Are You Allowed to Renovate Your Apartment in NYC?

beautiful renovated house

When you live in an apartment in NYC, the first step before deciding to renovate is determining ownership of the property. You can generally act as a contractor or hire one to complete a renovation project if you own the space. It would be up to you (or the person or agency you hire) to secure whatever building permits are necessary to complete the work.

If you rent an NYC apartment, the first rule ensures that the landlord, property management company, or building owner approves the project. After that, unauthorized changes could generate a fine, charges against your security deposit, or trigger a lease violation notice.

Several renovation possibilities are implementable for renters in NYC. Here are some ideas to consider if you’re ready to update the look and functionality of your space today.

1. Check with the Owners Associations

NYC apartment buildings are regulated with varying strictness levels when renovations are happening. You might have restrictions on when you can work on the space, where laundry appliances can be installed, or the types of fixtures used. A technical advisor is often needed to sign off on the eventual plans you intend to implement.

Co-ops are often stricter than condos, but both are easier to create a renovation project than a rented apartment. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or hire a contractor to help sort out the administrative side of this process.

2. Update the Kitchen First

painted kitchen cabinets

One of the top complaints about NYC apartments is how outdated the kitchen is for most tenants. Since the typical landlord doesn’t want to spend an entire year’s worth of rent to modernize this space, it’s a place where you can make some changes without much resistance. Replacing the knobs is relatively straightforward (since you can switch them back when moving out). Painting often needs permission, so consider using printed contact paper.

You can also add adhesive hooks to the inside of your cabinets to create more storage space. 

3. Update the Bathroom


It doesn’t take much to give a bathroom an updated feel. For example, replacing the knobs at the sink and the showerhead can be a newer, more modern place. Another option is to update the toilet seat or install a bidet, especially since most renters don’t need to ask their landlord for permission before adding these details.

If you need additional space for towels and toiletries, consider adding shelving units that sit above the toilet. For example, a medicine cabinet could replace the mirror for extra storage.

4. Design Your Living Space

Bright House

One of the most common reasons an NYC apartment feels small involves using the space. If you don’t have enough room for your possessions, consider moving the sofa, chairs, and tables around to improve traffic flow. 

Consider using a queen bed instead of a king to give yourself more usable space if you have a small bedroom. It might be possible to downsize, donating some pieces that are no longer used. When you want to keep items, but free up more space, professional storage solutions in NYC can help manage your circumstances affordably.

5. Use Each Room

Does your NYC apartment have a formal dining area that you never use? If so, it might be time to repurpose that space to become a home office, a sitting area, or an entertainment space. Consider how each room makes your living areas comfortable and practical to use so that you can enjoy your home at another level.

6. Change the Lighting

bathroom lights

If your rental agreement doesn’t allow for renovations, you can still update how the space looks and feels by changing the lighting. When an apartment doesn’t receive a lot of natural light, it can feel cozy – which means it’s pretty cramped. Adding more lamps can brighten each room without requiring a permit. 

If you have permission to make a few changes, consider talking with your landlord about updating or modernizing your lighting fixtures. You’ll update the look of the space while increasing the amount of light you receive.

When neither is an option for your circumstances or budget, a temporary privacy window film installs on the interior. You’ll get more natural light without having everyone see what you’re doing. 

7. Upgrade the Flooring


This project almost always needs landlord approval. However, if you’re willing to pay for the cost, most won’t object to the project because it can increase the value of that apartment. In some situations, you might even be reimbursed for some of the costs you face when working with a contractor.

Apartments in NYC can be renovated, some easier than others. However, please remember to review your lease to ensure you know what to expect before you get started. 


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