Can I Change the Light Fixtures in an Apartment or Rental?

When you rent your home, it can be tough to know what you can (or cannot) change, and one common question among renters is “can I change the light fixtures in an apartment?”

You can generally change the light fixtures in an apartment, as long as you re-install the original fixtures before moving out. With that said, different landlords have different policies, and you should always check your lease (or directly with your landlord) before making significant modifications.

Alright, now that we’ve covered the general rule of thumb, let’s walk-through the other details you need to know in order to change those ugly old fixtures!

1. Choosing the Right Light Fixture

Now that you’ve decided to change the light fixtures, you will first need to explore what kinds of fixtures are available. Keep in mind that apartments usually offer limited space and choosing optimal lighting fixtures can make all the difference in a room. A few options to consider are:

Flush Mount Fixtures

A flush mount fixture is basically a dome-shaped light fixture that is mounted flush to the ceiling. Also, there are semi-flush-mount fixtures that hang just below the ceiling.

These may be the type of light fixtures that are already hanging in your apartment. They are usually relatively inexpensive and tend to be the standard fixture that landlords choose.

This type of lighting gives the illusion of higher ceilings, making the rooms look larger. These work well for pretty much any room in your home.


A sconce is a type of light fixture that is affixed to a wall in a way that uses only the wall for support. The light is usually, but not always, directed upwards and it does not have a base on the ground. They can be used to provide general room lighting, but are mostly used decoratively or for accent lighting.

Sconces are typically installed in pairs to provide balance, but there is no actual rule. If you only have the option to hang one that is ok too. They are ideal in a bathroom to save vanity space.

Sometimes they are hung in the bedroom, in the form of swing arm sconces, placed next to the bed to provide a source of task lighting and save some nightstand space.

Track Lighting

Track lighting is one of the most effective lighting sources for a small living space. It provides surface or accent lighting without the clutter of too many floor or table lamps. Since there are many heads on track light fixtures, you have the option to deliberately direct light wherever it is needed.

The advantage of track lighting is that it only requires one installation. It’s a great option when you need lots of light in a compact space.

When deciding which type of light fixture you would like to hang in each room of your new home, it is beneficial to decide what activities will be performed in each room and what type of light will be required. There are 3 different types of light, each used for a specific purpose.

2. Different Types of Light

Ambient Light

The main source of light in each room is referred to as general or ambient light. This type of lighting provides a room with overall illumination.

It can refer to natural outdoor light coming in through the windows, or normal room lighting coming from ceiling lights or table and floor lamps. Ambient light gives the room an evenly dispersed light for the space.

Task Lighting

Task lighting provides extra light for specific tasks in a room that may already have ambient, or general, lighting. Most rooms in an apartment are small enough that one, or even two, fixtures will provide adequate light.

Sometimes it is beneficial to have a lamp on your desk or side table for focused reading, or maybe, some under the counter lighting in the kitchen for things like measuring when cooking. Task lighting is a great option when looking to improve functionality in a room.

Accent Lighting

Accent lighting is used to draw focus directly to a particular area or object. Perhaps you have artwork, plants, or even a bookshelf that you would like to draw attention to. The perfect way to achieve this effect is accent lighting.

This can be achieved using candlelight, track lighting, or sometimes even sconces. Accent lighting is used mostly to create visual interest in a room.

Once you decide which type of lighting you need in each room, you’ll also need to select the specific lightbulbs you plan to use. Let’s cover lightbulbs next.

3. Choosing the Perfect Lightbulb

If you have recently shopped at any store that sells lightbulbs you have probably realized that there a pretty large and confusing lightbulb section.

Once you have selected your new fixtures, it is important to equip them with just the right lightbulb to ensure you are getting the best lighting result.

Here are a few quick tips regarding lightbulb choices and what they mean, so you don’t have to spend all afternoon in the lightbulb section trying to understand the minutia on each box.

Bulb Color

The color of the bulb is determined by using the Kelvin temperature scale. Lower Kelvin numbers means more yellow light, higher kelvin number make the light whiter or bluer, respectively.

  • Soft White is in the yellowish range and is perfect for bedrooms, living rooms, or dens
  • Warm white is between the yellowish and white ranges and nice for kitchens and bathrooms
  • Bright white is between the white and blue ranges and works well in kitchens or bathrooms with chrome or white fixtures
  • Daylight is in the blue range and works well for reading


Each lamp or fixture that you purchase for your home should come with instructions providing the maximum wattage rating.

You can choose whatever color light you like best. However, when choosing the wattage, be sure to follow the recommended rating to prevent your fixture from overheating, and possibly catching fire.

Now that we’ve covered fixtures, types of lighting, and lightbulbs, let’s cover your options for how to change your light fixtures.

4. How to Change a Light Fixture

The safest option for changing a light fixture, always, is to call an electrician. However, if you choose to change them yourself, make sure to do it safely and turn off the electricity. 

Here are 5 basic steps to help you change your light fixtures:

  1. Make sure the power is off
  2. Remove the old fixture
  3. Locate the white (neutral), black (power), and green or bare (ground) wires and remove wire nuts
  4. Attach these wire nuts to the new fixture
  5. Secure the new fixture to the ceiling or wall

To get a clearer idea of how this works, I found this short video super helpful:


Always remember that investing in quality lighting will make a huge impact on the overall feel and look of your space. If your lease/landlord allow you to change the lighting and light fixtures in your apartment, that can be a great way to customize your home to make it more comfortable and inviting.

Figure out what compliments the rest of your décor and use that to help you set the right tone. Don’t be afraid to use more than one source of lighting in each room. Multiple layers of light may be just what you need to create the perfect atmosphere.

You can use a variety of table lamps, floor lamps, and fixtures to make your home feel extra cozy. Happy lighting ????

Related Questions

Can I change the faucet in my apartment?

Changing the faucet in your apartment is a question you should discuss directly with your landlord. They may not approve, given that if it is done incorrectly, you could cause significant damage. As a result, it’s not a good idea to risk changing your faucet without written permission from your landlord.

Are tenants or landlords responsible for changing lightbulbs?

Renters (tenants) are typically responsible for replacing lightbulbs within their rental homes. This includes the purchase of new bulbs. However, this can vary and you should check your lease for the specific expectations. For example, some landlords prefer to do the replacement themselves.

Matt & Heather

Welcome to our blog! We have a home, but not much time. So our goal is to make big improvements with limited time and money. If you're in the same boat, check out more of our stuff, and join the conversation!

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