They are the unicorns of the rental world: landlords who agree —nay, support or even pay for — cosmetic changes to your apartment. We're not talking about running toilets or the other functional stuff that makes a place habitable. This is the good stuff: replacing chippy linoleum countertops with stone or butcher block, or bringing kitchen cabinets out of the 1980s and into present day. There are ways to make your case when you move in, and creating a situation that works for everyone.
Be A Considerate Human: Are you a good person? If yes, does your landlord know this about you? The first tier of good tenant/landlord relations is to pay your rent when you’re supposed to, not be a dick who parties loudly and loud at night, and to keep your apartment from catching on fire. When you want something down the road, your landlord will actually take your calls and not duck back in their door when they hear you coming down the hall.
Don’t Request Anything Outlandish: Your landlord is more likely to make changes if they improve the space (translation: they can get more rent later when you move out). That usually rules out hyper-subjective design choices that only make sense to your lifestyle or aesthetic. So carpeting the basement walls for your studio is a stretch. Even small changes, like painting walls a deep purple, are harder to reverse, and therefore less likely to meet with approval. Stick to more conventional choices that the average person will appreciate down the road.
Offer To Do All the Leg Work: Since this is your idea baby, you’ll get further by doing all the necessary research yourself, finding people to do the work, and shopping for any materials. Your landlord might have people they prefer to work with, or particular brands they feel comfortable buying, but they’ll prefer not to take on the project themselves.
Bonus Tip: Do some research about how much more they can expect to get in rent after the renovation.
Sign a Longer Lease: If you have this in mind when you first rent the apartment, consider signing a multi-year lease — a win-win situation for both parties. Your landlord won’t have to turn around and rent the space again in 12 months. And the research tip above won't bite in the butt later when your rent increases dramatically after the improvements you initiated come to fruition.
Flaunt Your Design Skillz: If you are an interior designer or an architect, tell your landlord and show them examples of your work. If they know and trust you have experience, talent, and good taste, the more confidence they'll have moving forward with your proposed changes. Otherwise, you might have to have everything approved beforehand.
DIY It: Offer to do the work yourself. Your landlord might just give you permission to move forward, or they might even pay for materials, leaving you to just cover the sweat equity required to do the job. Just be sure you know what you’re doing so you don't muck up a perfectly good space with your bumbling ways.
Arrange Payment in Advance: This is big. Make sure there is a firm and clear agreement that lays out exactly how and when the renovations will be paid for. Will you pay for everything and in return get a month's free rent? Or will bills be paid by you, then reimbursed by the landlord? Once you have the hows, whens, and whats nailed down, get it in writing and make sure everyone has a copy.
Bonus Tip: If possible,have the bill sent straight to the landlord, so you don't get stuck with it yourself, or have to wait to be reimbursed.