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I have a good relationship with my landlords, and there are some small improvements that I would be willing to do to the house in exchange for, depending on the situation, either

  1. permission
  2. permission + materials
  3. permission + materials + compensation (e.g. adjusted rent).

As examples (small jobs to start with)

  1. I already do pretty heavy yardwork because I enjoy it, but I would want their permission before doing serious pruning
  2. the driveway is cracked and I would be willing to remove the weeds and fill the cracks if they would buy the materials
  3. They have a really nice deck that needs to be stained, and I would be willing to do this in exchange for materials and something like 1/2(?) of the going rate of a professional.

I would appreciate advice from people who have made such arrangements (as a renter or especially from the landlord's side).

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While an interesting question I don't think it's on topic for the site as it's not about a particular improvement you wish to make. Please do post questions about any problems you have while making these improvements. –  ChrisF Aug 22 '11 at 21:08
    
@ChrisF not sure why the downvotes, even if off-topic, it is not clear that this question meets the definition of a downvote (show no research, is not helpful, is unclear. As discussed on related meta question, it was within the scope of the sites' vague FAQ. –  David Aug 22 '11 at 22:29
    
The system adds a down-vote if a question is closed as off topic - there's nothing I can do about that. All votes are anonymous so I don't know who gave the other one. –  ChrisF Aug 22 '11 at 22:48
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closed as off topic by ChrisF Aug 22 '11 at 21:09

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3 Answers

I have been a renter in a similar situation to you. The types of projects I did were major landscaping, installing hardwood floors and trim, replacing old appliances, plumbing repairs, and pest control.

In general you are going to have the easiest time with low cost, low risk work. By low risk I mean risk of messing up something serious that ends up costing the landlord a lot to fix, or injuring yourself or others (immediately or for future tenants).

Start with a smaller projects, like the pruning and filling cracks. Describe the work you'd like to do and get approval in writing. Include in your agreement a way to be reimbursed for minor expenses by turning in receipts when the work is completed. If the landlord is not local, be sure and send pictures of completed work so you can show how nice it is. This will build their confidence for allowing you to do future work.

I never had any problem getting reimbursed for out-of-pocket expenses that were minor or agreed to in advance. I think you may have more difficulty getting paid for your labor. I never got paid for mine outright, but I did negotiate a lower rent.

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thanks for your answer... to clarify, I wrote 'compensation' to be more general, but lower rent is what I had in mind. –  David Aug 21 '11 at 17:20
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I'm actually a landlord and here's my thoughts. As our poster suggested - I would start by doing small projects to show that you have the skills needed. That will also show that you are even capable of finishing a project.

If at this point you are able to estabilish a good relationship with your landlord, suggest doing bigger stuff. Offer to write up some sort liability waiver stating that if you break you back staining the deck, you are not going to sue.

I wouldn't expect to get any compensation(except for materials) from any sensible landlord. That really opens up a can of worms in terms of liability and such. I do all work myself on my rental units, but in any case I would rather hire someone for twice as much than pay my tenants.

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i am a landlord (with just one property) and i agree with poster #2. i am almost always willing to pay for materials if a job is agreed upon in advance. however, even in that case, i reserve the right to select the materials myself (what brand/color of deck stain, for example.) but i have never negotiated rent in exchange for labor. basically, if the tenant wants a higher quality of life (more attractive deck) while they live at the property, i'm happy to fund it. but paying the tenant (even through reduced rent) is a different story and brings up all sorts of potential problems. the exception that i can think of is if i were ever to rent to a licensed/bonded/insured contractor. in that case, i might be very happy to work out some agreement, but it would be done with a very stringent contract. like many landlords out there, i lose money on our property ever month. no matter how much "upgrading" my renter may want to do, my mortgage on the property doesn't go down--and the bank isn't letting me negotiate lower payments with them!

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