Dear Landlord: Dos and Don’ts for Rental Remodels

published Mar 24, 2015
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(Image credit: Kim Lucian)

Dear Landlord,

I’m your future tenant and, I get it, your priorities are a little different than mine. You want things to be durable, long-lasting and, usually, cheap. I, on the other hand, would really love them to look nice. I heard you’re doing a little work on the place before I move in so I wanted to share some do’s and don’ts, my wish list and no-no list. Some of them come at a cost, but others won’t cost you a penny.

(Image credit: Monica Wang)


White Paint

White paint costs the same as cream or beige and, trust me, the vast majority of future tenants will prefer a crisp white backdrop for their home.


“Wow, gorgeous linoleum!”, said no one ever. It’s more expensive, but tile will last longer and look better for longer than linoleum so, really, it’s a good investment.

Shower Head & Faucets

If you can’t afford to do a bathroom overhaul, how about a cheap, easy upgrade like a new shower head? Even if the bathroom doesn’t look nicer, starting my day with a great shower will make me feel great. Similarly, new faucets can go a long way to make a bathroom (or kitchen) feel fresher.

Dark Grout

Even the best houskeeper (not me, by any stretch), can’t keep white grout looking pristine so if you start with something dark at least it will look intentional.

(Image credit: Kim Lucian)


Honey Oak Kitchen Cabinets

Honey oak cabinetry has become so associated with generic rental kitchens, that I can no longer judge it on its own aesthetic merits. Sure, there are ways to work with them, but — broken record alert —let’s just make it easy and start with white cabinets. It opens up the decor options considerably in a kitchen.

Light Fixtures

I don’t care what you do in your own time, but don’t make me look at boobs on the ceiling in my own home. So-called “boob” lights aren’t ugly because they resemble breasts, they’re ugly because they’re just ugly.

Kitchen Backsplash

Let’s not get jazzy here. No one wants a statement backsplash unless they’re choosing it themselves. And, sorry, I just don’t trust your contractor’s taste.


Just no. Carpeting in a rental is like using someone else’s towel. Although it may not be a deal breaker for everyone, it will be for some tenants especially if you can’t ensure that each previous tenant will have taken very good care of it.

Bad paint jobs

Hey, thanks for the new coat of paint (fingers crossed, white!). It definitely freshens the place up and, at first glance, I’m thrilled. But now that I’m taking a closer look I see your painters were rather slapdash – there are a bunch of visible drips, lots of patchy spots and they did a terrible job around the trim. Next time, please spend a little more hiring better painters or do a better job of overseeing them.

Ceiling Fans.

I know, they’re divisive. Most renters agree that fans detract from the decor, even if we enjoy the cooling and energy-saving benefits. If you haven’t already put them in, maybe wait until you have a renter lined up and ask them if they want one (or more)? (Since this is my imaginary rental, I’m going to pass.)