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Property Management 101: Dealing with Unauthorized Tenant Alterations

Frisco Tenant Using a Drill With His Dog Watching Quite a lot of single-family Frisco rental home leases include a clause barring tenants from altering or remodeling the property without agreement. Although once in a while, tenants will go and commit unauthorized changes anyway. When that takes place, landlords and property owners need to learn how to easily resolve the situation professionally and according to local laws. If your tenant has or hopes to make their own changes, here are various guidelines to help you navigate unauthorized tenant alterations.

Tenant Alterations

Once in a while, a tenant will alter their rental home without securing permission from their landlord or property owner. Though your lease agreement stipulates doing so is not allowed. Periodically, the tenant may attempt to repair or fix worn or broken features in the rental home. But in  other instances, they seek to customize the property in more permanent ways.

Painting one or more interior walls is one of the most typical ways a tenant will make changes without asking permission. Despite that many property owners may see this as a free paint job – and if it is brought about well, you can generally keep the changes – the trouble is that not all tenants do a good job or may pick out a paint color that will make your rental property difficult to rent to your next tenant. Whether you like what your tenant did or not, you need to figure out what to do if you determine that your tenant has made alterations without your permission.

Repairs vs. Improvements

When approaching a tenant about unauthorized alterations, it’s relevant to perceive the difference between repairs and improvements. Mostly, repairs are brought about to keep a property in excellent operating condition. However, an improvement is work that adds to the property’s value, prolongs the life of the property, or adapts the property in several ways.

Suppose you are not making requested repairs and your tenant takes matters into their own hands. In that event, that is a very different situation than if you perceive your tenant dug up the entire backyard to plant a vegetable garden. One maintains the property in a livable condition, while the other considerably alters the intended use of the property. Not all alterations are as clear-cut, that’s why there are a few more questions you should ask just prior to doing something 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. This matters considering that anything permanent your tenant does is certainly considered a fixture and cannot be removed. Such alterations definitely become part of the property – unless you don’t want them to. In many situations, lease documents should indicate 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 implies they are legally and financially responsible for changing it back to the way it was before.

Essential Lease Clauses

Without a doubt, 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 certain to include clauses that elaborate when and what type of improvements are allowed (if any) and what would be done if an unauthorized “improvement” or repair devalues the property.

You may hope 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 moreover want to include in 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.

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


It can be stressful to deal with tenants who make up their minds to make unauthorized changes to a rental property. That’s exactly why enlisting a professional Frisco property management company to do it for you can be truly convenient and beneficial. 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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