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Renovating rentals

Know the ins and outs of updating without losing the deposit

By: Sherri Kolade | Farmington Press | Published May 11, 2016

 Changing the hardware on cabinetry is one way to make a place feel like home.

Changing the hardware on cabinetry is one way to make a place feel like home.

Shutterstock images

METRO DETROIT — When it comes to renovating a rental, what options are available to tenants who want to make changes without losing their security deposit? 

Local professionals in the world of rentals — such as Michael Jordan, founder and CEO of Livonia-based Strategy Property Management, and Warren-based Total Construction and Renovation LLC owner Jason Szymborski — discussed in interviews what is best left to them, and what you may do when it comes to renovations. 

Szymborski, who owns the construction company and two dozen rental properties, said he allows renters to do upgrades to his rental properties as long as they are professionally done.

“As long as the colors (are) neutral tones, that would be OK,” he said. “What we don’t want to see is someone come in there and do something haphazardly in a manner that wouldn’t add any value to the home, or wouldn’t be appealing to the norm.”

He said that while he is OK with the updates, he would like his tenants to run things by him first.

“I have to approve everything ... and we even put it in leases just because sometimes people could say, ‘Oh, I thought I could tear this wall out right here and it’s not going to be a big deal,’” he said. The problem lies in adding something that is not structurally sound or up to code.

Szymborski added that before moving into a rental property and making it your own, it is important to fill out an inventory list and note any damages you find.

“The move-in checklist notes the condition of the property before you move in,” he said.

Strategy Property Management has a team that oversees tenant placement, maintenance requests and structural property issues, among other things throughout the metro Detroit area, including cities such as Sterling Heights, Grosse Pointe, Utica, Royal Oak and Southfield.

Michael Jordan said that when his company eyes a property, they assess it first, taking into consideration the aesthetic value and curb appeal, and they spruce up the rentals by adding backsplashes to kitchens and bathrooms and more.

“That really brings out countertops and cabinets,” he said.

From changing up doorknobs and light fixtures to gutting houses to remove mold, Jordan has seen and done it all.

“You can have a lot of tenants who don’t want to do that,” he said of renovating.

He also said the success of the tenant-landlord relationship is centered around respect.

“I think it is very important as a landlord and property manager to tend to your tenants’ needs,” Jordan said. “They turn around and respect the home; they live there longer.”

Ali Daher, a researcher at Strategy Property Management, said that if tenants within the business get the itch to update, they need to make sure things are back in place when the lease is up.

“The house should look the same way after you’ve moved out as it did when you moved in,” he said. “As far as renovations, most tenants like to do landscaping themselves.”

On his own rental property, he decided to hang up a few decorative pieces on his walls, which his landlord ended up liking too.

“He asked me if I could leave everything on the walls and he would pay for them,” Daher said, adding that his finishing touches were neutral, which can have mass appeal.

Corie Conroy, owner of First Impressions Home Staging and Interior Design in Bloomfield Hills, said that after knowing the landlord’s rules and regulations, the ball is in your court.

“When you renovate a rental property, you want to do it in a way where you can take those items with you,” she said, adding that if you are unable to paint a wall or put nails in, buy removable hooks to hang pictures or add decals.

“A lot of times, drapery will make it look colorful or warm; same as adding rugs,” she said.

From changing the hardware on cabinetry (as long as you keep the original pieces and return them to the landlord) to decorating shelving units with wallpaper shelves, the possibilities are endless, she said.

“When I was a renter, I wanted my walls painted so badly,” Conroy said, adding that her landlord gave her the paint and brush and put her to work.

“They gave me a break on my rent and I painted it. Sometimes it can be economical for the landlord and enjoyable for the renter to make it look like a home,” she said, adding that if you can paint your walls, paint them back to the original color before you leave.

“Definitely ask before you do it,” she said. “It’s still your home even if you don’t own it. It’s your home space and you want to make it a place you enjoy coming home to.”