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5 Legal Tips for Your Interior Design Project

You might have seen a show or two on TLC or HGTV and realized a life without crown molding and cerulean-colored walls is no life at all. Before you let your home decor imagination run wild, make sure you have your legal palette covered.

Here are five interior decorating legal tips to keep in mind:

  1. Check the contract. Boston is full of high-end and beatifully restored homes. To preserve these historical masterpieces, leases often include conditions that don't allow tenants to do anything to the interior or exterior of the property. Learn from Courtney Love's decor disaster: Read the contract before you plaster damask wallpaper and ice-blue paint over a famous interior designer's hand-painted and glazed walls.
  2. Get consent. Leases that don't completely prohibit a tenant from making changes often require the landlord's consent before altering parts of the property. This is even true for many homeowners who are members of a homeowner's association. Before you tear down the faux-Mediterranean facade that looks like every other house on the street, run it by your HOA. A casual conversation isn't enough. Make sure to get the consent in writing.
  3. Hire a licensed interior designer. If you find your creative vision would be best executed by a designer, make sure to find a licensed designer. Licensed designers are regulated by law and have to keep you informed on the budget, the scope of the project, and whether your payment will be in the form of a fee, a percentage, or a markup. Licensed designers also have to let you know if they're getting a cut from a services or materials provider.
  4. Prepare for the unexpected. If you're doing a large-scale project that involves knocking down walls, you might run into some unpleasant surprises along the way that could cost you extra time and money. Establish a contingency fund to cushion yourself from the unexpected.
  5. Go with your gut. If the passion is there, but the logistics are lacking, go with your gut and put the paintbrush down. If a half-hearted design attempt reduces the value of the property, you might find yourself in both a physical and legal dump. You could end up owing the difference in value to the landlord or HOA. Unless you're a shoe-in for "Extreme Home Makeover," make sure you have enough time and money to completely finish the project.

Remember, if you have more questions about a specific situation, it may be best to consult an experienced Boston real estate lawyer before you begin your interior design project. Good luck, DIY-ers!

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