Should I Allow My Tenants to Paint a Rental Property?

Written on March 11, 2016 by , updated on December 9, 2016

Should I allow tenants to paint?You’ve done your job as a responsible landlord, and you gave the entire rental a new coat of paint.

You even did as this article recommends by painting the walls and trim some variation of beige and white or maybe gray and white. You were being very safe and practical.

You’re hoping the fresh coat of color will attract the “perfect tenant”.

Unfortunately, many tenants don’t mind the neutral color, until they move in. So what do you do when your tenant wants to paint your rental property?

Related: Tip #4: Paint Walls a Neutral Color

Should I Allow My Tenants Paint?

Option 1: Let Them, Unconditionally

If you think this tenant could potentially be a long-term tenant, or if you’re having a really difficult time renting this property, you might want to agree to let them paint.

Most people don’t decide to stay or move based on paint color alone. But if you want to establish a good relationship, possibly setting the stage for a long-term tenancy, work with them.

If you agree to let your tenant paint, make sure you approve the colors first, and find out whether your tenant knows how to paint interior walls.

Unless your tenant is a professional painter, it's wise to assume the paint job will be… Click to Tweet

Beware of Sloppy Results

Although painting is a DIY job everyone thinks they can do, rarely do they get it right. They get paint in areas they shouldn’t, like carpet, ceilings, and trim. Or they don’t wait long enough for the first coat to dry, which leaves ugly, visible brush strokes.

If your tenant isn’t a professional painter, either paint the walls yourself, or hire someone to do it. Because both these options require either time or money from you, it’s not a good idea to choose either one. You should only consider doing so, as mentioned above, if this tenant is signing a multiple-year lease or if the property has been vacant for a while.

Examples of Walls Painted by Tenants

Option 2: Let Them, but with Conditions

If you wish to be a flexible landlord, and your tenant asks whether they can paint, you can let them, but with conditions.

For example, tell your tenant that you will be happy to change the paint color, but that you will do so by hiring a professional painter, which they will need to pay for upfront.

And not only that, you will also charge them to paint the place back to the way you had it.

You have a couple of options on how to accomplish getting the repainting fee at move-out time.

  • If your state allows you to charge a nonrefundable fee, charge one, and specify it is a “nonrefundable painting fee.”
  • If your state doesn’t allow landlords to charge nonrefundable fees, let your tenant know that you will be taking the cost of repainting the property from their security deposit.
  • If there is not enough money in the security deposit to cover any damages that might have occurred in addition to the repainting cost, you will send them a bill.

Your tenant might very well decide at this point that your paint scheme looks pretty good after all.

Option 3: Don’t Let Them – At All

The third option you have when your tenant wants to paint is to “just say no.” Tenants who really want to personalize the space might then ask you about removable wallpaper, also called “renter’s wallpaper.”

This wallpaper is supposed to come off easily without leaving any residue on the walls. But you know how that goes. There’s a great chance that (surprise!) glue residue is left. Even if it’s only left in “one little spot,” according to your tenant, that “one little spot” will still make it necessary for you to repaint the walls.

So make it crystal clear to your tenant that if they damage the walls in any way, including “one little spot,” they need to pay to have it fixed.

Normal Wear and Tear

You can charge your tenant to repaint walls they painted without your permission. But just make sure that you don’t keep part of their security deposit for normal wear and tear, which for walls, would be if they left some minor nicks or scuffs on them. Readying the property for the new tenant is part of your job. You can’t charge an outgoing tenant for your basic upkeep costs.


Bottom Line

Spend some time researching popular paint colors to determine what most people can live with or will even like. A neutral color, such as Benjamin Moore’s Manchester Tan, for example, is perennially popular.

The more attractive your property looks, the easier it will be to rent, and the less likely it will be for you to have the dilemma of deciding what to do when your tenant wants to paint.

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9 CommentsLeave a Comment

  • Natasha Korobeynikov

    Hi Laura
    I love your articles, very detailed and informative. Would you mind if I share some of your work on my FB page: Denver Luxury Leasing?
    Thank you

    • Laura Agadoni

      Hi Natasha,
      Thank you! I’m glad you find the articles helpful! Please feel free to link to my articles. Please attribute Landlordology and me.

    • Echo

      My little draw a cross size like baby palm on my houseowner ‘s wall. It used marks. I used alcohol to washed. There is white colour shown up. How much should I pay for it. This wall over 60years old.

  • Joe Trometer

    Hi Laura,

    Great article, thank you.

    I’ve had some great long term tenants where the walls were left in great condition, no painting needed, yet I still wash the walls for a fresh and clean smelling apartment.

    Then on occasion I get the adult tenants that nick and smudge up the walls beyond washing. (I’m totally understanding with children and don’t mind repainting and washing after the young ones:-)

    On a recent unit move-out with two adult occupants I charged them for repainting only 6 wall surfaces yet repainted the entire apartment. It was that bad after 18 months. I even let them out of their lease early for a job change at no charge to them.

    They were shocked ready to fight in court, so I returned their deposits. No big deal:-)

    • Laura Agadoni

      Hi Joe,
      That’s what you get for being nice! I’m sure most tenants appreciate you, though.

      • Leo

        It’s good to be nice.
        The tenants were nice for 18 months and paid the rent.
        Plus they didn’t break anything.
        It’s not worth the stress for a couple of bucks.
        Be a good human being and return the deposit and receive good karma.
        Don’t listen to Laura’s greedy and kind of heartless advice.

  • Lucy Kersey

    Since I have moved into my condo I have had a hard time reaching the property manager in a timely manner for repairs. Upon moving in I had realized that the walls were dirty, marked up and had claw marks from previous animals. I painted the place with the same color they had it. I have reached out to the property manager again. She states the owner is cheap and may not repay me. I still have not heard from her and its been a while. Can I deduct from the rent for the paint and the supplies? I currently live in Orange Park, FL. Thank you.

    • Laura Agadoni

      Hi Lucy,
      I’m not a lawyer, so this is not legal advice. In your case, you can’t charge your landlord for painting you did. You will be lucky if they don’t charge you. If you didn’t like the condition of the walls, you should have negotiated something before you moved in. After that, you must get permission to paint. If you did an unprofessional job, your landlord can charge you to fix it. If you want to paint, you need to work out the details with your landlord. If your landlord won’t communicate with you or paint, you don’t have to move in or renew your lease if you have.

  • Jasmine Wedington

    I really want to rent a specific house (private owner) but they insist on no changes until we have lived there for at least a year. I just want to paint the walls in the bedrooms a traditional color like eggshell white, machester tan, any type of white NORMAL color. Right now the walls a deep burgundy-ish brown-ish. Is there anything I can do to help the feel more comfortable. Im even willing to paint it back normal after I move out. My spouse is a Certified painter and does it for a living and we are willing to pay out of pocket for this. no risk to them! We plan on being there for a long time. The apt we are moving out of we have been there for over 5 yrs. So were long lasting tenant only moving for space.

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