Whether you’ve just moved into a new apartment or you’re looking to refresh the one you’re already in, you might be interested in making apartment updates so your home reflects your style and personality.

As an apartment renter, however, tackling home improvements that aren’t permitted by your lease could cost you your security deposit. It’s safe to say that updates like changing light fixtures in a rental or upgrading a rental bathroom are most likely off limits.

Luckily, it is possible to walk the line between creating the apartment of your dreams and complying with your management company’s policies. Here, we’re discussing a few small but impactful temporary changes to spruce up your rental space without breaking the rules, as well as a few updates that you should avoid making yourself.

Before you begin any apartment project, check your lease to see if it spells out anything that really shouldn’t be altered. If you have any doubt whether an improvement is allowed, double check with your property manager.

Apartment Updates You Can Make

  1. Add a rain shower head to your shower. Most apartment rentals come with pretty standard shower heads, but these can usually be upgraded with a simple swap. Unscrew the old shower head, add some plumbing tape around the threads, then screw on the new rain shower head. Hello, instant spa. Just be sure to turn off the water to your shower first, and keep the original shower head to replace it when you move out.
  2. Change kitchen and bathroom knobs. New knobs and drawer pulls can really change the look and feel of your kitchen or bathroom. As long as the new hardware is the same size or type currently in use, all you need is a screwdriver and a few minutes of free time. There are a ton of options to upgrade a rental kitchen or bathroom—from sleek and modern to fun and whimsical. Save the old knobs and screws so you can put them back on when you move.
  3. Hang temporary wallpaper. Have a “no paint policy” for your rental? That’s no problem with temporary (and removable) wallpaper. Peel-and-stick wallpaper (like this geometric option from Chasing Paper or this fun floral from Urban Outfitters) is fine in most rental apartments as long as it is removed before you move out.
  4. Consider decals. Liven up those boring white wall in your kitchen or bathroom with waterproof, quick-stick tile decals from Stick Pretty. For around $25 for a set of 10, you can transform your bathroom into a Roman bath or your kitchen into a Spanish mosaic-walled cocina. You can also spruce up your existing backsplashes with a peel-and-stick option, such as this classic subway pattern, that can be peeled off when you want a change.
  5. Replace the light switch covers. While undertaking electrical projects is not a good idea (see below), replacing drab white light switch and outlet covers only requires a screwdriver. This tile option from Wayfair will transport you to Italy, while this polished brass cover from MyKnobs.com exudes luxury. Be sure to keep the original covers to swap when your lease is up.

Apartment Upgrades That Are Not Allowed

  • Drilling holes for hardware. Cabinets and drawers can be very expensive to fix or replace. If you do switch out the hardware in your bathroom or kitchen, do not swap them out with something that needs new holes. Drilling new holes for any reason in an apartment rental requires permission. 
  • Changing light fixtures in a rental. Electrical work should only be undertaken by licensed and insured professionals. If you really can’t live with your current lighting setup, ask the property management team if they can recommend an electrician who can install one you like and then reinstall the original when you leave. Or, hang a pendant light with a good hook and a long extension cord.
  • Swapping out faucets. Switching out a screw-on shower head is one thing, but replacing an entire kitchen faucet is too advanced for a rental kitchen upgrade. Leave the plumbing work to the professionals and skip this DIY.
  • Putting in new flooring. Even if you have your eye on gorgeous wooden or laminate floors, you can’t put down a snap-and-lock option without getting your landlord’s permission. If installed incorrectly, this type of flooring could damage the original flooring underneath as well as the baseboards. A better option is to invest in large area rugs to cover flooring you don’t love.

Upgrade to a Southern Management Apartment

Ready to make some apartment updates? With these tips in mind, you’ll be able to make smart, temporary apartment updates that can be easily restored back to their original forms when you leave.

If you’re ready to upgrade your living situation entirely, we are happy to help you find your dream apartment. Our 75 apartment communities across Northern Virginia and Maryland offer a variety of layouts and amenities to help you feel right at home. Explore our communities today with a virtual tour and contact us for more information!