One of my first rental properties the tenants asked if they could paint. The walls did not look that bad but I wanted to make them happy so allowed them to do it. The renters painted the entire downstairs area Hunter Green.
In addition to having to prime then repaint after they left, the beautiful stained moldings had paint stains all over them.
Landlords often ask if it is okay for tenants to paint. The answer is clear.
You should avoid letting tenants paint a rental property. The potential negative outcome far outweighs any anticipated positive results. However, there are a few limited times when allowing tenants to paint a rental makes sense.
Before you make a decision, be aware of the pros and cons of renters painting your apartment. This can save you a lot of headaches.
Is the landlord responsible for painting
In many parts of the country, states and municipalities have laws on how often a rental property needs to be repainted.
Typically this is 2-4 years.
As a rental property owner, you will want to be familiar with the landlord tenant laws in your area. Lack of painting may not seem like a big infraction, but why take the chance of getting a fine or opening your property up to other needless inspections.
Just keep to the required schedule and maintain accurate records of each time your property is painted.
You can paint your rental on your own, hire a professional painter or post a help wanted ad. A few good places to find lower cost labor are:
- Facebook (reach out to your network)
Issues that can arise if tenant paints
One of the first things that comes to mind when a renter is allowed to paint their apartment is what happens if there is a mess.
It is easy to imagine a sloppy paint job with missed spots, paint on the ceiling, and even worse, paint on the floor.
If your rental property was a mess to begin with, this may not seem like an issue. But if the walls were not too bad, and the tenants made it worse, you will have another issue to deal with.
The fact is, cleaning up a mess like this may be more difficult than painting it properly in the first place.
Another thing to consider is who will pay for the paint and supplies. If a renter does not have experience with interior painting, they may not apply the paint at the proper rate and require more paint to finish the job.
Paint brushes, rollers, and tarps are expensive, and if not cleaned properly may end up in the garbage afterwards.
Picking out paint quality, color, texture and sheen can add to the challenges when a renter wants to paint. Dark or bright colors can be much harder to cover up when tenants leave and you want to update your rental between tenants.
If you want your rental painted properly, it usually requires some prep work. This may include cleaning the walls, patching small holes, light sanding, applying painters tape and using primer.
Miss any of these steps and you may end up with some unsightly blemishes on the walls of your rental.
What to do if your tenant painted without permission
If you show up at your rental property and notice it was painted, you might wonder what to do. You may get mad at your tenants; want to charge them; evict them; or perhaps nothing at all.
There are typically a few reasons why a tenant might want to paint a rental property.
- The current paint on walls looks terrible
- The renter wants a custom color
- The landlord won’t paint regardless
As a landlord, it is critical that you have a clause in your lease that covers any alterations to the property such as paint. A lease is the final ruling if a tenant is allowed to paint.
It can also be a guide on what will happen if a tenant does decide to paint their apartment without permission.
But even if your lease clearly states a tenant is not allowed to paint, they still may do it anyway. There are a few things you can do.
If it looks good, just be grateful
If a tenant painted your rental and they did a good job, you may just want to leave it at that.
Between the cost of paint and materials, along with the time and effort, they may have done you a favor. Rental properties should be repainted every 2-3 years. Each state has different requirements. Keep a record of when the painting was done.
I would suggest doing a thorough inspection so you are clear on any touch up that may need to be done when the tenant moves out.
You may want to have a discussion with the tenant so there is no expectation of reimbursement for their work. You also don’t want them to think any other changes they decide to make are okay.
Just confirm that they are aware of what it says in the lease and that you will determine upon moving out if there will be any charges.
If paint looks bad, charge at end of lease for repainting
Even if the tenant did a good job painting your rental, they may have used an inappropriate color, sheen or texture.
That can make it harder to repaint when preparing the apartment for new tenants.
While a tenant might be ambitious and think everyone will be happy with their work, they may not have the skill to paint properly.
As noted earlier there are a lot of things that can go wrong when a tenant paints. Fixing a mess may cost more than painting the walls properly the first time
In either case, you want to point out to the tenant that they broke a clause in your lease and discuss how you will recoup the costs.
When you may want to consider having a tenant paint
While more often than not, letting tenants paint your rental will be more trouble than it is worth, there are times when you may consider letting them do it.
You can’t do it yourself
As the owner of a rental property, you can save a lot of money by making repairs and doing maintenance yourself. But sometimes a landlord can not do that. For example age or injury may prevent you from getting on a ladder. In that case, maybe having a renter complete the work could be helpful.
You don’t have funds to pay a contractor
Another reason to allow tenants to paint would be if you can’t afford to pay a professional painter. If you don’t have money in your budget and can’t do painting yourself, there may be no other choice.
May lose renters and hard to replace them
You may not want to permit tenants to paint for any reason. But if having fresh painted walls means so much to your tenant that they will leave otherwise, you may want to reconsider. Especially if you are in a market where it would be hard to replace them.
The rental is not in that great shape and they can’t make it much worse
If your rental is a bit run down, it may be time for a fresh coat of paint. Perhaps you bought it or inherited it in bad shape. You may have long-term tenants who are rough on the walls. Renting to students can often lead to quick deterioration. Whatever the reason, when the walls are in bad shape and a simple paint job can help, it may be worth it to have your renters do it.
What conditions should you allow a renter to paint?
If you do decide to allow your tenants to paint their apartment, you might want to consider a few conditions.
Signed agreement – create an agreement between you and the renters that states exactly what you permit them to paint, what paint will be used, who will pay for it, what measures will be used to protect non-painted areas, consequences of sloppy work and any other terms you might think of.
This agreement will be fresh in your tenants mind as they begin their painting project. You can be sure any drips or spills will be cleaned up quickly.
Repainting fee – In a case where you are not thrilled with a color choice, or skeptical of the tenants painting skills, require a repainting fee. You might use this if the walls are in good shape but the tenant is insistent on the color.
The tenant will get what they want and you can collect some money towards repainting when they vacate.
Be sure to check if your town will allow this.
How to avoid tenants asking to paint the walls
The best thing you can do to avoid tenants even asking to paint the walls in your rental is to give them a property that looks amazing.
When you show an apartment that is in move-in ready condition, most renters will not want to take the extra step of painting. Make sure to touch up any holes in the walls, clean smudges on paint, get floors spotless and have sparkling appliances.
Many municipalities require painting of rental properties every few years. Be sure to keep good records of when you paint.
If you recently painted and are not required to do it again for a while, let incoming tenants know. Your renters may not want to be bothered moving their stuff out of the way to repaint if the walls look pretty good.
Hanging durable wallpaper in heavily traffic areas can eliminate the need to paint for a long time.
Keeping your tenants happy
Owning and managing a rental property is a fantastic investment. Over time, you can reap financial rewards if the property is well maintained. Proper regular painting will help keep tenants from looking elsewhere. Keeping a roller out of your tenants hands will usually contribute to a satisfying landlord tenant relationship.