Most landlords paint their rental units in shades of white or gray since these are versatile colors that are great for showings and easy to maintain. However, your tenants may prefer a splash of color in their living space to brighten up their walls and mood.
The color of a room’s walls can really have an impact on the overall vibe of the space, so you should give your tenants the option of getting a bit creative. If you’re a bit hesitant to let your tenants paint, you can give them some conditions regarding what they can do. You can also add an agreement to your lease to help you with this situation in the future.
Landlord Responsibilities and Rights
There are no specific state laws, regulations, or guidelines regarding landlords and painting. New York City is the only exception since the local ordinance requires landlords to repaint the walls of a unit every three years. Landlords may need to paint them sooner if they become unsanitary through no fault the tenant. The ordinance also states that landlords are responsible for repainting the walls of the rental when the same tenants have lived there for several years in a row.
As a landlord, you also have the right to deny your tenant permission to paint the walls. You also have the power to reject paint colors and shades. The only instances in which you cannot reject a tenant’s request to paint the walls are when:
- There is severe paint-related damage that makes the rental unit uninhabitable
- The property is located in New York City and it’s been 3 years since it’s last been painted
- Lead-based paint was detected in the unit and tenants want it changed as soon as possible
Beyond these responsibilities and rights, always keep your tenant’s wishes in mind, but make sure you outline specific conditions.
Tenants Should Ask for Permission
Before a tenant picks up a paintbrush, they should ask for your permission to paint the rental unit. If your tenant paints without your blessing, you can deduct the amount it would cost to repaint from their security deposit, assuming they don’t return the walls to the original color before moving out. However, if your tenant asks for permission, you can handle the situation in certain ways to ensure both parties are happy.
- Discuss a color. Go over some different color ideas or paint swatches with your tenant to see what they have in mind. The colors in a home can really affect a person’s moods and overall sense of wellbeing, so it’s important to hear your tenant out. With that being said, it doesn’t mean you should allow your tenants to paint the walls in wild, bright, or dark colors. It will be difficult to cover these with a neutral color later. Specifically, shades of red and pink are the most difficult to paint over.
- Don’t paint certain surfaces. If the walls in the rental are made of wood or some other material that is difficult to paint over, don’t let your tenants do it themselves. Most of the time, these surfaces need to be sanded and stripped down before they can be painted again.
- Hire a professional. If you’re worried that your tenant won’t be able to paint the walls properly, you can consider hiring a professional painter to make sure the job is done right. This way you can ensure that someone is putting extra care into protecting the floors and woodwork. If you end up letting your tenant paint, you can deduct any money spent toward cleanup needed when they move out.
No matter what, you will probably end up having to restore the walls back to their original color. However, if the paint job is done nicely and the color suits the space, then you may be able to rent the place as is.
Who Pays For Painting
For most landlords, it’s customary to repaint a rental’s walls between tenancies. You can expect the standard paint job to last you about a year. If you use good paint and do the job carefully, it may last you 3-5 years.
If tenants wish to repaint early on in their lease term, it’s reasonable to expect them to pay for paint and materials. Over the years, paint ages and loses its luster. Sometimes, old paint can cause a hazard to the property’s conditions and residents’ well-being. In this case, it would be the landlord’s job to handle repainting, since it’s essentially a maintenance issue.
As a landlord, you are also responsible for maintaining a habitable home. If the walls need to be repainted because of damage caused by the tenant, then the costs would be deducted from their security deposit or you could have the tenants pay up front.
It’s always a good idea to hear your tenant out and consider their requests. Negotiate with them and come up with a compromise. Oftentimes, the landlord will pay for the paint and supplies while the tenant puts in the time and effort (given that they do a good job).
Add a Special Clause to Your Lease
To ensure that there are no mix-ups in the future, consider adding a special painting clause to your lease agreement. You can divide the guidelines based on move-in and move-out. Here is an example:
PAINTING. Landlord hereby grants permission for Tenant to paint the interior walls of the above-listed property with the following requirements:
- In order to paint the interior walls, Tenant must be granted Landlord’s permission.
- Before painting commences, Tenant must obtain approval for all colors and paint finishes from Landlord.
- All painting materials and supplies must be purchased by Tenant.
- All surfaces not being painted must be properly covered and/or protected during the painting process. Tenant will be responsible for all damages to the property caused by paint and/or painting supplies.
Sign a Painting Contract
If you don’t want to amend your lease, you and your tenant can sign a painting contract. This will contain the same information as the suggested lease clause, except it is a separate document dedicated to a painting agreement. No matter what kind of document you use, make sure you have something in writing. This will definitely get you out of trouble in the future. Remember, painting doesn’t have to be a mess.