Here’s What Landlords Really Think About Peel-and-Stick Wallpaper

published Mar 10, 2023
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Renters are always looking for budget-friendly and easy ways to personalize their spaces, so it’s no wonder that peel-and-stick wallpaper has been a consistent presence in their homes over the years. 

Since it comes in a range of patterns and can be used on everything from walls to floors — heck, even appliances! — renters can be sure that there’s a style out there that can turn a one-size-fits-all space into a home. But as much as renters hold this design choice in high regard, not all landlords feel the same way. I spoke to two property managers with very different takes on peel-and-stick wallpaper, and here’s what they had to say. 

It’s hard to get off.

One of the reasons renters love using peel-and-stick wallpaper is because the application process is relatively quick. However, Taylor Beal, a landlord with Swalm Property Management in Delaware, says it’s a bit more complicated for those who are left to deal with it on the backend. 

“I loathe peel-and-stick wallpaper,” she says, adding that renters are prohibited from using it within the rental properties she oversees. “Mainly because it is such a pain to get off, and it is never installed correctly.” 

Remember, it’s best to return your rental to its original condition as much as possible, particularly if you want your deposit back. In the case of this type of wallpaper, use a hairdryer or other heat source on the surface to peel it off. 

There’s a lot of room for error.

Applying the wallpaper may seem easy enough, but Beal says it requires some finesse that doesn’t always shine through in the final results. “There are always bubbles in it, or it is crooked,” she says. “It’s never done nicely to the point where we can leave it for the next tenant.”

Instead, she says they frequently have to pay a contractor to remove it and repaint — something that goes beyond the normal wear-and-tear you’d experience with a rental. If you’re going to install peel-and-stick wallpaper, get permission from your landlord to start. Then, be sure to use either a laser level or a standard level to create clean lines. Since ceilings are rarely level, you’ll likely have to find the most even spot toward the middle of the wall.

People don’t always prep the surfaces. 

Not all peel-and-stick paper is the same, and some types require that you prepare the surface before you actually apply the adhesive. This is a step Beal says she frequently sees people skip, causing major issues down the line. 

“Things are often not measured,” she says, adding that sometimes people forget to line patterns up correctly so that they remain level. 

It can cost you big time.

If you live in a rental like the type Beal manages, where these types of upgrades are prohibited, then you might find yourself looking at a hefty bill when you move out. She says that tenants are often charged a fee for making unsanctioned improvements on their units, including the cost of removal and repainting. As I mentioned earlier, it’s always better to ask ahead — and if you get an approval, be sure to have it in writing (including how the space should look when you move out).

Credit: Minette Hand

It’s a temporary fix for cosmetic issues.

Not everyone is so against using peel-and-stick wallpaper, though. As a landlord, Dan McDonald, founder of McDonald Money Coaching, says that this is a great way to let each renter make the space their own. 

“It is affordable and doesn’t damage countertops, walls, or cabinets,” he says. “The reason it’s such a great option for renters is because it is a far less permanent solution than painting or replacing something. When a tenant feels like an apartment is truly a home, then they are more likely to stay and take care of it, which is the ultimate goal of being a landlord.”