By Amy E. Feldman
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – If you are renting property, do you have the legal right to make improvements?
A Romanian politician, jailed while awaiting trial for taking bribes, has filed a motion to allow her to wallpaper her jail cell. Guess she doesn’t like her chances of getting off.
Unlike a repair, which is generally meant to maintain the value of a property, the legal definition of an improvement is something you do to add value to a property. If you are biding your time and imagine you’ll be in your leased space for a while, you may wonder whether you can add improvements.
If you are leasing a commercial property, tenant improvements are often part of the deal – you can negotiate to have the landlord pay to make the space feel like your own.
If you are renting a residential property, you can try to negotiate a new coat of paint or updated appliances up front but given the relatively low profit the landlord will be making on your lease, it’s harder to get the landlord to pay to do it.
In general, a tenant can add things that can be unplugged or even unscrewed at the end of the lease, like new appliances provided that they don’t violate the lease or damage the property. But, for any type of construction or other change that will be a permanent fixture, like new lighting, cabinetry, or things you can’t just pack up and take with you when you leave, you need the landlord’s permission no matter how much nicer, newer, or more inhabitable it will make the big house.