Can I make renovations to my landlord's property?

Published 13 Dec 2017

As a tenant in NSW, you may consider the property you are living in to be your home. Even if you are renting, you want to feel like the house has everything you need.

Sometimes this means doing some renovations or adding fixtures to the property. This is an area of property law that can become quite complex if you don't maintain clear communication about what you intend to do. Even then, it is better to put your intentions in writing and ask your landlord to agree to them on paper. This may require professional legal help - so here is a quick guide on what tenants can and can't do with a landlord's property.

What is the law?

The Residential Tenancies Act 2010 covers the ability for tenants to complete renovations, alterations or additions to a residential property they are renting. However, two provisions within the legislation affect tenants' ability to make alterations as they wish:

  • The landlord's consent must be given before any changes are made.
  • Tenants may have to remove any fixtures or additions, at their own cost, when vacating the premises at the end of their lease.

So what renovations can I make?

The Act defines the differences between the kinds of alterations you may want to make. Each requires different levels of legal consent:

  • A fixture is a good the tenant adds to the premises that is attached in some way. Examples include carpets, built-in air conditioners or gas stoves. Tenants require the express consent of the landlord before any work can be undertaken. Generally these items become part of the property after the end of your lease - but that is an agreement to be made at time of installation.
  • Fittings are portable goods brought onto the premises that can later be removed. Examples include blinds, free-standing sheds and portable heat pumps. Because these items are not fitted, the tenant does not need the landlord's consent. The removal of these items at the end of your tenancy is at the discretion of yourself and your landlord.
  • Any major renovations, like adding partitions or installing extra closet space, requires the written consent of your landlord before you can begin any work.

What do I need to consider before I begin?

Tenants should carefully consider whether or not the alterations will add long-term value to the property. If they don't and your landlord takes legal action, you will not be able to claim a reimbursement for improvements off the NSW Tribunal. Also, any fixture or alteration is to be made at the tenants' time and cost, unless otherwise agreed with the landlord. Finally, the landlord cannot refuse any reasonable request for a minor alteration. However, they can reject applications for major alterations that involve structural changes, runs counter to the 'nature' of the house or violates any local laws.

For legal advice on any alterations you may want to make to your NSW rented property, contact the specialist team at Malouf Solicitors today.

Please call us on 02 8833 2000 to speak with a lawyer

I remain extremely grateful for Maloufs legal representation related to my financial management of the estate of my brother and for your continuing help and advice in this matter. As an aside, I always recommend Maloufs to my friends and family members who are seeking the best legal representation - only last week, I strongly advised a close family friend that their best interests would be served by arranging an appointment at your Parramatta offices.
John of Parramatta NSW

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