renovating with tenants in place

Renovating With Tenants in Place – 15 “Dos & Don’Ts” You Need to Know

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Welcome back to Our Two Family house!  This post explores the dos and don’ts of renovating with tenants in place.  

We’ll offer best practices on how to renovate an adjacent or nearby apartment – not the unit in which the tenants reside.  

For example, these are dos and don’ts for renovating apartment #1 while you have tenants in apartment #2, not for renovating apartment #2.

Ready?  Let’s go!

How to Renovate With Tenants in Place: The “Do” List

Do: Read Your Lease

Regardless of which unit you plan to renovate, the best place to start is with your lease.  

Read it, and re-read it, then read it a third time, triple checking for any clauses about renovations. 

If you need to enter their unit, be sure to give your tenants the length of notice required in your lease.

Do: Check Your Local Rules

After checking your lease, you should check both your municipality’s and state’s rules about tenants’ rights during a renovation.  

Only after you have done this due diligence should you consult a random blog on the internet for its two cents on the matter.  (That’s us!  This is our two cents.  We hope you’re enjoying it.)

Also, look up your town or your HOA’s quiet hours.  Abide by them to avoid trouble.

Do: Be Respectful

Think about what it is/was like to be a tenant.  Do unto others.  What would you have appreciated in this instance?

One way to do this – you could ask when their kids go to bed, and only do quiet projects (taping! Painting! Ordering materials…) after that hour.  

how to renovate with tenants
Derek spent many a night after 8pm taping this room!

Do: Enjoy That Cash Flow

Stash that rental cash flow to help support the renovation.  

Even if you are just saving up what would otherwise be spent paying extra on your mortgage, keep your financial cushions fluffy until the renovation is complete.

You’re improving your property and renting it at the same time = double financial win!  

Do: Relish the Fun

Renovations are fun, no matter when you do them!

Do: Emphasize the Positives

Explain to your tenants or show them how your project will benefit them.  

Take our kid’s bedroom makeover, for example.  

By gutting and insulating it, the room above it, in the rental apartment, would become warmer.  That bedroom on the second floor was a thorn in our side for a good long time – it faces the wind and has two exterior walls.  In the wintertime, boy did it get cold.  

Reminding our tenants (and ourselves!) that the downstairs project would eventually make their apartment better seemed to help.

Do: Consider Showing Your Tenants the Finished Product

If you can, it’s nice to show your tenants the finished product of your renovation.  

Especially in a common space, they’ll appreciate improvements like new front stairs, gardens, or pavement.

Many renters wonder where their rent money is going (in New Jersey, the answer is: taxes, every time. But I digress.) A visible improvement to the property may allay this query for a while.

construction on rental properties

So, consider showing your tenants the finished renovation.

Something like a new laundry space, garden, or front porch might spark their enthusiasm!  I mean, who doesn’t love a good before and after home renovation?

Do: Give Them Notice

Give them notice.  

Lots of notice.  

Don’t be a landlord doing construction without notice.  

Do: Be Extra Nice

Cookies never hurt.  

Neither does clearing a parking space after a snowstorm.

In other words – now is the time for welcome baskets, and holiday gifts, and laying the appreciation on, thick!

landlord doing construction without notice

Do: Pull a Permit

Whether you’re renovating with tenants in place or renovating with an empty property, play by your town’s rules with construction permits.  

Keep your butt covered, ya hear?

Do: Hire Licensed and Insured Contractors

The revolving door of contractors in and out of your property could spark some discomfort, particularly for tenants with families.

If you plan to hire a contractor, make sure it’s someone who is licensed and insured. Ask your contractor who will be doing the work and showing up for the project.

We once had a contractor who hired random workers from the side of the road (…yes, really) for the stuff he didn’t want to do. It wasn’t a good scene, nor was it good work, and I’ll resist speaking about immigration laws here.

Bottom line: make sure you’re confident on who exactly will be working in your house.

How to Renovate With Tenants in Place: The “Don’t” List

Don’t: Make Too Much Noise

Your tenants will probably hate the noise.

Heck, even I hate the noise, and I’m the one that spearheads it!

Try to work during daylight hours.  Cut outside if you can.  Notice when they’re gone for the day at school or work and take advantage of those hours for the noisy stuff, if possible.  

Don’t: Avoid Communication

Unfortunately, during a renovation, you’ll have to communicate more often with your tenants (yes, I know this sounds shallow, but both tenants and landlords like to be left alone).  Think “we need to turn the water off for just a second…” 

You also might need to fix something in their apartment even if the renovation is in your own.  Such as, “Turns out this outlet in your closet is wired all wrong – oops! – mind if we go in and replace it?”

Just send the text or make the call.  Full steam ahead on your project – don’t delay, even if it’s annoying and awkward!

tenant rights during construction

Don’t: Overestimate Their Patience

While renovating with tenants in place, know that they will get tired of the disturbances like contractors arriving, etc.

If they’ve never owned a home before, they might not appreciate your hard work or logic behind the renovation.  

Plus, if it’s a common space, they’ll probably be really annoyed that their routine is disturbed.  We once replaced our entire front staircase to our house – see also our Home Curb Appeal Before and After – and chose to do so in between leases to avoid a huge hassle.

In other words, try to keep the peace. 

Don’t: Tell Them *Too* Much

Your tenants don’t need to know everything.  

Sure, people love before and after pictures, but maybe don’t describe every gory detail, like gutting walls and rewiring electric. 

So long as you’ve got your cute butt covered with permits and you’re following the rules, don’t give them the play by play. They’ll be fine without it!

renovating with tenants in place

Hopefully these dos and don’ts of renovating with tenants in place will help your next renovation go smoothly!

If you do sensible things like follow your lease, look up local laws, and be respectful, you’ll be admiring your “after” pictures with an appreciative tenant still in place.

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renovating with tenants in place

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