6 Apartment Renovations You’re Not Allowed to Make

However, there are limits to the apartment renovations that are actually allowed — and none are worth getting evicted over. That’s why you should be informed about your rights before doing anything.

We’ve covered the topic of renovations in apartments plenty of times here, so this time we’ll be covering renovations you’re not allowed to make. Read on to learn more about common apartment renovations that are not permitted.

1. Structural changes

One common lease provision you’ll find in many rentals is one that prohibits any structural changes to the unit. Most apartments are located within a larger apartment community and have the same floor-plan as a number of other units in the community, which is why altering that floor-plan is not allowed.

If you were thinking of taking down or adding any walls, replacing windows or changing your ceiling texture, you’ll definitely want to check with your property manager first.

knocking down wall

2. Changes to the outside appearance of your apartment

Some of the renovations that fall into this category may seem like they’re minimal, and that there’d be no problem. However, you may not have considered the idea that most apartment communities want to keep a uniform appearance. This is the reason that most communities will restrict changes to the outside appearance of your apartment.

Common apartment renovations that would change the look of your building from the outside include:

  • Adding retractable awnings
  • Hanging lights on a patio/balcony
  • Affixing a flagpole to an outside wall

3. Removing carpet

This rule is not nationwide and is likely rare in rural apartments. However, in many urban apartments, especially in New York City, property owners will require that a certain percentage of hard floors be covered by carpet to reduce noise in the building.

In NYC, the percentage is most commonly 80 percent, however, this clause could crop up in any lease agreement with any percentage requirement. If you’re thinking about removing the carpet in your apartment, you should be sure to check for one of these clauses first.

removing carpet

4. Electrical upgrades

You might be interested in upgrading some of the electrical components in your apartment, especially as the presence of smart-home technology increases in popularity. Most apartments do not allow DIY electrical work, and for good reason.

For one, you’re risking serious harm when you take on a project beyond your experience level. Beyond that, insurance typically won’t cover damage caused by apartment renovations done improperly.

The danger is somewhat beside the point, however, since the majority of landlords prohibit DIY electrical upgrades. However tempted you might be to upgrade your thermostat or light switches or install your own home security system, you need to leave the obligation to your landlord. Breaking the terms of your lease and doing any banned renovation could get you evicted from your home.

5. Replacing countertops

Apartments are notoriously outfitted with drab countertops and please-all fixtures. But if your dream apartment has luxury features like a stone or stainless steel countertop, you’ll need to rent it that way.

Property managers will likely not allow you to replace the countertops in your apartment and in many cases, will not even allow you to have them professionally replaced. If you’re looking at apartment renovations for your kitchen, you’ll need to consider other DIY options.

new countertops

6. Removing popcorn ceiling

Popcorn ceilings are also a notorious feature of many apartments — especially those built between 1930-1990. Some people on the internet will tell you that it’s easy to remove them yourself. However, the truth is, removing a popcorn ceiling is a messy job — one that should definitely be handled by a professional.

Not only is it difficult to achieve good results on the work itself, but the post-project cleanup is also actually harder. That’s why you should never take on this apartment renovation. Trust us, the property owner would not be happy.

However, you could likely negotiate to have this service done professionally in your apartment, though it may come with a rent increase. Professionals charge, on average, between $1-$2 per square foot to remove the popcorn ceiling.

You don’t always need major apartment renovations to make an apartment feel like home

Just because you’re in a rental with restrictions on major apartment renovation projects, doesn’t mean you’re limited in the possibilities of personalizing your space. There are a ton of DIY options for renters that give you the same options for upgrades that homeowners have. Getting creative is part of the fun!

However, if you do need a major apartment renovation project to truly make your apartment feel like a home, you should speak to the property owner. While under no obligation to negotiate with you, many times, it’s possible. Apartment renovations can make your place feel like home, and there are plenty of options that are completely within your rights as a renter! Don’t be afraid to get resourceful, just make sure you always follow the guidelines set out in your lease agreement.

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Timothy HarrisTimothy Harris is a freelance writer based in Albuquerque. He brings a professional background in event marketing, residential real estate and journalism to the table to provide useful and relevant content for the modern renter. Timothy has previously written content for Karsten & Associates in New Mexico and Up 'til Dawn, a philanthropic fundraiser that benefits St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.

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