How To Keep Your Security Deposit As A Renter

How To Keep Your Security Deposit As A Renter

Photo by Eliza Kern

Photo by Eliza Kern

In cities like San Francisco with strict rent control,  people to stay in their apartments a long time. IMO life is too short to look at gross rental walls, but several people asked me how I installed these shelves as a renter. So here is my philosophy on making changes as a renter (and a lot of changes I'd make if I weren't.)

1. Know thy landlord

This probably goes without saying, but the most important qualifier for making changes is gauging your landlord. If you move into a brand new condo that has been meticulously renovated and painted before you got there, and your landlord says "absolutely no nail holes," you should probably buy some Command Strips and re-think your gallery wall dreams (or alternatively, how much you care about your security deposit).

Gallery wall photo via Tumblr

Gallery wall photo via Tumblr

But for most people, and especially if you're a renting from someone other than a property management company, there's grey area. When I moved into my current apartment and asked my landlord if I could paint some rooms, his exact words were: "I am willing to trust your artistic talents." This is a dangerous thing for anyone to tell me, but I took him at his word.

2. Don't do anything irreversible

Even thought I have a Super Chill Landlord™, there are still changes I won't make. Namely, anything that would be difficult or expensive to un-do. I try to put myself in my landlord's shoes and be respectful of the space, since he was trusting enough to let me paint, etc.

For example, I would LOVE to paint a room black or charcoal, like Jenna Lyons' bedroom from Domino or the black bedrooms it has inspired:

Photo by Domino

Photo by Domino

Photo by Oh Happy Day

Photo by Oh Happy Day

But I shudder to think how many coats of primer it would take to cover black paint for the next tenants, and I get that not everyone would think it's as cool as I do.

Similarly, if it weren't pretty permanent, I would love to wallpaper my front hallway. Wallpaper done well can look so amazing and not-granny:

Photo via Cup of Jo

Photo via Cup of Jo

Photo by We And The Color
Photo by Hygge & West

Photo by Hygge & West

But now matter how much I would love a floral hallway, it's not something I want to pay to have removed when I move out, nor is it something everyone would enjoy.

In the meantime, I'll keep looking at these Hygge & West removable wallpaper options, which are expensive but very renter-friendly.

3. Try to be objectively tasteful

While I have restrained myself re. black paint and wallpaper, that's about as far as I've stopped. I've painted every room in the house, swapped light fixtures, installed shelves, replaced plumbing, moved electrical outlets, and a host of other changes I don't remember anymore.

With each of these changes, and especially if it breaks my irreversible rule above, I try to make sure the average future tenant would appreciate the changes and that they're actually improvements, not just personal preference. 

I fill all nail holes (this spackle is so easy to use), save all light fixtures or shelves that I've removed in the basement, and ask before doing anything drastic, like painting. 

One of my favorite bloggers, Daniel, wrote in great detail about renovating his Brooklyn rental and how he convinced his landlord to let him make changes. His before and after photos are the kinds of things I dream about:

Photo by Manhattan Nest
Photo by Manhattan Nest

Essentially he's like, look a the red walls, of course my landlord didn't mind.

Speaking of red walls... stay tuned for next week when I'll talk about the best changes I have made to my rental. Which definitely includes painting red walls.

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