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Property Management 101: Dealing with Unauthorized Tenant Alterations

De Beque Tenant Using a Drill With His Dog Watching The majority of single-family Palisade rental home leases include a clause not allowing tenants to alter or remodel the property without approval. But as a matter of fact, periodically, tenants will initiate and perform unauthorized changes anyway. When that transpires, landlords and property owners need to perceive how to solve the situation professionally and according to local laws. If your tenant has or likes to make their own changes, here are certain suggestions to help you navigate unauthorized tenant alterations.

Tenant Alterations

Periodically, a tenant will alter their rental home without getting permission from their landlord or property owner. In spite of the fact your lease agreement declares doing so is not sanctioned. From time to time, the tenant attempts to repair or fix worn or broken features in the rental home. But it’s true that in the most instances, they yearn to customize the property in more permanent ways.

Painting one or more interior walls is one of the most prevalent ways a tenant will make changes without asking permission. Though few property owners may view this as a free paint job – and if it is performed right, you can surely keep the changes – the challenge is that not all tenants do a good job or may prefer a paint color that will make your rental property worse to rent to your next tenant. Whether you want what your tenant did or not, you need to be aware of what to do if you find out that your tenant has made alterations without your permission.

Repairs vs. Improvements

When approaching a tenant about unauthorized alterations, it’s vital to understand the difference between repairs and improvements. Broadly speaking, repairs are performed to keep a property in perfect operating condition. But on the flip side, an improvement is work that adds to the property’s value, prolongs the life of the property, or adapts the property in many ways.

Suppose you are not making the requested repairs and your tenant takes matters into their own hands. If that is so, that is a very different situation than if you distinguish your tenant dug up the entire backyard to plant a vegetable garden. One maintains the property in a livable condition, while the other highly alters the intended use of the property. Not all alterations are as clear-cut, because of this there are a few more inquiries you should ask just before acting to address the situation.

Fixtures and Property Condition

One of the biggest legal questions any judge will ask is whether the alteration is permanently attached to the property or not. This matters on the account that anything permanent your tenant does is generally considered a fixture and cannot be removed. Such alterations certainly become part of the property – unless you don’t want them to. In the majority of cases, lease documents should point out that it’s the tenant’s responsibility to restore the property to the same condition it was in when they first started living there. If they’ve made changes, this totally means they are legally and financially responsible for changing it back to the way it was before.

Essential Lease Clauses

Certainly, enforcing a lease clause in court is only effective if you have the proper language in your lease. As you prepare your lease documents, ensure to include clauses that define when and what type of improvements are allowed (if any) and what would happen if an unauthorized “improvement” or repair devalues the property.

You may opt to state in your lease that your tenant will forfeit all or part of their security deposit to cover the cost of restoring the property to its original condition. You may similarly want to contain a statement in your lease that if your tenant makes changes that you decide to keep, they must leave any fixtures they’ve added behind.

Supposing there is a dispute, having clear lease language and good documentation of all of your communications with the tenant can be a helpful part of winning your case. If the trouble does end up in court, basically, the judge will consider both the tenant’s intentions and the changes made and figure out whether the alteration is a fixture you get to keep or not.


It can be arduous to address and deal with tenants who plan to make unauthorized changes to a rental property. Thus engaging with a professional Palisade property management company to do it for you can be a real advantage. Contact us online or call to learn how we help rental property owners with everything from drafting lease documents to property maintenance.

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