Renovating an apartment could be a win-win. Tenants get a better unit and landlords can increase the value of their properties. However, there are specific rules governing how upgrades should be made. Such rues are meant to minimize the impact on tenants, while giving landlords the flexibility to make improvements.
When a Landlord Renovates
Under California law, landlords must renovate to keep their units up to code. They also must make repairs when a problem endangers the health or safety of a tenant. For example, if a carpet is moldy or worn out, the landlord must replace it. Additionally, landlords have the right to upgrade the apartment, but they must follow the law in this regard.
Renovations While Occupied
Tenants are entitled to the “quiet enjoyment” of their space, and a renovation cannot interfere with this. For example, if the noisy renovation of a nearby unit keeps a tenant up at night or interferes with her ability to enjoy an outdoor space, the landlord must offer compensation. Additionally, landlords must give reasonable notice of at least 24 hours before they begin renovations.
Negotiating With Tenants
If a landlord wants renovate while a tenant is occupying a unit, there are several ways to limit the impact on the tenant. He could limit construction to the tenant’s work hours or offer a rent reduction. If the renovation project impacts a tenant’s ability to live in her unit — for example, if it’s a kitchen or bathroom remodel — a landlord might consider completing the construction when the tenant is on vacation or offering to pay for her hotel room.
A tenant’s lease usually specifies the changes that she can make to the apartment. The lease may stipulate, for example, that she can paint the walls, as long as she returns them to their original color before moving out. If a tenant wants to make a permanent change that isn’t covered in the lease, she should consult with her landlord, who has the final say. Tenants also can make temporary changes to their living spaces — for example, they can swap out lighting fixtures or change shower heads — as long as they return the unit to its original condition before moving.