Renters making changes to the property

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There are rules about the changes renters (tenants) can make to a property. They will often need permission from the rental provider (landlord).

The rules depend on the type of changes the renter wants to make, the type of rental property, and the length of the rental agreement (lease). A rental provider may require that any changes are completed by a suitably qualified person.

On this page:

Other pages have information about rental minimum standards and urgent and non-urgent repairs.

Changes that can be made without permission

Renters are allowed to make some changes to a property without their rental provider’s permission.

A renter can install any of the following items without permission:

  • non-permanent window film for insulation, reduced heat transfer or privacy
  • a wireless doorbell
  • curtains (but the renter must not throw out the original curtains)
  • adhesive child safety locks on drawers and doors
  • pressure mounted child safety gates
  • a lock on a letterbox.

A renter can install any of the following items without permission, as long as the property is not listed in the Victorian Heritage Register:

  • picture hooks or screws for wall mounts, shelves or brackets on all surfaces except exposed brick or concrete walls. Be aware of asbestos-containing materials and do not screw, hammer or drill into these - for more information, visit Asbestos Victoria
  • wall anchors to secure items of furniture on all surfaces except exposed brick or concrete walls
  • LED light bulbs which don’t need new light fittings
  • low flow shower heads (the renter must not throw out the original shower head)
  • blind or cord anchors
  • removable safety devices such as alarm systems or security cameras, as long as they:
    • do not impact the privacy of neighbours
    • can easily be removed from the property
    • are not hardwired to the property.
  • hardware mounted child safety gates on walls other than exposed brick or concrete walls.

Reasonable changes

If the renter wants to make any other change, they must ask the rental provider’s permission. However, there are changes that the rental provider cannot refuse permission for unless they have a good reason:

  • picture hooks or screws for wall mounts, shelves or brackets on exposed brick or concrete walls
  • hardware mounted child safety gates on exposed brick or concrete walls
  • wall anchors to secure items of furniture on exposed brick or concrete walls
  • draughtproofing in a property without open flued gas heating. This includes installing:
    • weather seals
    • caulking or gap filling around windows, doors, skirting and floorboards
  • a security system if an invoice with the name of the installer is provided to the rental provider at time the consent is requested. The system must be installed by suitably qualified person and must not impact on the privacy of neighbours
  • flyscreens on doors and windows
  • a vegetable or herb garden
  • a secure letterbox
  • painting of the premises
  • modifications to secure external gates
  • any modification which contributes to the conservation of a registered place and is proposed to be undertaken in accordance with Part 5 of the Heritage Act 2017.

There are other changes that the rental provider cannot refuse permission for unless they have a good reason. These are changes that:

  • don’t penetrate or permanently change surfaces, fixtures or the structure of the property
  • are needed for health and safety
  • are reasonable under the Equal Opportunity Act 2010 and where an occupational therapist or other prescribed practitioner has said they are required – these are disability-related modifications
  • give the renter access to phone, internet or television services
  • are reasonable security measures
  • are necessary to ensure the safety of a renter who has been or is being subjected to family violence by another party to the rental agreement. Read more about renting and family violence
  • are needed to ensure the safety of a renter who is a protected person under a personal safety intervention order made against another party to the rental agreement 
  • are needed to make sure the renter is not too hot or cold in the property
  • are needed to reduce energy and water bills.

Reasons a rental provider (landlord) can refuse changes

Examples of where it might be reasonable for the rental provider to refuse to allow the renter to make changes include:

  • the property has heritage protections that would be affected by the changes
  • the changes would mean the property didn’t comply with other legal requirements (such as putting security screens on the windows of a downstairs apartment, if the evacuation rules say the windows must be able to open in an emergency)
  • the changes would significantly change the property
  • the change would require modifications to other premises or common areas
  • the change would result in additional maintenance costs for the rental provider if the changes were not reversed when the renter leaves
  • any action required to reverse the changes is not reasonably practicable
  • the property is about to be sold or vacated and the renter has been given a valid notice to vacate.

Extra bond to cover changes

The rental provider may require the renter to pay an extra bond to cover the cost of undoing changes at the end of the rental agreement.

However, they cannot ask for extra bond if:

  • the extra bond would be less than $500
  • the extra bond is not reasonable when compared to the cost of reversing the changes
  • the rental provider does not want the changes reversed when the renter moves out
  • the changes are funded by a scheme, such as the NDIS, where a condition of the funding is that the rented property does not need to be restored.

If the rental provider does not agree to changes

If the rental provider refuses to allow the requested changes, the renter should first ask why the request was refused, as there may be a good reason.

If the renter thinks the rental provider is refusing to allow reasonable changes, they can apply to Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) for a ruling.

Rules for changes in a short-term rental agreement

If a renter has made changes that a rental provider did not agree to, or that are not covered in the list of allowed modifications, the rental provider can give the renter a written Notice of breach of duty to renters of rented premises (Word, 88KB). The notice should require the renter to do one of the following:

  • restore the property to the condition it was in immediately before the change was made 
  • pay costs (compensation) equal to the amount it would reasonably take to restore the property to its condition before the changes. 

Aside from the list of allowed changes, a renter who has a short-term agreement must not make any changes to the property without the rental provider’s permission. A short-term rental agreement lasts for five years or less.

Even if a rental provider gives permission for changes to be made, they do not have to pay for them.

Rules for changes in a long-term rental agreement

A rental provider and renter can agree on some changes before signing a long-term agreement. If those changes are written into the agreement, the renter does not need to get any other permission from the rental provider before making them.

If the renter wants to make changes to the property after signing a long-term agreement, they must get the rental provider’s written permission. This should be recorded in the rental agreement, using an additional copy of the ‘alterations and restorations requirement’ section (Part F). Both the renter and the rental provider should sign.

Costs and reversing changes

Even if the rental provider gave written consent for the changes, before the end of a rental agreement, a renter who has installed fixtures, renovated, altered or added to the property must:

  • restore the property to the condition it was in immediately before the changes were made, allowing for fair wear; or 
  • pay the rental provider an amount equal to the reasonable cost of restoring the property.

The renter does not have to restore the property or pay the rental provider the reasonable cost of restoring the property if:

  • the rental provider agrees, or
  • it is written into the rental agreement that the renter does not have to.

Any agreement between the renter and rental provider about changes to the property should be recorded in the rental agreement, using an additional copy of the ‘alterations and restorations requirement’ section (Part F). Both the renter and the rental provider should sign.

Changes for renters with disability

The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) may pay for modifications such as ramps, handrails or lever taps to make the rented property safe and accessible for a renter with disability. These are called ‘disability-related modifications’.

Renters must have the written agreement of the rental provider (and the owners corporation if there is one) before they make any modifications. Rental providers can not refuse disability-related modifications without good reason.

The NDIS has more information about home modifications.

Changes in rooming houses and caravan and residential parks

For residents in these types of accommodation, the operator’s consent is required for any modification to the property.

The rental provider cannot unreasonably withhold consent for modifications that are reasonable alterations under the Equal Opportunity Act 2010 and where an occupational therapist or other prescribed practitioner has said they are required - these are considered disability-related modifications.

Safety devices

Renters and rooming house residents must not remove, deactivate or interfere with safety devices, except where it is reasonable. For example, you can dust a smoke alarm or stop the beeping when it has accidentally gone off. You must not take the batteries out to stop an alarm from working.

Safety devices include:

  • smoke alarms or carbon monoxide alarms
  • electrical safety switches
  • swimming pool barriers
  • fire sprinklers, hose reels, blankets, extinguishers, windows or hydrants
  • security cameras in the common area
  • emergency or evacuation lighting
  • hot water safety device.

Forms you might need

To serve a renter with a Notice of breach of duty, use this form:

Renting law reforms

Victoria made significant changes to renting laws in 2021.

Some of the major changes to laws about the renter making changes to the property include:

  • renters can now make certain changes without needing the rental provider’s consent
  • rental providers cannot unreasonably withhold consent for certain types of modifications
  • rental providers can now ask for additional bond if renters make modifications to the property in some circumstances.

Some language also changed:

  • Landlords are now called rental providers 
  • Tenants are now called renters 
  • Leases are now called rental agreements.

You can read about these and other changes in a summary of the reforms or in detailed fact sheets and guides.

Sections of the Act

If you want to know what the law says about renters making changes to the property, you can read these sections of the Residential Tenancies Act 1997:

  • Section 64 – Modifications to rented premises.