Category Archives: Ready to Rent: Tips & Tricks

Painting Your Rental: Alternatives to Builder’s Beige

Rental unit owners are frequently caught in a bind when it comes to interior paint color:  they are constantly advised that they should choose neutral shades (read “Builder’s Beige”) throughout their rental.  But what if they want to enhance the appeal of their rental with more interesting paint colors? Is beige the only safe choice?

Color Psychology:  Paint Color Can Foster Positive Emotion

One thing to consider is that the color in our environment can impact how we feel. While a renter’s furniture may have a better chance of fitting in with neutral beiges, greys, and the latest “greige”, non-neutral colors could have positive emotional impacts on a renter. When thinking about paint color, experts say you should consider the purpose of each room. Then choose a color that will encourage the emotions you want that room to foster:

  • Pale blues, greens and lavenders can have a calming effect. Consider using these colors in rooms where a renter will rest and relax, such as the bedrooms.  These colors have also become more popular in bathrooms, as a way of recreating a spa experience of rest and rejuvenation.
  • Green is also a great color for a home office—it is considered the “color of concentration” and if you’re going to be surrounded at work by one color for a while, green should be a top contender!
  • Warm tones, such as yellows, oranges, and reds are more friendly and inviting. Consider using these colors in the living room and entryway, or in rooms where family and friends gather, such as the living room, as they’re thought to stimulate conversation. Be careful with bolder shades, especially red, which has been shown to increase heart rate and blood pressure, stimulate activity and also increase appetite!
  • There is a reason why neutral colors have such broad appeal in rental units and for new homes: they can be relaxing and tranquil, but can also be warm and inviting. If pale blues and greens are too “cooling” for your tastes, consider taupe or a grey/beige, as they are also considered calming, but at the same time can inject more warmth into a room.

Photo by Iriana Shiyan

Rental property owners should consider room size when choosing paint colors.  With the right color choices, small rooms can feel more spacious and airy and large spaces can feel more intimate:

  • A small room can appear to be larger if its walls are painted a lighter color and if the ceiling is white.  Bold colors on walls tend to emphasize their proximity.
  • To make a large room feel more cozy and intimate, choose medium to dark earth tones or warmer neutral colors.  Also, consider painting the ceiling a lighter shade of the wall color.
  • Create the illusion of a higher ceiling by selecting the same light color for the walls and the ceiling.

Room Square Footage:  Size Matters (When Choosing Paint Color)

Rental property owners should consider room size when choosing paint colors.  With the right color choices, small rooms can feel more spacious and airy and large spaces can feel more intimate:

  • A small room can appear to be larger if its walls are painted a lighter color and if the ceiling is white.  Bold colors on walls tend to emphasize their proximity.
  • To make a large room feel more cozy and intimate, choose medium to dark earth tones or warmer neutral colors.  Also, consider painting the ceiling a lighter shade of the wall color.
  • Create the illusion of a higher ceiling by selecting the same light color for the walls and the ceiling.
Beautiful white, blue and beige living room

Photo by Iriana Shiyan

Using Multiple Colors to Create “Flow” (and For Minimizing Frustration!)

Choosing one paint color can be challenging.  Choosing multiple colors that work together throughout a home can be so frustrating and time-consuming that you may want to throw your hands up in the air and forget the whole painting project in the first place.   Perhaps that’s why so many rentals are “builder’s beige” throughout!

Color Wheel Basics 

The color wheel is a helpful tool to see the relationship between colors and hues. The three primary colors are red, blue, and yellow.  Primary colors combine with each other to make three secondary colors:  orange, green, and purple.  Six tertiary colors result when secondary colors are combined:  yellow-green, blue-green, blue-violet, red-violet, red-orange, and yellow-orange.

Using the Color Wheel to Select a Color Palette 

If you’re having a hard time finding colors and shades that work well together throughout the rental home or apartment, consider these four options:

  • Monochromatic colors: use different shades of the same color.
  • Complementary colors: are located opposite each other on a color wheel.  This selection can tend to give a more formal feel to a living space.  One color should be subtle and the other color should be bolder.
  • Split complementary colors: are more daring.  Choose a main color on the color wheel.  Next find the complementary color and select the colors on each side of the complementary color.
  • Related colors:  are located next to each other on the color wheel.  These color combinations tend to be more casual and informal.
color wheel

Image from

Tips for Using Multiple Colors Throughout a Home

  • Select one color to use on the trim throughout the rental home or unit.  This helps create flow from room to room.
  • Consider having each room’s colors be a slight variation on those of the adjoining room’s colors, or use one primary wall color throughout the house and use accent colors on fireplaces, mantels, bookshelves and other built-ins.
  • Interior designers often suggest picking an item of furniture, or a favorite piece of art as the starting point.  As a rental property owner, you can’t do that, but you can choose your color scheme based on the carpet or floor color, as well as the wood trim color.
  • Use swatches of the colors you think you want, and then also select a swatch for each of those colors that is one shade darker and one shade lighter.  Put them on the walls you’re thinking about painting, and see how they look together and also how they vary throughout the day as the light in the room changes.
  • Don’t agonize over these choices too much!  If you’re taking too long making these decisions, or if you don’t want to make them in the first place, check out the color palettes on display at the local hardware store.  Paint companies hire color experts to put these color combinations together – and if someone else has done it for you, perhaps there’s no reason to reinvent the (color) wheel!
| July 17, 2012 More

Rental House Rules: What to Include in Your Lease

tenant signing leaseIf you’re going to rent your house out, you likely have some pretty concrete ideas of how tenants should conduct themselves while they occupy your home. Unfortunately, whether or not your tenants will automatically share these ideas is anyone’s guess. For this reason, most experienced landlords use their lease contracts to outline policies related to a number of common issues–not only does this help prevent tenants from unwittingly causing problems, it gives landlords grounds to evict the truly unruly. Beyond guidelines for paying rent, you many want to address the following in our lease agreement:

General Conduct
Tenants should conduct themselves in a manner that doesn’t unreasonably disturb other tenants or neighbors. You may want to establish “quiet hours” for your property so that it’s clear when music needs to be turned down and parties need to end. If you’ve split your rental house into two or more units, you should make it clear how common areas, such as the yard, may be used. In addition, you should make it clear that drug use and other criminal activity won’t be tolerated.

Spell out exactly where tenants should and should not park. To prevent your driveway or front yard from becoming a junk yard, you may want to require that non-operational vehicles be removed from the premises after a short grace period.

Garbage Removal
Believe it or not, getting tenants to properly dispose of waste and recyclables can often turn into a major headache. Make it clear that trash needs to be disposed of in a timely manner, that the garbage cans must be taken to the curb on trash day, and that hazardous materials and large items that don’t fit in the trash can must be removed from the property by the tenant.

Alterations to the Property
Everyone wants to make the place they live feel like home, so it’s important to be up front about what changes tenants can and can’t make to the property without consulting you. You should address paint, landscaping, and anything else you think tenants may be tempted to modify.

Proper Use of Outside Space and Common Areas
To ensure your property stays neat, tidy, and hazard-free, let tenants know what they can store outdoors, in common hallways, etc. Barbecues, sporting equipment, and children’s toys are examples of items that frequently find homes on balconies, decks, and in yards.

Proper Use of Plumbing Fixtures
Tenants can often be careless with what they pour down drains, put into the garbage disposal, or attempt to flush down the toilet. Indicate that plumbing fixtures should be used for their intended purposes only, and repairs necessitated by anything outside of standard use will be charged to the tenants.

If you’re going to allow pets, detail the number and type of pets you’ll allow. Require tenants to get your approval before bringing a new animal into the house. You may also want to mention that the yard should be kept free of pet waste. If you’re not going to allow pets, you may want to get it in writing that pet-sitting is not permitted, either.

While it’s certainly fine for tenants to have overnight guests from time to time, you want to prevent a situation where more people are living in the house than you have on the lease. For this reason, it’s a good idea to include some general guidelines on the acceptable frequency and duration of overnight visits. You may want to have tenants request permission if they plan to have guests for longer than a week or so at a time.

Make it clear that tenants need to report maintenance issues immediately, and in writing. You should also describe how repairs will be handled, e.g. that tenants can expect emergency repairs to be addressed within 24 hours and non-emergent repairs to be handled within a week. Remind tenants that if they cause damage, they’re responsible for the repair bill.

Expected Condition Upon Move Out
Write out your expectations for the property’s condition at the end of the lease: paint returned to its original color, nail holes patched, surfaces clean to the touch, all personal belonging and debris removed, etc. This way it will be clear what tenants need to do to get their security deposit refunded.

| June 22, 2012 More

Common Lease Violations and How to Deal With Them

Lease violations, whether large or small, are an inevitable part renting your house out. No one is perfect, and even the most responsible tenants are likely to pay the rent a day or two late, play their music a little too loudly, or cause minor property damage from time to time. As long as these practices don’t become habit, most landlords are inclined to let small issues slide, and for good reason—turnover costs are steep, it can be difficult to find good tenants, and being overly punitive doesn’t encourage lengthy tenancies. On the other hand, there are several common lease violations that you should take care to protect yourself against, and take swift, firm action to remedy when they occur.

Unauthorized Pets
Tenants sneaking animals into their rentals is a common source of landlord-tenant strife. Even if you choose to allow pets, you may find that tenants add to their furry families without consulting you, increasing wear and tear on the property without your consent.

To prevent pet violations, spell out your guidelines in the lease. Include a clear description of what will happen if the tenant is discovered to have an unauthorized pet on the premises, starting with a fine and ending with eviction if the situation isn’t remedied. Before they move in, let your tenants know that you intend to schedule quarterly “maintenance visits” to test smoke alarms, replace furnace filters, etc. If they know you plan to visit the property every few months, they’ll be less likely to try to keep an animal on the sly.

If you suspect that your tenant is keeping a pet you haven’t agreed to, get photographic evidence, if possible, then follow through on the terms of your agreement.

Overstaying Guests
While it can be difficult to monitor and regulate the frequency and duration of visits your tenant receives, it’s important to include language in the lease regarding your expectations for overnight guests. To prevent semi-squatters from taking up residence without permission, landlords like to limit overnight stays to a few nights per month unless they give written consent for other arrangements.

The Landlord Protection Agency recommends including a lease stipulation such as, “Occupancy by guests staying over _7_ days will be a violation of this provision. In the event any other people occupy and live in this rental, in any capacity, without Owner’s written consent, it will constitute a breach of this lease and it is agreed that the rent will be increased $500.00 per person per month, and the Owner at his sole option may terminate this lease.” Once the tenant signs, you have the legal right to enforce the lease.

Property Damages
From excessive grime to torn up carpet, holes in the walls, broken fixtures, and other horrors, property damage is not only upsetting—it can quickly eat into your rental profits. The best way to protect yourself from tenant negligence, recklessness, or malice is to thoroughly document the state of the property immediately prior to move-in.

Investing in a professional inspection can be useful for this purpose—it gives you detailed, written documentation of the state of the property from a neutral third party. Another excellent approach is to take detailed photographs of key aspects of the property, then have the tenant sign off on the photo log as you conduct the move-in walk-though.

While you need to respect your tenant’s privacy, conducting semi-regular property inspections is a good way to keep things from getting out of hand. Oftentimes, simply driving by the property will give you a reasonable idea of whether or not the tenants are taking reasonable care of it, and whether intervention is required.

Home-based Businesses
When you rent a residential property to a tenant, you intend it to be used as a residence. While some types of freelance activities may technically violate this expectation without causing any actual extra wear and tear or nuisance, if your tenant is regularly hosting clients, shipping and receiving large quantities of supplies, or using the rental as a production zone, you have the right to put a stop to it.

| June 4, 2012 More