Top tips on making your rented home your own
If after a year confined to the same four walls during lockdown, you're dreaming of making your rented place more homely, you're not alone!
A new report from Smart Energy GB has found 28% of renters say lockdown has left them feeling 'stir crazy', and the same amount feel they have missed out on making home improvements in lockdown because they are a renter.
Many renters are taking matters into their own hands. Nearly four in ten (38%) private renters say they have bought new furniture, and 30% have hung new decorations in the last year.
We spoke to Kate Faulkner, founder of Propertychecklists.co.uk, to get her advice.
"It's natural to want to make your home as comfortable as possible, and the good news is that there are some improvements private renters can make to their homes which don't require permission from the landlord, or which the landlord is happy for you to go ahead with."
"Things like the garden or outdoor space and of course adding your own furniture can make it feel more like home - all of which can be easily removed prior to leaving. Requesting a smart meter from your energy supplier is another way to take control of your home environment, as they give you visibility over your energy spend."
28% of renters feel they have missed out on making home improvements because they are renters - though 14% have prioritised making sustainable changes.
The golden rule for renters is to leave your home the way you found it unless the landlord has approved changes in writing, but there are some great ways to make your space your own without making permanent changes to the property.
Here are Kate's recommendations:
1. Speak openly about ideas with your landlord
If you have ideas on how to improve your home, let your landlord know and make sure you have approval in writing. Start conversations early when you're looking at properties and ask how comfortable they are with you making changes.
2. Decorate with your own furniture
When you're choosing where to live, consider renting an unfurnished property – this will give you a lot more freedom to decorate. If an unfurnished property isn't a possibility, speak with the landlord about what furniture you'd like removed before you sign your tenancy agreement.
3. Go big on soft furnishings
Freshen up your space with colourful curtains, area rugs, throw pillows or frames. This is a great way to bring some personal flair to your home – and to add character to once boring spaces like bathrooms or kitchens. Remember that tenants are solely responsible for furniture, upholstery, electrical appliances and combustible materials that they own and have brought into the property, so ensure that your additions meet fire safety standards.
4. Consider: keeping your utility bill costs down
It can be difficult when living in rented accommodation to reduce the carbon footprint of your home, but there are lots of small steps you can take to live more sustainably that don't require your landlord's permission. consider replacing your bulbs with LEDs, purchasing an eco-kettle and requesting a smart meter from your energy supplier.
Smart meters can be requested by the energy bill payer, are installed at no extra cost and help you see how much energy you're using in near-real time. Remember to let your landlord know that you are going to have one installed in writing and keep a copy.
5. Bring the outdoors in
If you don't have a garden, or you're missing the great outdoors, consider investing in some house plants to bring the outdoors in (just be careful when watering that you don't mark any flooring). Houseplants have been proven to have numerous benefits, including better productivity and air quality.
If you have a garden or outdoor space, things like tidying it up and of course adding your own furniture can make it feel more like home - all of which can be easily removed prior to leaving.
72% of landlords would agree to a tenant getting a smart meter installed.
Among the home improvements they would like to make, 40% of renters would like to paint the walls and 29% would like to put down new flooring and carpets. It's not just decoration on renters' minds - more than one in ten would like a smart meter, but almost half don't realise that they are entitled to request one from their energy supplier if they are the energy billpayer. And what's more, 44% of renters mistakenly believe that the responsibility to book an installation lies with the landlord.
While 72% of landlords surveyed said they would agree to get a smart meter installed, Smart Energy GB has discovered that the actions of letting agents may be contributing to confusion. just under half (49%) of letting agents said that they had added a clause in the tenancy agreement preventing a tenant from installing a smart meter without the consent of the landlord, despite installation being up to the billpayer.
Now more than ever, renters are looking for clarity around their rights in the home. More than a third say they are not sure what their rights are, and the same number say they don't know where to turn for advice. Almost one in five think their landlord would say no if they asked permission to make changes to their home, and 11% are worried they will lose their security deposit if they do so without permission.
33% of renters are worried about asking their landlord to improve the property over fears of eviction, and 10% fear losing their security deposit.
"Private renters pay the most for their housing costs, so any ways to keep other costs down are welcome. Energy use is one area where renters can make savings." Says Dan Wilson Craw, Deputy director, Generation Rent.
"Smart meters are one easy way that renters can take a bit of control over their bills, while also leaving a sustainable legacy for the next tenants. We would encourage all private tenants to consider getting one, contacting their energy supplier for more information, and keeping the landlord informed about the installation."
This news comes at a welcome time for renters as the pandemic has taken a toll on many people's finances, with 60% of renters keen to make their homes as energy efficient as possible to help reduce their energy bills and for the sake of the environment.
Smart meters are as essential part of Britain's commitment to reaching net zero. As soon as a smart meter is installed, the benefits to the billpayer are immediate, and the environmental benefits even continue for the next tenant who moves into the property.
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