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A Renter’s Guide to DIY

COVID-19 has upended everything, and that includes the way we live. More people are moving – sometimes by choice, sometimes out of necessity – into rental housing. Mortgage lending has tightened considerably due to the pandemic, which is also contributing to an increase in rentership. Your temporary housing can still be your castle. Owning your home isn’t a prerequisite for style. With a little ingenuity, your rental can feel like home, sweet home.

DIY For Renters

Having a landlord doesn’t necessarily mean you must curb all your DIY impulses. While most standard leases contain a provision prohibiting tenants from making alterations without written consent from the landlord, your landlord may allow you to paint the interior – although most landlords will insist on a light, neutral color. Check out how this DIYer transformed her bedroom with a little creativity. 


Removable, peel-and-stick wallpaper is another easy way to make the space your own without risking your security deposit. 

If the ceiling light covers, wall plates and kitchen and bathroom cabinet hardware aren’t your style, you can replace those – and take them with you when you leave. Putting on a nicer showerhead is another easy (and portable) improvement.

Living in a managed community (as opposed to having an individual landlord) usually means 24/7, on-call maintenance. Toilet’s backed up? Call the property manager. An individual landlord may not be able to rush to your rescue, so you may find yourself fixing that leaky faucet yourself. 

Check your lease – preferably before you sign it – to find out about picture hanging. Small nail holes are generally considered normal wear and tear. But if you want a gallery wall and worry about the number of nail holes, consider a wall-sized corkboard or pegboard with hooks. A TV mount, which requires multiple nail holes, could lead to your landlord keeping a portion of your security deposit. 

Get Creative About Storage 

One challenge many renters encounter is – shall we say? – “cozy quarters.” (That’s code for “lack of space.”) In a small space, clutter can take over like kudzu. Storage hacks can help:


How Does Your (Mobile) Garden Grow?

Perhaps also as a result of the pandemic, more people have begun planting gardens. Space can, once again, pose a challenge for urban farmers who live in a rental. It doesn’t mean you can’t cultivate herbs, flowers and veggies. You just need to get creative: 

  • Even the smallest balcony can fit a container garden
  • A sunny kitchen window is enough space to grow herbs. 
  • Renters with green thumbs might trade lawncare – in a rental house – for a reduction in rent. (There’s more leeway in negotiating with an individual landlord than in an apartment complex.)
  • A portable garden can brighten up your temporary space and then move when you do. Consider stylish container gardens for tomatoes, a vertical garden for your balcony and even relics like wheelbarrows to cultivate vegetables. Note: Plants in containers need lots of water. If you’re out of town often, you may need to enlist the help of a neighbor to tend to your garden.

For many people, owning a home is still the ultimate goal. But renting has its benefits. (You don’t have to shell out big bucks to replace an old HVAC system, for instance.) And with a little time, effort and creativity, you can give your rental the same style and personality you would your own home.

Click here for some inspiration to help you get started! 

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