Landlord vs tenant: Who's got more rights when it comes to renovations?

Renters currently have to wait for approval for any changes to a property. Source: Pixabay

The never-ending battle between landlords and tenants comes down to one thing: just how much say do you have over what happens within someone else’s house? 

Tony Conyers made headlines earlier in 2017; he had lived in the same property in Noosa, Queensland, for 17 years, carrying out and paying for major improvements and maintenance from his own pocket thanks to an agreement he had with the landlord. In 2010, Conyers was informed that he could stay in the home for another 25 years; he began to see it as his forever home, and carried on his life accordingly. 

“They said, ‘Spend any money you want on the place, do whatever you like, it’s your place for the next 25 years,'” Conyers said in an article from the Sunshine Coast Daily.

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And Conyers did, forking out about $30,000 over the course of a few years before being told that plans had changed and he may have to vacate the property within a year. On a disability pension due to a car crash, Conyers was left scrambling to find a house that would have him on a long-term rental agreement and allow him to carry out maintenance and other small renovations on his own budget. 

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A long-term tenant as proactive as Conyers may be a dream for a landlord who prefers to have little involvement, but it could be a different story for those who prefer to keep their investment property looking and feeling a certain way. After all, a seemingly small fix that makes life easier for one person may not work for another renter, or could be a time-consuming fix if the house needs to be sold down the track. 

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There may well be more tenants like Conyers who are willing to put their own money on the line to undertake necessary repairs and other optional extra changes to their home, but an arrangement like this with another landlord could prove hard to come by. While some tenants believe they should be entitled to treat the property as theirs while residing there, landlords are currently entitled to have control over how and when repairs to a property are carried out, and by whom. 

Recently-changed Victorian rental laws have given tenants more rights in an attempt to even the playing field, with stipulations that could allow tenants to argue their case for having pets in a house despite the owner’s wishes, and restrictions surrounding the amount of bond a landlord is allowed to request. Some landlords are so opposed to the idea of giving tenants free rein that they’ve threatened to take their properties off the rental market entirely.

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While other states have yet to adopt laws similar to Victoria, it may not be far off for Queensland. The Palaszczuk government has recently made a commitment to improve minimum standards for rental properties and “strengthen protections for Queensland seniors looking at retirement options as well as those already retired”. If these changes are carried off well, other changes to favour tenants of all ages could be on the horizon. 

“Minimum standards in rental properties are particularly important when you consider that half of the renting households are families with children,” Penny Carr, CEO of Tenants Queensland said on the subject. “The legislation will also address the very poor quality of some rental accommodation in the state,” 

Do you think tenants should have the right to make changes or perform their own repairs on a rental property?