Most people who’ve ever rented a flat have experienced the ‘joy’ of living in an outdated place with less-than-enviable fittings and décor.
Whilst you probably can't go off and install a brand new kitchen (try renting in Sweden for that kind of thing) you can do a few things to make your rented home a little more pleasant to live in.
The extent to which you can go in making changes will depend entirely on your landlord, and to some extent on your own DIY abilities. Landlords are essentially businessmen and, unless you’re renting an accidental landlord’s own home, your rented property is their product. A sensible landlord will be happy to invest money into his property if he feels it will be worthwhile, ie: it will improve the rental value and resale value of the property.
Changing something just because you don’t like it will probably not get the go-ahead, but modest improvements suggested should be greeted with some degree of interest, especially if you’re prepared to do the work (and can reassure the landlord you’re competent to do it) or at least oversee it to make sure it’s done properly, be there to let the workmen in etc.
It’s always worth making the case for improvements – detail what needs to be done, rough cost of materials, how much effort you’re prepared to put in, what you’re competent at doing yourself, maybe even get a quote for any work you can’t tackle. All this saves the landlord time and hassle and is more likely to elicit a “yes OK” than a “no just leave it alone”.
Upgrade the Kitchen
In a lot of rented properties the kitchen is the last room to get a real upgrade from the owner. You may find ancient refrigerators, cookers from the 1960s, and cupboards that will never be featuring in the pages of any interiors magazine, unless there’s one called Kitchens That Time Forgot.
While your landlord probably won’t want you to start remodelling the kitchen, you can do a few minor upgrades to at least make it easier to use and a more pleasant place to be.
Dated cabinets can be completely transformed from awful to awesome by a decorator who specialises in kitchen makeovers. Depending on the rest of the fittings in the room a few hundred pounds spent here can look like a new kitchen worth thousands has been installed.
If this is a step too far then look into replacing the cabinet knobs and handles. Behind the cabinet doors you can install space-saving storage, boxes and trays to organise your stuff – these items from Ikea for example.
Upgrade Your Bathroom
The bathroom is also one of those places where it's easy to upgrade a few things to make using every day more enjoyable.
Quite often the main sanitaryware itself – sink, bath, toilet – are fine, but the taps, shower head, tiles, loo seat etc. are battered, grubby and coated in limescale.
Start by cleaning everything with an industrial-grade cleaning fluid – Cillit Bang Black Mould Remover is one of those few cleaning products that actually works well, removing seemingly-impregnable grime from the silicone sealant that surrounds all bathroom fittings.
Once again your landlord may approve getting the taps, waste kits and shower heads changed if they’re beyond redemption and really spoiling the bathroom (and putting future tenants off).
A free-standing storage unit is an easy way to get a little organization in the bathroom without overhauling everything, and of course you can take it with you when you move on; it will almost certainly be of use in your next place.
One incredibly simple, but surprisingly effective upgrade you can make is to replace the ceiling shades on your overhead lights with your own. The shades that come with the property are likely to be very cheap and cheerful; you can buy some rather nice ones which are easy to put on and can be taken off when you leave. A small investment you can re-use in your next place.
The same goes for pretty much everything in your property that's just being held on with a screw or two - light switches, socket covers, and even doorknobs are often simple to replace and easy to reverse when you move out. Just don’t forget where you put the old ones!