Renting versus buying: the eternal question. The jury’s still out as to which of these is better in the long run but there are benefits to both. Renting in Sydney is certainly cheaper in the short term, and you have more flexibility. You don’t have to fork out for stamp duty and agent’s fees every time you move house and can often live in a bigger and better house in a more central location. If you buy you are acquiring a long-term investment -“ something to leave the kids, so to speak, and you can invest time, money and love into making your home suit your needs entirely.

But why isn’t it okay to do that with a rental property? The reluctance of tenants to improve a rented home is largely cultural. In Europe, where many more people rent, leases are longer and people move around less, it is very common for a tenant to make improvements to a rented property.

Bizarrely (by our standards) apartments available for rent in Germany are not even expected to have a working kitchen or laundry installed. It is often up to the tenant to purchase and install kitchen cupboards and appliances. When that tenant moves out the kitchen goes with them or otherwise the subsequent tenant must buy it off them. I’ve even heard of a new tenant being forced to purchase a newly laid parquetry floor from a previous tenant. Strange but true.

It is relatively rare for a tenant to modify a rental property in Australia, but it is done. There is no reason why you shouldn’t negotiate with an owner on the potential for making a few improvements. Rental properties are rarely perfect. Making a few of your own modifications may be the way to rent the house you really want. Maybe you have found a cheap house that has good bones but is in need of some attention. Making a few minor improvements may make it liveable.

The most common and basic form of alteration is to install new picture hooks. Adding a coat of paint is another cheap and easy improvement. More expensive and onerous interventions might include installing built-ins or re-tiling the bathroom or kitchen. If you’re planning on staying for a while these measures may well be worthwhile.

It goes without saying that all changes will need to be cleared with the owner first. You may be surprised how open a landlord can be to the idea of someone making improvements to their investment.

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