how often should landlords paint rental properties

Navigating the maze of responsibilities for painting rental properties can often leave landlords and tenants in a bind. Who holds the brush, and how frequently should walls get a refresh?

Key Takeaways:

  • Generally, landlords bear the responsibility for repainting rental properties to maintain them.
  • Repainting frequency varies, but landlords often aim for every three to five years to keep properties appealing.
  • Tenants may be responsible for repainting if they’ve caused damage beyond normal wear and tear or altered the paint without consent.

Who is responsible for painting a rental property, and how often should it be done?

The responsibility for painting a rental property typically falls on the landlord. This upkeep is essential for property maintenance, ensuring the space remains attractive and habitable for current and future tenants. However, tenants might be liable for painting costs if they cause damage beyond the expected wear and tear or make unauthorized changes to the wall colors.

Landlords often repaint their properties every three to five years to maintain an appealing aesthetic and protect the walls. This frequency can be adjusted based on the property’s condition, tenant turnover, and specific lease agreements. Incorporating a painting clause in the lease can clarify expectations and responsibilities, preventing future disputes and ensuring both parties are on the same page regarding property maintenance and aesthetic upkeep.

In this article, we’ll explore who is responsible for painting, when to repaint your rental, how to prolong paint durability, and whether tenants should choose their own colors!

Table Of Contents On Landlord Painting Responsibilities

What does the law require when painting rental properties, and what are the best practices to ensure a clean and fresh property without overspending? Find everything you need to know about painting rental properties below.

Painting Rental Property: Why Does It Matter?

Most people are accustomed to the walls of their homes having a relatively fresh coat of paint, even if they live in rental property. A good paint job doesn’t just add aesthetic appeal; it also protects the walls of your home.

Below are the main reasons landlords should be concerned with maintaining the paintwork of their rental property.

Freshly Painted Walls Attract Renters

Painting Rental Property: Why Does It Matter?

The smell of fresh paint and the look of bright, new walls can help make your property more attractive to new tenants. Touring a freshly painted rental property is a real psychological boost for prospective tenants.

New tenants are also likely to treat recently painted walls more respectfully than old dingy ones. They are less likely to start sticking things to the walls and are more careful about not scratching them when moving furniture.

Painting can increase the value of your property, especially if you paint both the interior and exterior walls.

An Affordable Improvement

Painting can be an affordable way to upgrade and refresh a property. It’s much more affordable than changing the floors or installing a new kitchen or bathroom, for instance, but it can lift the property in the same way.

Repairing dings, nicks, dents, and holes in the walls is a simple process, and with a fresh coat of paint, people viewing the property will never know those dings, nicks, dents, and holes were there.

When you want to upgrade your property between tenants, painting is one of the least expensive ways to have a significant impact.

Required By Law

Some cities have laws to regulate the upkeep of rental properties, including painting. The law might require that landlords repaint every two to four years. For example, in New York City, landlords must repaint every three years if the unit is in a multiple-dwelling building.

These types of laws are rare, but they do exist. Review your state and local jurisdiction’s rules to determine if this will apply to any of your rentals. There are no laws that specifically require that landlords paint between tenants.

In most cases, the law is more general and says landlords must maintain habitable premises without defining what that is. Tenants can ask the landlord to paint the walls if they believe they are unsanitary, for example, if there is mold on the walls. They can also complain if they feel that lead paint has been used.

Improves The Ambience Of The Home

Repainting can help remove odors or stains left behind by activities such as smoking or vaping. Using low-VOC or zero-VOC paint can also improve the interior air quality. These paints release fewer toxins that can irritate the respiratory system, especially for those with asthma or allergies.

If you have plaster walls, paint can prevent plaster dust and generally keeps dust and dirt to a minimum.

It Protects Your Walls

A paint job can also protect against standard wear and tear. It can guard exterior walls from the effects of sun, ice, and snow and protect interior walls from sun and moisture damage. Interior walls are generally made from materials that absorb moisture, so providing a paint protection barrier can make a significant difference.

Paint can also protect against everyday wear and tear damage, such as chairs scraping against the walls and potential damage caused by pets and children.

How Often Should Landlords Paint Rental Properties?

But exactly how often do you need to repaint? There’s no set frequency for how frequently a landlord must paint an apartment, as it depends on the lease agreement, wear and tear, and local regulations. However, landlords often repaint every three to five years to keep the property in optimal condition and attractive to future tenants. Exterior walls need painting every three to 20 years, depending on the material and the environment.

Focusing on the interior walls, how often you must repaint depends on several factors.

Paint Quality

It can be tempting to save money by buying cheap paint, but you may spend more in the long run. Expensive paints usually have more color binders, meaning you need fewer coats and less paint to get your walls the color you want. More expensive paints also tend to be fade-resistant.

Wall Preparation

A do-it-yourself paint job will likely last less time than a professional one because the underlying walls probably won’t be as well prepared. Experts say a professional paint job should last approximately 5-10 years. If the walls underneath aren’t adequately prepared, the paint can peel and crack surprisingly quickly after painting.

Preparation means proper cleaning, removing anything attached to the walls, such as nails, and filling and sanding down any holes. Applying primer and base layers in the right color can also greatly affect the outcome and how long it lasts.


Low-traffic areas, such as guest bedrooms, are likely to need painting less often as they are less exposed to human traffic, which is common in children’s bedrooms and dining rooms.

Walls in areas exposed to heat, moisture, and other potentially staining materials, such as kitchens and bathrooms, will likely need to be painted more regularly.

Walls, Ceilings, Or Baseboards

Ceilings rarely need repainting unless they are exposed to smoke or moisture. But if you’re clearing out a room for painting, it can be a good idea to do the ceilings while you have the opportunity.

It’s important to paint baseboards, door frames, and trim when you paint walls, as they often see the most natural wear and tear in a living space.

Turnover Timing

While landlords aren’t required to repaint homes between tenants, turnover timing will significantly influence when you choose to paint since it’s much easier to get the work done when no one lives in the home. People moving in and out frequently can lead to increased wear and tear.

If you’re getting new tenants yearly, you may need to repaint every two or three years, if not sooner, due to damages. If you’re dealing with long-term tenancies, you can likely go longer than that but may need to repaint sooner at the tenant’s request.

Tenants can request their landlords to repaint if the current condition of the paint significantly affects their living experience or if it’s visibly deteriorating. While landlords are not always obligated to comply, reasonable requests, especially concerning wear and tear or health concerns like lead paint, are often honored.

Lease Matters: Include A Painting Information Clause

Consider adding a section detailing the painting rules when setting up your lease agreement. This can lay out your commitment to maintaining the property’s paint and how often the tenant can expect the walls to be repainted. It can also lay out rules about what the tenant can do regarding painting.

Some tenants like to add their personal touch to a home with interior decorating, such as new paint. But it’s up to you as a landlord whether you allow this. You can include a strict “no alterations” clause in the contract if you don’t want the tenants to do any painting. If you choose to allow painting, you can place restrictions in the least on how this is to be done.

You can include clauses that:

  • Restrict color choice or require that the tenant checks the color with you before painting. You don’t want the tenants painting the walls bright orange as this may be a turnoff for future tenants or difficult to paint over.
  • Restrict which parts of the property can be repainted. You may be fine with bedrooms being repainted and personalized but prefer the main living area to be left as is.
  • Specify the types of paint that can be used—for example, low-VOC—and specify whether the tenant can paint themselves or needs to use the services of a professional painter.

Discussing painting when negotiating the lease at the start of a contract is often a good idea. You may word the lease differently for a tenant signing a three-year contract vs a rolling month-to-month contract.

While allowing tenants to paint your property can pose a risk, you may find yourself saddled with the expense of fixing a bad paint job. However, tenants are likely to stay longer when they have a sense of autonomy to make the property feel like home.

Do Landlords Have To Paint Between Tenants?

While no universal law requires landlords to paint between tenants, doing so can be a good practice for property maintenance and appeal. Painting between tenants ensures a fresh, welcoming environment for new occupants and can help maintain or increase the rental property’s value.

In most cases, landlords are not required to repaint their property between tenants. If the new tenant is satisfied with the apartment’s condition and signs the lease agreement, the walls can remain unchanged.

Only in a few places is it required by law for landlords to paint a rental between tenants. In some areas, such as rent-controlled communities, landlords may have to paint rental properties when each tenant moves out. In New York City, landlords must paint every three years, while landlords have a four-year requirement in West Hollywood.

Most areas don’t have any regulations, however. As long as interior paint meets all conditions for habitability (not lead-based or chipping or peeling), paint does not have to be new for a tenant to take occupancy. Worn or scuffed paint is not considered a hazard and doesn’t affect the warranty of habitability. That said, many qualified tenants may pass on a property that isn’t freshly painted for cosmetic and aesthetic reasons, making it more challenging to attract the best applicants.

Nevertheless, many landlords choose to do it for marketing and aesthetics. Due to cost and inconvenience, most landlords paint every three to five years and try to coincide with a turnover.

Because painting is such a hassle for both the painter and the occupant, and empty rooms are much easier to paint than those with furniture and other personal belongings, many landlords choose to paint between occupancies. Of course, it’s easier for both landlords and tenants to document the condition of a rental when there are near new walls in place, making it easier to note and track any damages.

Apartment Painting Basics

If you’ve never thought much about paint, it’s a good idea to learn the basics to understand what you want your paint crew to do or start doing it yourself.

Choosing The Right Paint

The quality of the paint you use is the most significant factor in how long your rental property’s interior paint job will last. Another thing that impacts durability is the finish. Choosing the right one can mean the difference between years of durable and lasting painted walls or dull, inadequate coverage in all the wrong places.

Here’s a brief overview of the types of paint finishes and where they work best:

  • High gloss: Durable and easy to clean, this paint dries with a shiny finish that reflects light. It’s perfect for repelling sticky fingers and oils, so use it for trim, doors, and perhaps cabinets.
  • Semi-gloss: Perfect for moist areas, like kitchens and bathrooms, it’s also suitable for trimming and cleaning up efficiently, thanks to that glossy finish.
  • Satin: Just right for high-traffic areas like children’s bedrooms, playrooms, hallways, and family rooms. This velvety finish is tougher than it looks.
  • Eggshell: For rooms that don’t get much traffic, this no-shine finish is very forgiving on walls that have bumps and imperfections. Use in living rooms, dining rooms, and even studies or offices.
  • Flat/Matte: With no shine, this finish soaks up light and makes walls look rich and thickly coated. More challenging to clean, this type of paint finish works in low-traffic rooms like bedrooms.

When looking at paint, it’s also essential to consider some other features. For example, lead paint cannot be used in most environments, so it’s not commonly sold.

However, you can purchase low-VOC or zero-VOC paints for your property. VOC stands for volatile organic compounds, and low- or zero-VOC paints contain less of them than other paints. VOCs contribute to air pollution and reduce indoor air quality.

Is Paying For A Professional Work Worth It?

Unless you have lots of experience painting, it’s best to hire a professional paint service to care for the rental property. They can accomplish the task that looks great in less time than you could do the job.

Painting the interior of a home is much more than just moving a paintbrush around. Professionals know how to tape down protective sheeting so you don’t ruin your other fixtures with paint splatter. They know where to start painting, when paint is dry enough for another coat, and how to achieve an even finish. You’ll probably save money on the amount of paint that you need to get your walls done.

You’ll be happier with the results of a paint crew unless you know what you’re doing. That said, plenty of landlords paint their rental properties themselves with impressive results.

Choosing The Right Color

When choosing a color for your rental property, most landlords recommend sticking to relatively neutral colors so that the walls will appeal to as many potential tenants as possible.

Having a bold accent wall can be cool, but this might put off some tenants who don’t want that paint job in their home. Sticking to tan, sage, cream, beige, off-white, and other neutral colors will likely be most popular with those visiting your rental unit.

Painting Rental Property: How To Decide When It’s Time

Landlords have many responsibilities, but it’s generally up to you to decide when to paint your rental property and how often. It’s crucial to balance keeping the apartment looking fresh, new, and lovely without spending too much money every time the unit turns over.

Here are five things to consider that might help you decide to paint or not to paint:

1. Start By Inspecting The Rental Property

Painting Rental Property: How To Decide When It’s Time

After a tenant has moved out, look closely at the walls during your move-out inspection. You’ll be able to see any damage when the place is empty and can best evaluate whether or not rooms need paint.

Make sure to also compare the condition of the walls to what they were like during the move-in inspection. If chips or damage exceed what was expected, quote the repair cost to the tenants and withhold that amount from their security deposit.

But remember that you can’t charge tenants for what is considered normal wear and tear. Sun fading and minimal scuffing cannot be considered damage.

2. Did You Do Clean-Up Before Deciding?

Sometimes scuffs, smudges, dirt, and oils can build up on the wall, and an easy clean with mild soap and water can refresh the paint quickly. Magic erasers and spot scrubbers also work wonders on scuffs.

Focus especially on door frames, window trim, around light switches, and other high-traffic areas. You might be surprised at how good the walls look when cleaned.

3. Do You Need To Paint All The Rooms?

If the bedrooms appear satisfactory but the living room has a lot of dings and dents, you can paint the rooms that need it most. It doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing paint job.

Keep track of what you repainted, when, and what paint you used. This will make it much easier to do touch-ups and upkeep. Otherwise, you might end up repainting something that doesn’t need it.

4. Do You Need An Edge?

Suppose your rental property is in a hard-to-rent area. If your city is experiencing some economic downturns or you otherwise have difficulty attracting quality tenants, new paint may be just what you need to make your place stand out above the others.

It might seem like a tiny change, but paint can transform a space. It’s also an inexpensive way to attract tenants, so it’s relatively low risk.

5. Do You Want To Convince Tenants To Stay?

To keep a good resident in place who has been there for several years, consider arranging for paint as a renewal incentive. Even after a few years, walls can look dull and lifeless, and a new paint job would make the tenant happy and keep the unit looking nice. When tenants have pride in their home, they take better care of it, so it’s a win-win for you.

When you balance applying new paint at turnover and letting it go, you can feel confident that your paint schedule will be best for your property, business, and tenants.

Who Is Responsible For Painting: The Landlord Or The Tenant?

Painting responsibilities in a rental property can vary, but generally, the landlord is responsible for maintaining the property, which includes periodic painting to keep the premises in good condition. Tenants may be responsible for painting if they have caused damage beyond normal wear and tear or wish to customize the paint color during their tenancy, subject to the landlord’s approval.

As the homeowner, painting is the landlord’s responsibility and right in most cases. A tenant should only paint with written permission from the landlord. Most landlords prefer tenants only to paint the rental or make any improvements or repairs with approval.

Tenants who respect your property will only paint with your permission, but clearing things up can sometimes be necessary. Doing this in the lease is the best way to ensure you won’t miscommunicate with your tenant.

The landlord typically covers the paint cost for standard maintenance and periodic repainting in a rental property. If a tenant desires a change in paint color or needs to repaint due to personalization or damage they caused, they might be responsible for covering the cost, depending on the lease agreement.

In our Landlord Starter Form Kit here at RentPrep, you’ll find great sample documents that can help you get the right lease, addendums, and other documents for your business.

FAQs On Landlord Painting Responsibilities

Below are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about landlord painting responsibilities that allow you to optimize your property while minimizing expenses.

How often does a landlord have to paint?

Unless required by city laws, there are very few situations where a landlord is legally required to paint their rental property. The law typically only requires that the property be kept in habitable condition. This means that painting is only required for a specific reason, like mold or another safety issue, such as lead paint, causing problems.

In most cases, landlords can repaint properties at their discretion and as they deem necessary.

Should a landlord paint between tenants?

Landlords are not required to paint between tenants; it is unnecessary to paint frequently if your tenants change every six to 12 months. However, if you have had a tenant in the property for two years or more, it is a good idea to paint when they leave to boost the place and increase rental value.

It’s also a good idea to schedule repainting for periods of vacancy, even if you have already secured a new tenant based on the previous paint condition. This is because it’s easier to finish the work when no one lives in the home.

How long should paint last in a rental property?

The general lifespan of a professional paint job is five to 10 years. But this is if the property is kept in excellent condition, so no excessive sun streaming through windows onto walls, no burst pipes, and no animals or kids bringing in dirt and accidentally kicking and scuffing walls.

In reality, you can expect the paint job on a rental property to last three to five years. Faded and scuffed paint is considered normal wear and tear unless the tenant mistreats the walls, and the landlord must repaint when necessary.

Are landlords required to paint over lead paint?

No, landlords are not required to paint over lead paint or remove it from their property. However, in most states, the landlord must give renters this EPA lead paint information pamphlet and include a lead paint disclosure in their lease agreement. This is only required if the property is known to have lead paint in it or if it was built before 1978.

This information lets the tenant know what the situation is and what risks there are to having lead paint in the home.

If you decide to paint over lead paint, it must be done correctly, and it’s best to call a professional to ensure the toxins are safely removed. The dust generated by lead paint can be toxic, so take this risk seriously.

What is the most durable paint for a rental property?

Satin and semi-gloss paints are the easiest to apply, give the best finish, fade slowly, and stand up well against wear and tear. They are among the best paints to use for rental properties.

What paint do most landlords use?

Most landlords paint their rental properties using satin or semi-gloss paints in light neutral colors. Eggshell is probably the most popular color, followed by beige.

What is the best paint color for a rental property?

Light and neutral colors are the best options for rental properties. They make the rooms look larger and combine relatively well with most color schemes. Pure white is generally avoided because dirt shows up too easily. Tans, creams, and very light shades of gray are among the best options.

Do most landlords let the tenant paint?

No, to the contrary, most landlords choose not to let their tenants paint due to the risk of them doing a poor job or choosing colors that devalue the property. However, the landlord’s decision depends greatly on the nature of the lease.

Landlords with several units in a complex are likely to keep tenants from painting to maintain the uniformity of their offering. Landlords who have high turnover are also less likely to let tenants personalize.

However, landlords renting out family homes with long-term leases are more likely to let tenants personalize the property through activities such as painting, but with conditions that restrict what can be done.

Does a tenant have to paint when they move out?

When moving out, tenants often wonder about their responsibilities regarding the condition of the rental property, especially when it comes to painting. Generally, unless specified in the lease agreement, tenants are not required to repaint the property upon departure. However, they are expected to return the property in the same condition as when they moved in, barring normal wear and tear.

But, repainting could be their responsibility in specific circumstances. For example:

  • If the lease agreement legally includes a clause that the tenant must repaint the walls when moving out, they must do so or pay the owner the cost to do this professionally.
  • The landlord has allowed the tenant to paint the walls on the condition that they repaint with an approved color before leaving.

These specific circumstances should be laid out in the lease agreement.

Do tenants have to repaint walls they painted?

A tenant’s obligation to paint the walls when moving out largely depends on the lease terms and the extent of damage beyond normal wear and tear. If the walls were altered or significantly damaged during the tenancy, tenants might be required to repaint or cover the costs of repainting to ensure the property’s readiness for the next occupant.

Most tenants need permission from their landlords before painting, and the landlord will let them know the rules then. Depending on the landlord’s plan for the property after the tenancy ends, they may not need or want the tenant to repaint the walls.

Ultimately, it’s up to the tenant and landlord to agree on whether the walls must be repainted at the end of the tenancy period.

Landlords can charge for repainting if the necessity arises from tenant-caused damage beyond normal wear and tear. This charge is often taken from the security deposit. Clear communication and documentation at the start and end of a tenancy help clarify when such charges are applicable.

How much can a landlord charge for painting?

The price to repaint a property will vary greatly depending on its size, the number of rooms, the type of paint that needs to be covered, and several other factors.

A landlord can only charge tenants for painting what goes beyond normal wear and tear. For example, a landlord could not charge their tenant the total cost of repainting the entire apartment if they left it in good condition after renting for just one year.

A landlord could charge tenants who repainted all of the room’s walls a dark color without permission the total cost of a professional paint job because this goes above and beyond what would have otherwise been needed.

Can a landlord charge for painting after a tenant moves out?

A landlord can charge for painting after a tenant moves out if the need for repainting is due to damage caused by the tenant that exceeds normal wear and tear. The cost may be deducted from the security deposit. Tenants must understand their lease agreements and the condition report at move-in to avoid unexpected charges.

If there has been excessive wear-and-tear to the property for the time it was rented, the landlord can charge the tenant for repainting after they move out.

If the amount of wear on the walls and paint is normal, then the landlord cannot charge the tenant for repainting after they move out.

This information should be clearly outlined and defined in the lease agreement so all parties know the rules that will apply when the tenancy ends. That way, you’ll avoid unnecessary arguments or miscommunication.

Can a landlord deduct painting from the security deposit?

Unless otherwise specified and agreed upon in the lease, a landlord cannot deduct basic repainting from the security deposit since it is considered part of routine property upkeep, and those costs cannot be passed to the tenant.

If, however, the landlord has to do extra painting or hire a professional service to handle excessive damages, they could take the cost of this service out of the security deposit.

How often do landlords have to paint in California?

In West Hollywood, rent-stabilized units must receive a fresh coat of paint every four years. In the rest of California, landlords must only paint a property if lead paint hazards exist. Paint typically doesn’t fall under a warranty of habitability as it is considered an aesthetic and not a required living improvement.

Painting With Purpose

In most cases, it’s up to landlords to decide when it’s time to paint their rental properties. It is not something dictated by law. But, there are a few counties where repainting is required in specific circumstances, so you should check your local laws. Outside of this, as long as the walls contribute to a habitable home—for example, they are not covered in mold—you are not legally required to repaint.

Therefore, it is up to landlords to decide when to repaint to maximize the value and quality of their property. A good paint job can push up rental prices, and maintaining the paint on walls can protect the underlying structure from damage from elements such as moisture.

Generally, try to paint the inside of your rental properties every three to five years. Time repainting for vacant periods between tenants, as it’s much easier to paint a property when it’s empty.