Can Renters Buy Their Own Appliances?

Renters, have you ever lived in a rental with the kind of refrigerator that could only fit a pint of milk and an apple? Ever dreamed of a top-load washing machine that didn't shred your favorite T-shirts? Ever wish you had a dryer that actually dried your towels in the first cycle rather than the fourth?

Sometimes being a renter can mean your appliances are not necessarily ones your building manager would choose for his or her own family home, but rather ones chosen to meet a bottom line. In other words, you might end up with the kind of oven that not only can't fit a whole turkey but also would inevitably undercook it even if it could.

So, what are the rules? Can you as a renter invest in your own appliances? What if you are downgrading from an owned home to a rental and want to bring along the awesome Frigidaire with the extra crisper drawer you took such pride in buying a few years ago?

"I once had a tenant who had their own refrigerator and wanted to bring it along with them when they moved in," says Brooklyn building manager Martin Joseph. "I accommodated her by moving the one that was there and putting it in another apartment."

Some renters can and do bring in their own appliances into their homes. Here's how:
1. Don't Live in Government Housing

"In a rent stabilized or rent controlled situation, the answer is a definite no," says landlord and tenant attorney, Jason Fuhrman. You, the tenant, should be wary about taking the furniture and storing it or disposing of it yourself. Think of it like a college dorm: Just because those spring beds and inch-thick mattresses feel about as good as one that is prison issued, they are the property of the school and cannot be swapped out or upgraded or the whole system will implode -- or at least cost you money.

2. Communicate With Your Management

In almost all cases, all you have to do is communicate that you are going to be bringing in your own appliances. Chances are, your landlord will be able to use the ones in your unit in another unit. More than likely, they will be happy to remove the existing appliances without you having to lift a finger, or call a mover.

"If you want to buy a new appliance, simply tell your landlord you're doing so, and ask him/her to remove the one that belongs to the them," says Fuhrman. "It's a non-issue from a landlord's point of view."

3. Just Because It's Broke, Doesn't Mean You Can Fix It (Legally)

Perhaps your not-very-cold fridge has spoiled one too many gallons of milk. Or maybe you have had it with all four of your burners unable to...burn. Sometimes you have to take matters into your own hands. "Theoretically if the tenant [bought a new appliance] on an emergency basis, then they might work out a `replace and deduct' deal, where the cost is taken off the rent immediately," suggests Furhman.

Although even if you are angry about a broken appliance, your building management is allowed sufficient time to remedy the situation before you can expect that they will pay you back. "One tenant I had was not happy with their refrigerator and the timeliness of the repairs so he purchased one on his own," cautions Martin Joseph. "When we went to court the judge ruled against reimbursing him. He had no right to make the decision to purchase a new [appliance] and deduct it from the rent."

4. Make Sure Things Are Installed Properly

"Liability in case an appliance breaks is always an issue," says Fuhrman, "but with proper installation, it is rarely an issue."

In other words, don't drain your washing machine into your sink to avoid connecting it to the building's plumbing. And for everything else, make sure you are protected by investing in renter's insurance. "The landlord's consent is irrelevant," continues Fuhrman. "If it's your property, and it causes damages, you're the one whose liable."

5. Don't Expect a Change in Rent

The only thing to expect from upgrading your apartment's appliances is a better appliance.

"If the tenant buys their own appliance, they can take it with them when they leave, but that's it," says Fuhrman. "There is no obligation for the landlord to reduce the rent, and no reason for the landlord to do so."

"In my opinion you should always try to accommodate people, or at least try to when you can," says Joseph. For the woman whose personal refrigerator he made room for, it was a good call. He explains, "She is currently renting from me and has been for over seven years now."

Want to know how to deal with other rental issues? Here are some AOL Real Estateguides that can help:
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