1. Be awesome
…not in a Barney Stinson way, in a paying your rent on time EVERY month kind of way, in a never peeving your neighbors with loud music kind of way, in a being super agreeable and easy to deal with kind of way. Be the tenant you’d want if YOU were a landlord. Your landlord will be much more likely to give you things (and you’ll accrue good karma).
2. Be clear—in writing
Although it would be my instinct to approach my landlord in person and win him over with my awkward smile, conventional wisdom says that you should make renovation requests in writing. For one thing, there’s a record of it. For another, your landlord might be more likely to take it seriously. This strategy comes into play more significantly when your requests are for actions required by landlords, a la habitability issues, rather than requests for superficial improvements.
3. Offer to do work yourself
There are a couple ways you can ingratiate yourself in this circumstance. The first is to offer to make the repairs yourself, and deduct the supplies (and maybe even hours) from your rent. Only do this if you’re actually be capable of it, or you’ll just make things worse. Also, make sure you keep records and receipts so there will be no quibbling later. The other method, for bigger projects, is to find a contractor and get an estimate yourself. The easier the process is for your landlord, the more likely she will go through with your wishes.
4. Offer to pay (part)
If what you want isn’t really required, but rather some improvement that you personally desire, you might offer to pay for it yourself, or at least split the cost. For example, if you’d like to upgrade to energy efficient appliances, there might be a financial incentive for either you or your landlord, depending on who pays for electricity and water. (Many states also offer rebates for these kinds of purchases, so do your research.) Keep in mind that if you offer to pay for things now, like nicer landscaping or a fresh coat of paint, your landlord might be more likely to pay for things in the future.
5. Know your rights
In general, landlords are responsible for a fresh coat of paint when you move in. They’re also responsible for keeping the property safe. If your landlord is unresponsive to issues that endanger your in your home, you may have to seek recourse with city inspectors or courts. Hopefully it doesn’t come to that, but you should know what your local laws entitle you to, as a tenant.