Alterations to Leased Premises

Property Lease

Lessee’s Liability for Unauthorised Alterations to Leased Premises

If you lease a house, apartment or room, you are not allowed to make alterations to it without the landlord’s written approval first. This rule does not just apply to structural or cosmetic alterations, it also applies to the alteration of any fixtures or fittings as well.

If in any doubt, it is best to err on the side of caution and ensure that consent is obtained before any work is commenced.

What happens if you complete unauthorised alterations?

If a tenant has gone ahead and made alterations to a property that the landlord has not approved of, they have likely to be in breach their tenancy agreement. There are three likely outcomes in this situation:

  1. The landlord may agree that the alteration has improved the property and waive the breach to the tenancy agreement;
  2. The landlord may require the tenant to bear the cost of returning the property to its original condition; or 
  3. The landlord may keep any security deposit necessary to cover the cost of any missing appliances, fixtures or damage to the property. 

The breach of the tenancy agreement will, in many cases, lead to the lease being forfeited, which is often an unwelcome outcome after investing in some modifications to your home.

What types of changes does this apply to?

In many cases, renters are simply looking to make their space more live-able and better suited to their personal liking. These minor adjustments might include putting hooks in the wall for paintings to hang from, or planting vegetables or flowers, or adding some curtains or blinds. These changes are small and what someone might consider to be reasonable. As such, these changes are unlikely to land you in hot water.

However, some more significant and costly alterations that tenants should be cautious of might include:

  • Changing paint colours 
  • Replacing a mounted light fixture 
  • Repairing or replacing appliances 
  • Installing any type of new flooring 

If these changes are necessary, the tenant must request approval of the landlord to have these changes made, and allow the landlord sufficient time to respond to the request.

When requesting this alteration, it should also be made clear which party will cover the cost of the requested changes. In addition to this, what will happen with regard to this change/s once the lease ends. For example, whether it will remain with the property or will the tenant be taking the fixture with them. If the latter, the house must be returned to its original condition, with any previous fixtures reapplied.

Lease disputes can be a costly and time consuming exercise. Our advice is to:

  • Always seek specialist advice before carrying out any alterations to your home or business if it is leased.
  • Obtain all permissions in writing before carrying out any works.
  • If you are unsure of your obligations and what steps need to be taken, seek professional legal advice first.

More information and legal support for/with leased properties

If you would like to make changes to a place you are leasing and first want to understand your rights and obligations, get in touch with our experienced team of lawyers.