This post is contributed by Lizzy Manthe at ABODO.
As a renter, you get a lot of perks: no property tax bill, the flexibility to move every year, no yard maintenance, and none of the financial encumbrances that come with homeownership. But there is one monetary gamble still at play: the security deposit. Typically, if you regularly clean your apartment and take good care of the unit, you’ll get that money back. But unfortunately, “normal wear and tear” doesn’t include settling in and customizing your space like a homeowner would. Too many nail holes mean you could get charged for filling them, and adding color to those white walls could mean paying a professional painter to undo your handiwork.
But you don’t need to resign yourself to a sterile, temporary home. Before running out to buy decor supplies, sit down with your lease and read the security deposit terms closely, including the process for returning the deposit, which can vary widely from city to city. For example, apartments in Madison, Wisconsin have to return their deposit within 21 days, along with a list of deductions. But rentals in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois have 45 days — with only 30 to list your deductions. If you know your rights, you can exercise them.
Armed with the particulars of your lease, you can personalize your apartment while following the rules. Here are 6 ways to make your rental homey, without risking your security deposit.
1. Removable wallpaper
Blank white walls, though a great canvas for scuffs, are boring. Removable wallpaper, even on just one wall, is one of the quickest, easiest ways to charge a space with personality. You can buy removable wallpaper in a variety of patterns and textures, ranging from shiplap to burlap. If you can’t find the pattern you’re looking for, you can use regular fabric and adhere it to your walls with a water-soluble cornstarch mixture. (But before you start sticking, read the directions for upkeep and removal. You don’t need any surprises on move-out day.)
2. Wall decals
Maybe blanketing a whole wall with patterns and color won’t really match your decor, or maybe it just seems like too much work. In that case, wall decals might be the perfect solution for you. Celebrate your favorite sports team, share a phrase, or just add a basic mural to your walls — and then simply peel it off when it’s time to move. You can find these vinyl decals at most retailers with a home decor section. If you want something customized, you can also go online to order a unique creation that’ll convey your personality.
3. Plug-in sconces
Surely, hardwiring new lighting fixtures would infringe on your property manager’s rules. But you can add wall-mounted lighting without needing an electrician. From basic lamps to retro starburst fixtures, you can find plug-in sconces at most home supply stores. These fixtures, however, will still need to be anchored to the wall, so keep your lease’s particulars in mind.
4. Temporary backsplash
Much like temporary wallpaper, a temporary backsplash can immediately liven up your kitchen without causing irreversible damage. Check out stick-on vinyl tiles or stainless-steel contact paper. Or get creative with temporary wallpaper to create a mosaic of color above your sink. And, unlike some other modes of decor, this backsplash will protect your wall — as a backsplash should — so you don’t get docked for staining or water damage above your faucet. It’s a win-win.
5. Swap lighting
If you’re fairly handy, you can swap out drab lighting fixtures with something more your style. It’s a simple fix and it can be easy to switch back before you move out — as long as you keep track of the original fixture all lease long.
6. Add curtains
So many renters overlook one of the easiest ways to transform your apartment into a homey abode: curtains. You don’t need to stick with the kinked, dusty off-white blinds just because they were there when you moved in. And you don’t even need to pull them down — just add a curtain rod above the window (or find an expandable one that fits within your window frame).
So next time you’re struggling to feel like your apartment is your very own space, remember you can add your own custom touches — and feel more at home — without putting your security deposit in danger.
Lizzy Manthe is a contributing member of the Marketing and Communications team at ABODO, an online apartment marketplace. ABODO was founded in 2013 in Madison, Wisconsin. And in just 3 years, the company has grown to more than 30 employees, raised over $8M in outside funding, and helps more than half a million renters find a new home each month.