What are a tenant’s rights to improve rental property?

UPDATED: Feb 19, 2014

Advertiser Disclosure

It’s all about you. We want to help you make the right legal decisions.

We strive to help you make confident insurance and legal decisions. Finding trusted and reliable insurance quotes and legal advice should be easy. This doesn’t influence our content. Our opinions are our own.

UPDATED: Feb 19, 2014Fact Checked

Get Legal Help Today

Compare Quotes From Top Companies and Save

secured lock Secured with SHA-256 Encryption

What are a tenant’s rights to improve rental property?

I recently opened a small business; a juice store. I found the location and really loved it because the owner was letting me put a drive up window in the back of the building. I sell espresso and healthy smoothies. Now the owner died and the son and daughter tell me that I can’t open the drive-thru. I don’t have the drive-thru in writing as I didn’t expect the owner to die. However, it was talked about on several occasions in front of numerous witnesses and I installed a window, paid a plumber and an electrician. I was really counting on having it and without it I most likely will not be able to make ends meet. I have a lot of money and time invested in my business and want to know what my rights are.

Asked on February 19, 2014 under Real Estate Law, Idaho


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

As a general matter, a tenant has no rights to improve rental property--he or she does not own it, after all--apart from any rights given in a lease or other contract. With no written lease or other agreement covering the drive through, the new owners (the son and daughter) do not have to let you do it; they can restrict you to uses, etc. in the lease itself. You may, however, have a claim to recover the money you put into the improvement, under either the theory of unjust enrichment (it would be unfair for them to get the benefit and increase in value of the improvements you made) or possibly promissory estoppel (even without a written agreement, you can sometimes enforce, at least to the point of receiving compensation for breach, oral or verbal promises if it was reasonable for you to rely on those promises and you did rely on them to your detriment). It would be worthwhile for you to speak with an attorney, to see if you do have enforceable rights under some  theory other than landlord-tenant law, since, as stated, landlord-tenant law would typically give you no rights in a situation like this without a written agreement.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although AttorneyPages.com has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

Get Legal Help Today

Find the right lawyer for your legal issue.

secured lock Secured with SHA-256 Encryption