand chief executive Bindi Norwell says. 

This bedroom has new light fittings and removable, stylish decorative objects

It’s important that these sorts of agreements or discussions are recorded in writing, no matter the duration of the tenancy or level of goodwill between parties, simply to ensure that the boundaries of any agreements are clear and that there are no misunderstandings or disputes at a later date.

So, while the interior of a rented property is mostly out of bounds for renters, the garden and landscaping can be a different story. With respect to gardens and their maintenance, the tenant is generally responsible for keeping the property clean and tidy, which will include mowing the lawns and weeding the garden.

“If a tenant wants to make any changes to the garden, it is in their interest to discuss this with the landlord beforehand to prevent any disputes arising in the future. Another reason for consulting with the landlord beforehand is because a garden may have some plants that require special attention, or are protected under the law so they cannot be removed,” Norwell says. 

A modern lamp and a floral arrangement are good additions

If a tenant wants to spruce up the outside area, there are options available, and these are really only limited by a person’s imagination. Many landscapes have temporary or removable elements, for example a pizza oven or a temporary patio. Designing and building your own furniture to fit the space is another option. These options can help a tenant to personalise a space without changing the property and can simply be taken away at the end of the tenancy and repurposed at a different property. 

So, while it’s not possible in most cases for renters to renovate a property, the possibilities are endless for temporary, non-structural alternatives. These could be building a temporary structure to house decorative objects, building furniture to fit certain spaces, or injecting personality into rooms by way of adding beautiful furniture, removable wall decals, or changing light fittings if the originals are kept and refitted at the end of the tenancy. 

And outside, well, it’s worth checking the terms of your tenancy agreement and confirming what the landlord will allow in regards to landscaping and gardening, but if you’re chomping at the bit to get stuck into a bit of DIY, it’s probably best to start outside.

‘The comments made by the Real Estate Institute are for general informational purposes only and should not be relied on for legal advice. Readers should seek their own legal advice that is tailored to their situation.’ 

You might also be interested in reading about How to renovate a rental bathroom.  

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*All information is believed to be true at time of publishing and is subject to change.

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