Rental restrictions and HOA regulations can seriously impact what you can do on your balcony. However, many landlords and HOA boards include these rules for safety and convenience.
Considering there’s not much you can do about the rules, how can you work with them? Well, in this article, we’ll cover some tips on how to maintain a renter friendly balcony while also being able to decorate your space. Of course, most of these tips are suitable for HOA rules, too.
Apartment Rules for Renters
Renter rules are a logical place to start. In some areas, they’re more restrictive than HOA regulations, but in others, they’re much freer. It ultimately depends on your landlord, the building, and various other factors.
The best place to start with renter friendly balcony rules is your lease. Ideally, a landlord should include specific rules relating to balcony use. If there’s a rule saying something isn’t allowed, it’s best to avoid it.
However, if there’s no rule in the lease relating to a specific issue, use your discretion. Some things (such as planting real grass on your balcony) are a no-brainer, whereas others can be modified with a bit of thought.
So, here are what we consider to be the main issues you might face, and how to deal with them to keep a renter friendly balcony.
If your balcony is looking a bit drab, it makes sense that you might want to decorate it. Often, a quick coat of paint can do wonders for revitalizing a space.
But, there might be reasons why a landlord doesn’t want you to paint your balcony walls. For example, doing so might mean they can’t inspect for waterproofing or structural integrity.
The easiest workaround is to ask your landlord for permission. Sometimes, they will allow you to paint as long as your paint the space back to its original color when you move out. Failing that, temporary wallpaper is a great option for covering an old wall. You just peel off the backing and stick down. It won’t work as an option on uncovered balconies, though.
Another option is a roll of reed fencing. You could prop it up with pots or secure it to features on your balcony. It doesn’t involve any invasive construction, meaning you can just take it down when needed.
This point applies to more than just hanging curtains, but it’s a good example to use. It’s a useful tip for any job that might involve drilling, such as hanging lights or art.
Drilling is often a big no-no in rental apartments because it’s an invasive job. While you might be great with a drill, it means more work for the landlord when you move out. Plus, there’s always the chance you might catch a wire or something in the wall.
But, all is not lost. You can still have outdoor curtains in a renter friendly apartment. Instead of hanging a curtain pole, use adhesive hooks. Some support up to 22lbs per hook, giving you plenty of flexibility with what you can hang.
We’ve discussed other options for hanging curtains on a balcony elsewhere, so check that article out.
Generally speaking, a landlord won’t ban you from putting furniture on your apartment balcony. After all, it’s implied that a balcony is a usable space. Ensure your balcony is actually big enough for you to sit on, though, as something like a Juliet balcony really isn’t designed for that.
However, there might be restrictions on how much furniture you can put on the balcony, or the type of furniture you can use. It’s not so much a landlord restriction but a weight one.
While balconies are typically designed to hold weight, there’s not a single answer for how much this’ll be. You can use 40lbs per square foot as a general rule, although it might be lower.
As such, you should avoid heavy furniture if possible. It shouldn’t be too much of an issue considering you’ll have to get it into your apartment in the first place. Opt for furniture that’s lightweight and portable for convenience.
In our article about small balcony chairs, we discuss various options. Many of these are suitable as lightweight balcony furniture.
Also, stick to furniture made from bamboo if you want something natural, or plastic if you’re not bothered. Both have good structural integrity but don’t weigh much.
Although not always a condition in tenancy agreements, renter friendly apartments may ask for plants and furniture to be secured in place. It’s more common on higher apartments as protection against the wind. However, condos and homes might include it as theft prevention.
The easiest way to do this is by drilling a small hole in your plant pot (easiest with plastic pots) and using a zip tie. Fix it to the balcony railing, and your plant should be secure in the wind.
For terracotta and metal pots, the easiest option is to wrap rope around them. These materials need special drill bits, and you can crack the pot if you don’t do it properly. While rope might not look great, it definitely beats a flying plant pot.
You can also buy plant pot stabilizers that keep pots in place. Make sure you measure the pot first so you know what size to buy.
A co-owned balcony is one shared by more than one apartment. If this applies to you, anything you put on it must be renter friendly for all. In these situations, landlords may have stricter rules about weight, items, and design.
For example, there might be conditions about uniformity, restricting the design your items can have. It can be quite an intricate topic, so if you need a renter friendly balcony that you share with others, get everyone together to discuss any proposed changes.
HOA Regulations and Balconies
HOA restrictions for balconies are where things get interesting. Along with standard safety concerns, many also cover a neighborhood’s integrity and image. As such, you might find rules covering design and decoration.
It’s fair to assume that HOA regulations will cover everything mentioned above about renter friendly balcony rules. So, below we’ll discuss things that are more unique to HOAs.
Again, start by checking your HOA agreement. If something isn’t mentioned in there, there’s typically nothing stopping you from doing it. But, if you’re unsure, check with your HOA board.
A common HOA rule for balconies is what you can store on them. Some ban everything from plants and BBQs to bike storage and hanging clothes. While these rules can seem restrictive, there’s often good reason for them.
For example, a large plant in a pot might look lovely, but what happens if a gust of wind catches it and throws it off the balcony? The same is true for a BBQ or anything else not fixed down.
So, from an HOA perspective, many of these rules relate to safety. Granted, some may relate to the apartment’s image, but there’s not much you can do about that.
There’s unfortunately not much you can do to get around these rules. Aside from fixing everything to the floor, you could store BBQs indoors until you use them.
Plants deserve their own mention because HOAs can have a lot of rules about them. Just because your HOA allows plants doesn’t mean you’re free to buy whatever you want.
For example, many HOAs insist plants are put in leak-proof containers. Over time, running water can damage balcony flooring. It’s particularly noticeable on wooden decking, a common sight on condos.
However, water can damage all other balcony materials, including concrete and metal. While some water damage is expected due to the weather, overflowing plant pots can speed things up.
You might also be restricted from railing planters and hanging/climbing plants. These are often considered safety hazards or nuisances for your neighbors.
Luckily, all this is quite easy to get around. Just buy leak-proof pots (or saucers) and be careful with which plants you buy. If you want to grow climbing plants, install a trellis and make sure the plant is kept under control.
Another big sticking point in HOA regulations is holiday decorations. Most rules state when you can put them up, what you can use, and how you put them up.
The only solution here is to use the adhesive hooks mentioned above. HOAs typically state you can drill to hang decorations, so just use non-invasive options.
Aside from that, you’ll just have to follow the rules. It shouldn’t be too much of a problem, though, as it’s easy enough to wait until December to hang your Christmas decorations.
Final Thoughts on a Renter Friendly Apartment Balcony
Most rules for a renter friendly balcony rely on common sense. If you think it’ll cause damage, just avoid it. Also, it’s always worth checking with your landlord first if you can’t see something mentioned. Tenants are generally liable for any damage they cause to their rented property.
So, when setting up your renter friendly balcony, check over the rules. The same is true for HOAs, although they can be a bit more restrictive. Either way, there are usually workarounds for the restrictions that keep both sides happy.