Can a Landlord Charge for Painting Costs?

Last Updated: August 16, 2023 by Ashley Porter

All states except Delaware allow landlords to make reasonable deductions for painting needed due to damage by the tenant, but not normal wear and tear.

What is the Difference Between Paint Damage and Normal Wear & Tear?

Normal Wear & Tear Damage
Fading due to sunlight Water damage from plants
Minor scrapes, chips, or cracks Large or deep scratches
Approved, professional paint job Unapproved or unprofessional paint job
Small tack or nail holes Large holes from heavy nails or screws
Scuffs and minor discoloration Stains

Judges often make the following considerations in determining if the deduction is reasonable:

Extent of damage. By understanding the extent of the damage, judges can determine if it is truly damage, rather than just normal wear and tear. Photos of the actual damage are extremely helpful.

Quality of evidence. A judge will want clear evidence that the paint was damaged by the tenant. The easiest way to document paint damage is to take clear photos of the damaged areas. Although not required in all states, it is helpful to have documentation of the condition of the paint at the start of the lease term that is signed by both the tenant and the landlord.

Amount of charge. When determining if the paint charge is reasonable, judges will consider the amount charged to the tenant. Reasonable charges are consistent with local rates and are limited to the damaged area (rather than the cost to repaint the entire unit).

How Much Can a Landlord Charge for Painting Costs?

If the landlord determines that the tenant damaged the paint, they can charge the tenant for the cost of materials and labor. Landlords can demonstrate a reasonable cost for materials by saving receipts and only charging for the materials needed.


Landlords can reasonably charge for the amount of paint to repair the damage, brushes, paint tray, tape, and other materials. Landlords shouldn’t charge the tenant for materials that can be reused many times, like a ladder.

Landlords can determine typical local rates by getting at least two quotes from professional painters before calculating how much to charge the tenant. Landlords can also charge a reasonable amount for the cost of labor.

Can a Landlord Charge to Repaint the Entire Unit?

A landlord can only charge a tenant to repaint the entire unit if the paint is damaged throughout the rental unit. If the damage is limited to a specific area, the landlord should only charge for the cost of painting in the damaged area.

Furthermore, landlords can ensure the charge is reasonable by prorating the useful lifespan of the paint.

What is the Useful Life of Paint?

Paint in a rental unit typically lasts 3 to 5 years, but the lifespan varies depending on the age of the paint when installed, maintenance, installation, and quality. Your local paint shop or hardware store can likely provide you with an estimate of the lifespan of your paint.

Assuming a landlord used paint with a lifespan of 4 years, a reasonable cost of replacement is based on the age of the paint when the tenant moves out.

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