Can A Landlord Force Renovations? (Find Out Now!)

Ossiana Tepfenhart
by Ossiana Tepfenhart

Being in an old apartment is great, but it also means that you have a risk at hand. It’s generally deemed wise to renovate a building every 15 to 20 years. Some landlords even swear by it. However, things get tricky when you have a lease and a tenant in the building. Can a landlord legally force renovations in a building?

A landlord has the right to renovate the apartment as they see fit, especially if the renovations are seen as necessary to maintain a good standard of living. Landlords can also evict tenants if renovations call for it—but only if there is a stipulation in the rental agreement for this act in most states.

If you were recently told that your landlord is going to force renovations on tenants, you might wonder what you can and cannot do. The answer to this is far from simple.

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Before We Begin: Legal Disclaimer

We are not lawyers, and we also know that laws vary from state to state. If you find yourself in a situation where you may need to move due to renovations, contact a legal professional to find out what you can do. In most cases, you will need to be compensated for temporary housing.

With that said, we’re going to show you what we were able to learn about the general state of renovation laws pertaining to tenants.

Does A Landlord Have The Right To Renovate Apartments?

Landlords own the property that they lease out. They have the right to renovate them as they see fit. In the event of major repairs or plumbing upgrades, it may even be a legal requirement. It is their job to keep apartments safe and livable, after all.

However, they can only renovate your apartment if there are certain stipulations being met. This is where many landlords get it wrong.

Can A Landlord Force You To Pay For Renovations?

No. If you didn’t damage the apartment to the point that it needs renovations, you as a tenant are not liable. If you have this issue, don’t bother reading the rest of the article. Call a lawyer immediately to find out what you can do.

When Is The Smartest Time For A Landlord To Renovate An Apartment?

If each apartment unit is getting modernized and updated, the best time to do it is after a renter ends their lease for the year. They are not obligated to renew the lease, especially if they have a reason like must-have renovations.

When Can A Landlord Legally Renovate Apartments?

A landlord generally needs to get tenants to work with him if they want to have a smooth renovation process. In most cases, this is what would have to happen in order to start renovations:

  • If the landlord is worried about blowback, they may include a clause on the lease that gives them the right to evict for renovations. This obvious issue is that people will see this on the lease and ask questions. This is enforceable in a fair number of states. However, you should still talk to a lawyer the moment you see this on a lease or get an eviction letter.
  • If the landlord can wait until the end of the lease, then they have the right to refuse to renew the lease until the renovations are done. This is the most common way to make an apartment more livable without ruffling feathers.
  • If renovations must be done ASAP, they will have to work through the standard legal routes to do so. It’s often best to work with your landlord when there is a renovation on the table. After all, it’ll bring you a snazzy new apartment.

What Would A Landlord Have To Do To Legally Renovate Your Apartment Before The Lease Is Up?

Let’s say that you have a standard lease that does not bring up the right to evict. If this is the case (and it usually is), the landlord has limits as to what they can do.

  • Before renovations begin, your landlord will have to give you a heads up about them. This will include information about the dates expected, plus the type of renovations they are doing.
  • In some states, landlords have to compensate you and help you find lodging if they choose to renovate. Landlords are not allowed to charge you rent if you have to vacate the area for the days of the construction.  They also may be legally obligated to give you a place to stay in some cities. Even if you don’t have to leave, rent should be lowered due to the temporary drop in livability.
  • When the renovations are meant to happen, your landlord should help make the move as easy as possible. Depending on where you live, this may include protecting your belongings or helping you pay for storage. These are called landlord concessions and will be discussed prior to the construction. Ideally, all parties will be in agreement over the plans.
  • If you are able to come back, then your landlord will be able to give you a heads up. Most apartment renovations take under 14 days to do. So, you should be able to come back.

An Important Notice About Month-To-Month Leases

Most of the legal protections that are afforded to renters only are there for people who have yearly leases. Month-to-month leases generally are considered to be “instant evicts.” All that a landlord who has a month-to-month rental needs to do is refuse to renew the lease in the next month.

What Should You Do If Your Landlord Does Not Follow Proper Guidelines During A Renovation?

If your landlord tries to evict you for renovations, refuses to compensate you, or otherwise tries to browbeat you out of a property, you have a serious problem on your hands. The best thing that you can do is call a real estate attorney who practices in your state, and ask them what to do.

Your landlord may not be aware of what the local laws allow him or her to do. It’s also possible that they are aware, but don’t particularly care. Having a lawyer on your side ensures that your rights are protected.

Can A Landlord Force Tenants To Pay For Renovations?

Generally speaking, a landlord cannot force tenants to pay for renovations that he or she wants to do. They also aren’t allowed to ask tenants to pay for renovations that have been deemed a necessary repair by the state. Renovations, upkeep, and repairs are all the landlord’s responsibility.

However, that doesn’t mean tenants are always off the hook.

In every tenant agreement, there will be stipulations on what the tenant can and cannot do to an apartment. If a tenant does something that’s barred (such as painting a room), then the tenant technically damaged their apartment. Since this went against the terms of the lease, the tenant would be liable for the cost to return the unit back to its original state.

Can You Complain About A Landlord Who Wants To Renovate Your Apartment?

A landlord who wants to renovate your apartment is in his right to do so, but he doesn’t have to be a jerk about it. There are rules and laws that are there to protect both parties. In most cases, your landlord is just another guy who wants to make ends meet.

If a landlord is purposefully making your life hard, it will be pretty obvious from your day-to-day. Should their efforts violate the law, there is nothing wrong with complaining to your local housing board. You have every right to let them know what they’re up to.

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Related Questions

What is a tenant’s right to quiet enjoyment?

A tenant’s right to quiet enjoyment means that your tenant has the right to live in their home without an unusually high amount of noise or action. Landlords are required to provide a certain level of quiet. Things like having too much traffic, construction work nearby, or even noisy neighbors can cause a breach of this right.The exact standards of quiet enjoyment tend to vary from place to place. It is best to find out what your local laws or code enforcement documents have to say.

Do landlords always have to make concessions when they renovate a leased apartment?

Technically, they don’t always have to. However, it’s a mark of professionalism and a smart business move. If they don’t offer concessions, renters are more inclined to sue or withhold rent. In some cases, the concessions that a landlord is expected to make may actually be part of the law.As far as landlording goes, it’s often best to err on the side of generosity. A high turnover rate isn’t actually that good for tenants and it can actually work well for your rep as a businessperson.

How much time in advance should a landlord have to enter an apartment?

Whether it’s for repairs or renovations, a landlord should give their tenants a minimum of 24 hours notice before they enter the home. In some states, the notice can be even longer at 48 hours.

Ossiana Tepfenhart
Ossiana Tepfenhart

Ossiana Tepfenhart is an expert writer, focusing on interior design and general home tips. Writing is her life, and it's what she does best. Her interests include art and real estate investments.

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