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Property Management 101: Dealing with Unauthorized Tenant Alterations

Schaumberg Tenant Using a Drill With His Dog Watching Various single-family Schaumberg rental home leases include a clause restricting tenants from altering or remodeling the property without consent. Though now and again, tenants will kick off and execute unauthorized changes anyway. When that arises, landlords and property owners need to determine how to resolve the situation professionally and according to local laws. If your tenant has or would like to make their own changes, here are some effective tips to help you navigate unauthorized tenant alterations.

Tenant Alterations

Now and again, a tenant will alter their rental home without obtaining permission from their landlord or property owner. Even though your lease agreement proclaims doing so is not approved. At times, the tenant attempts to repair or fix worn or broken features in the rental home. Nevertheless, in the other occurrences, they like to customize the property in more permanent ways.

Painting one or more interior walls is one of the most common ways a tenant will make changes without asking permission. Even though most property owners may think this as a free paint job – and if it is carried about properly, you can possibly keep the changes – the issue is that not all tenants do a good job or may use a paint color that will make your rental property more challenging to rent to your next tenant. Whether you appreciate what your tenant did or not, you need to learn what to do if you identify that your tenant has made alterations without your permission.

Repairs vs. Improvements

When approaching a tenant about unauthorized alterations, it’s necessary to really understand the difference between repairs and improvements. Basically, repairs are to keep a property in fine operating condition. But however, an improvement is work that adds to the property’s value, prolongs the life of the property, or adapts the property in a lot of ways.

Suppose you are not making requested repairs and your tenant takes matters into their own hands. If such is the case, that is a very different situation than if you detect your tenant digging up the entire backyard to plant a vegetable garden. One maintains the property in a livable condition, while the other largely alters the intended use of the property. Not all alterations are as clear-cut, therefore there are a few more considerations you should ask in preparation to adopt measures to address the situation.

Fixtures and Property Condition

One of the biggest legal questions any judge will ask is whether the alteration is permanently attached to the property or not. These matters since anything permanent your tenant does is normally considered a fixture and cannot be removed. Such alterations essentially become part of the property – unless you don’t want them to. Most of the time, lease documents should denote that it’s the tenant’s responsibility to restore the property to the same condition it was in when they first started living there. If they’ve made changes, this specifies they are legally and financially responsible for changing it back to the way it was before.

Essential Lease Clauses

Obviously, enforcing a lease clause in court is only effective if you have the proper language in your lease. As you prepare your lease documents, make it a point to include clauses that outline when and what type of improvements are allowed (if any) and what might happen if an unauthorized “improvement” or repair devalues the property.

You may also want to state in your lease that your tenant will forfeit all or part of their security deposit to cover the cost of restoring the property to its original condition. You may additionally want to make a statement in your lease that if your tenant makes changes that you decide to keep, they must leave any fixtures they’ve added behind.

When there is a dispute, having clear lease language and good documentation of all of your communications with the tenant can be a significant part of winning your case. If the thing does end up in court, certainly, the judge will consider both the tenant’s intentions and the changes made and ascertain whether the alteration is a fixture you get to keep or not.


It can be burdensome to manage tenants who take in their own hands the decision to make unauthorized changes to a rental property. Hence appointing a professional Schaumberg property management company to do it for you can be an edge and advantage. Contact us online or call to learn how we help rental property owners with everything from drafting lease documents to property maintenance.

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