Landlord Painting Responsibilities: How Often Should They Paint?

Landlord Painting Responsibilities: How Often Should They Paint?

Last Updated: December 6, 2023 by Jessica Menefee

There are no legal requirements that a landlord has to paint between each tenant. However, landlords are required to maintain a habitable living space (also called a warranty of habitability) for their tenants.

What Are the Benefits of Painting a Rental Property?

The benefits of painting a rental property include:

  • Aesthetics – A freshly painted home is one way to transform the look of the property. It creates a fresh and clean feeling
  • Increased value – Reports show there is a 107% return on investment (ROI) for interior painting
  • Shows potential tenants you care about the property – A landlord who cares for their property is likely to keep up with property maintenance and repairs

How Often Should Landlords Paint?

It is recommended for landlords to paint every three to five years. However, this is just a general guideline as it can depend on the quality of paint, the tenant, and other factors. It is also important to check local laws and guidelines as areas do have specific requirements.


New York City requires landlords of occupied multiple-dwelling apartments to paint every three years.

It is important to look over your unit and make a checklist to determine if it is time to paint. Your list should include:

Quality of the Last Paint Job

A professional paint job can last between 5 – 10 years. However, its lifespan directly correlates to a few important factors including:

  • Prep work – Paint lasts longest when the walls are cleaned, repaired, primed, and sealed
  • Quality of the paint –  Inexpensive paint typically won’t last as long as high quality paint
  • Type of surface – Using the right type of paint for the surface your are painting on is essential. Additionally, painting on surfaces like stucco walls lasts much longer than painting on wood
  • Paint Color – Darker colors fade faster, especially if the area has a lot of direct sunlight
  • Professional vs. DIY – A professional painter uses professional tools and preperation to apply paint, this typically has a longer lifespan than DIY paintjobs

Paint Damage

Paint in a rental property can be damaged from the tenant, from a low – quality paint job, or due to the paints age. Complete a maintenance check of the property to determine if your rental has any of the following:

  • Scratches, scuffs, or stains
  • Cracks or peeling
  • Water marks or water damage
  • Large or frequent paint globs
  • Excessive holes

If your rental has any of the above, it’s time to paint.

High or Low Traffic Area

You may not have to paint all areas of the unit. High-traffic areas like the kitchen will likely need to be painted more frequently than a closet. While you should check all areas of the property, if you need to save some money, you can potentially skip certain areas.

Don’t forget to check baseboards and ceilings.

Property Vacancy

If a property is vacant, your timeline may need to be adjusted.


You paint the interior of your property every 3 years. The current tenant had a 2-year lease and is moving out. But, they have a highly-qualified friend who wants to sign a 2-year lease, so you paint before the new tenant comes in.

It is much easier to paint in between tenants. A vacant house can help painters get done faster and avoid damage to tenant belongings. A new tenant will be pleased to have a freshly painted unit. In addition, if needed, you can photograph the apartment after the new paint job is complete to help you advertise your rental.

Legally Required

While there is no federal law that states that a landlord has to paint between tenants. Some areas do require landlords to paint within a specific time frame.


New York City requires landlords of occupied multiple-dwelling apartments to paint every three years.

Review your local laws to determine if your area has a similar requirement or if there are any other paint-related rules and ordinances.

For instance, landlords are required to notify tenants if there are lead-based paint hazards on the property. Although lead-based paint was banned in 1978, HUD estimates that 35% of homes in the U.S. still contain some lead-based paint. HUD and other state organizations offer grants to offset the costs of professionally removing lead-based paint.

Quality of Rental Unit

If you live in a competitive rental market, there may be some incentive to paint more frequently. A freshly painted home complements a high-quality rental or can boost the appearance of an older home.

On the other hand, if you live in a more relaxed area, you can potentially go a little longer before painting.

High-Quality Tenants

If you have a great tenant or want to attract a new high-quality tenant, offering to paint the interior of the property is a great rent concession.

While a paint job can be a bit expensive on the front end, it can pay off in the long run. Getting and maintaining a great tenant that pays on time each month saves you from the expenses and time that come with frequent tenant turnover.

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Do Landlords Have to Paint Between Tenants?

Typically, landlords are not required to paint their property in between tenants.

However, there are a few cities that have specific requirements about how frequently they need to paint.


West Hollywood, CA requires that landlords paint rental units and interior common areas every four years.

Landlords should be sure to stay on top of all maintenance items, including painting, as waiting too long can end up costing more money down the line. It is a good idea to regularly complete property inspections and maintain a schedule for more expensive maintenance items such as painting.

How Much Does It Cost to Paint?

The average cost to professionally paint an entire house’s interior ranges between $1,500 and $24,500. However, painting the house yourself can cost as little as a few hundred dollars.

Obviously, the cost varies based on:

  • The size of the area you are painting
  • If you need to paint over a darker color
  • Whether you’re doing a touch-up or a complete paint job
  • The type of paint used

Check out the chart below for an average range of costs.

Square footage  DIY Professional
Small room (approx. 240 sq ft) $150 – $300 $480 – $1,440
Medium room (approx. 480 sq ft) $390 – $550 $960 – $2,880
Large room (approx. 880 sq ft) $610 – $800 $1,760 – $5,280
Entire home (1,500 – 3,000 sq ft) $1,500 – $3,000 $4,500 – $21,000

Should I Hire a Professional Painter or DIY?

The average room takes 6 to 10 hours to paint (prep work, painting, and clean up). For some, their time is more valuable than the cost of hiring a painter. Here are a few questions to consider when determining if you should hire a professional painter or DIY:

  • Level of experience– If you aren’t an experienced painter, the project can take much longer than you are bargaining for. Paint can easily drip, look thin in some areas, or streak on baseboards and ceilings.
  • Budget – Professional painters aren’t cheap. If you don’t have room in your budget for a professional painter, you can save money doing it yourself. You can also consider just painting the highly trafficked areas or rooms that need it most to cut your costs.
  • Number of rooms – Painting one or two rooms in a 1,200 square foot, one-story house is probably something you can handle on your own. However, if you need to paint an entire 3,000 square foot, two-story home (or any two-story home), you should probably call a professional
  • Special considerations – If the walls need repair, have specialty features (like old-world style texture), or there are tall ceilings, it is best to call a painter. Nothing gives a red flag like a landlord painting over electrical outlets, splattering paint on the countertops, or globs of paint all over the walls.

Before you make a final decision, get a few bids from local paint companies. They may have additional insight about which rooms need to be painted, special deals for landlords, and more.

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Can Landlords Charge Renters for Painting Costs?

Typically, landlords cannot charge renters for painting. However, if a tenant damaged the walls or broke the painting policy in the lease agreement, a tenant may be charged part of their security deposit.

How Much Can a Landlord Charge for Damaged Paint?

Landlords can charge for the cost of materials and labor. However, you should also consider the age of the paint when it was damaged.


If the paint is less than one year old, it is ok to charge the full cost of replacement. However, if the paint was 4 years old, it is not reasonable to charge an extensive amount, unless there is a significant amount of damage.

Check out the chart below to determine an appropriate deduction for damaged paint:

Age of paint at end of tenancy Deduction for damaged paint
Less than 1 year Full cost
1 to 2 years Half of cost
2 to 3 years 25% of cost
4 years or longer No deduction

These time frames also should be adjusted based on the quality of paint used and its expected life.

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Can Renters Paint Rental Units?

The rules for individual leases vary. Some landlords may allow tenants to paint, while others do not. If you allow tenants to paint, here are some additional rules to consider:

  • Painting Clause If you allow tenants to paint, be specific on the type of paint they can use and add any limitations. You may also want to require the tenant to paint the color back to the original color (with specifics on the paint color, brand, and type) at the end of the lease or pay a painting fee
  • Security Deposit – Notify the tenant that if any unapproved alterations are made, it is considered beyond normal wear and tear and will be deducted from their security deposit

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What Is the Best Paint for a Rental Property?

Here are the paint selection criteria you should consider:

  • Durability –  Semi-gloss is said to be the most durable paint type, while adding a nice luster to the walls.
  • Color – Neutral colors are the best option for a rental property. Beiges, greiges, and whites make a space feel brighter and larger. They are also most appealing to the majority of people as tenants will have a wide variety of styles and decor
  • Budget – While you need to select a paint option within your budget, you get what you pay for. Higher-quality paints typically offer better coverage and durability. This can help reduce the amount of paint touch-ups needed or let you go longer in between painting, saving you time and money in the long run