Renting Guide Part 4: What You Can And Can't Change in a Rental Property

(Credits to Daniel Butkovich Domain Advice Editor)


As a general rule, tenants should leave a rental property as they found it, except for general wear and tear.

Tenants, therefore, must get permission from their landlord or real estate agent before making any changes to a rental property, even if they think they would add value to the home.

This includes updates such as painting surfaces, installing cable television connections, installing airconditioning and fixing hooks to the walls.

Any agreed-upon changes are generally made at the expense of the tenant unless the landlord offers to pay. For example, a landlord may offer to cover the cost of some materials or reduce the rent if they deem the update will add value to the home.

The only exception to this rule is part of the recently passed reforms that will come into effect in Victoria in July 2020. These new laws will allow renters to make certain modifications without first obtaining the residential rental provider’s consent, such as installing picture hooks and furniture anchors. Renters, however, will still be responsible for restoring any changes made upon a lease ending, and the law doesn’t allow them to permanently damage or change the structure of the property, its fixtures or its surfaces.


How to decorate a rental property

There are numerous ways to decorate a rental property that don’t require a landlord’s permission. They include styling with indoor plants, lamps, rugs, bedding, soft furnishings, storage baskets, photographs, artwork, ceramics, books and candles.

Vintage bazaars, online furniture marketplaces, op-shops, eBay and Gumtree, are all great places to find quality secondhand furniture pieces at affordable prices.



Can you hang pictures on the wall in a rental property?

Renters must get permission from their landlord or real estate agent before installing any hooks to hang pictures. Most landlords will consider picture hooks a “minor alteration” and permission is usually granted.

Many tenancy agreements state that tenants are not able to hang pictures via alternative methods such as Blu Tack, washi tape and adhesive hooks. However, it is unlikely action will be taken against a renter who has hung hooks in a rental property without permission if no damage has been made to the property as a result and the renter returns the property to its original state upon moving out.

Recently passed reforms in Victoria will allow renters to make certain modifications without first obtaining the residential rental provider’s consent, including installing picture hooks.


How to have a garden in a rental property

If a rental property has a garden when the tenants move in, they are generally responsible for ensuring it is maintained to the same standard. This usually includes tasks such as mowing and edging lawns, weeding and pruning.

If a tenant wishes to start a garden from scratch, they must first get permission from their landlord or real estate agent. This certainly applies to renters looking to install garden beds or landscaping materials that will permanently alter a lawn or outdoor area.

If a landlord refuses a tenant’s request to start a garden, growing produce or plants in pots or planter boxes are viable alternatives. Tenants also have the benefit of being able to take these with them at the conclusion of the lease.

Even if a garden planted by a tenant is considered to add value to a home, landlords are within their rights to ask the garden be returned to its original state when a lease ends.


Can you have pets in a rental property?

Whether or not a renter can have a pet is at the discretion of the landlord, and whether their tenancy agreement allows it. Some rental properties will be explicitly advertised as pet-friendly or vice versa.

If a rental property is governed by an owner’s corporation, such as an apartment in an apartment building, tenants may also be subject to strata bylaws. These may sometimes include blanket “no pets” rules for the entire building, however, the rule is not enforceable as these clauses have been declared invalid by tribunals in Victoria, Queensland and NSW.

In Victoria, it will soon become harder for landlords to refuse tenants with pets. Under recently passed laws, landlords will be able to say no to pets only by order of the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT). The tribunal may consider the type of pet the renter has, the nature of the rented premises, and other prescribed matters, such as whether the landlord has allergies.