how often should landlords paint rental properties

Updated November 2021

It’s easy to know that you need to repaint your rental property when there are clear damages or when you are getting it ready to rent for the first time, but what happens after that? How often should landlords paint rental properties to keep them in the best condition and habitable for tenants?

Painting is an interesting topic because it fits along a thin line between practical needs and aesthetic appearances. At some point, landlords will need to repaint to maintain their properties, but there are many misconceptions on when exactly that should be.

For those who have questions about how often landlords should paint, whether they should do it themselves or hire a crew, and what kind of paint to use, this guide should help you get thinking about painting rental properties the right way.

A Table Of Contents On Landlord Painting Responsibilities

Are there laws regarding painting rental property to guide what you need to do as a landlord or is it necessary to set up your own maintenance plan? Learn all that you need to know about rental and apartment painting today:

Painting Rental Property: Why Does It Matter?

Most people are accustomed to the walls of their homes being painted, even if they live in rental property. Paint helps to maintain and protect the walls of the home, and it also provides a certain level of comfort and hominess.

However, when it comes to painting rental properties, why is it so important to consider when you will repaint? What exactly does painting do for rental properties, and why is repainting a priority for landlords?

Freshly Painted Walls Please Renters

The smell of fresh paint and the look of bright, new walls are highly attractive to any home’s occupants.

When you are trying to find qualified tenants for your rental property, a coat or two of fresh paint can make the place look newer and seem brighter. It’s a real psychological boost for prospective tenants to tour a newly painted rental property because it is more appealing than a worn and dingy one.

An Affordable Improvement

Another great thing about repainting walls to improve appearances is that it is not too expensive. New paint is a reasonably affordable upgrade that landlords can do that gives them a real bang for their buck when it comes to making a rental property look amazing.

When there are dings, nicks, dents, and holes in the wall, it’s easy enough to repair them, but with a coat of paint you won’t even know there was an issue to begin with.

Required By Law

In some large cities with painting rental property laws in place, landlords might need to repaint every two to four years, depending on location. In New York City, for example, landlords must do this every three years if the unit is in a multiple-dwelling building.

These types of laws are pretty rare, but they do exist. Make sure you review your state and local jurisdiction rules to find out if this will apply to any of your rental units.

Typically, laws surrounding landlord responsibilities only intersect with painting in ways that ensure the walls are kept fresh as part of a clean, safe, and habitable environment.

Removing Stains And Damage

Another reason landlords might want to consider repainting is to remove odor or stains left behind by smoking or vaping in the property. Additionally, accidents like pipe leaks or fire may require walls to be redone or repainted to make the rental unit safe.

How Often Should Landlords Paint Rental Properties?

Now that you better understand why landlords might want to consider repainting their rental properties, let’s talk more about how often this should happen.

Figuring out when to repaint isn’t always as straightforward as one might assume; there are several factors to consider when making your decision.

Consider Paint Durability

Consider Paint Durability

The first thing to learn more about is paint durability. Most interior paint jobs are expected to last between five and 10 years. The exact durability is dependent on the paint type, quality of the job, location, and amount of wear-and-tear the walls endure.

Even if a property is kept in perfect condition, the walls will eventually need to be repainted. Paint wears out over time, and the color will gradually fade and become dingy.

A professional paint job should last approximately 10 years, according to the experts. Of course, scuffs, chips, and marks are normal parts of wear and tear. As long as the walls are in good condition, you can choose to put off repainting for as long as possible.

It’s always a good idea to repaint if the rooms look dated, the walls are scuffed, nicked, damaged beyond cleaning, or when you want a new color.

If there are holes in the wall or ceiling, many landlords take the opportunity to repair the problem area and repaint it. As long as you are repainting one area, you may as well complete the entire wall or the room, depending on time and materials available. Otherwise, the new paint will be much brighter and cleaner than the older paint and the room will be more unsightly.

Turnover Timing

Another aspect of rental property management that you will want to consider while deciding how often to repaint is turnover. The turnover rate will have a significant effect on the frequency of repainting your units.

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

Include A Painting Information Clause

When setting up your lease agreement, you may want to consider adding a section that details the rules about painting and how often the property will be repainted. You can even describe what is and what is not considered normal wear-and-tear.

Having this reference information is excellent for both you and your tenant so there is no confusion and tenants understand whether or not they’re allowed to paint.

If the landlord approves of a tenant painting the apartment, you will want a lease agreement created. This can be an addendum to the lease or a simple agreement that includes names, dates, and signatures for both the landlord and tenant.

The addendum should also contain a brief write-up that explains the landlord is granting the tenant permission to paint specified rooms in the rental. It’s a good idea to have agreed-upon colors and include those in the agreement. A simple one-page sheet with a copy provided to both parties after signing will work well.

Do Landlords Have To Paint Between Tenants?

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

Only in a few places is it required by law for landlords to paint a rental between tenants. While many landlords choose to do it for marketing and aesthetics, they are not compelled to in most areas. 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 being 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.

In some areas, such as rent-controlled communities, landlords may need to paint rental properties. In New York City, landlords must paint every three years, while in West Hollywood, landlords have a four-year requirement.

In Ohio, no state law requires landlords to paint according to any schedule. Still, of course, many landlords do so because it is easier to market their rental properties to prospective tenants. Most areas don’t have any kind of regulations, though, so unless your municipality states otherwise, and as long as the walls are in good condition, new paint isn’t necessary. It may just be a preference.

When to paint a rental unit is usually at the owner’s discretion, and as long as the property is safe, cosmetic improvements are not mandatory for every turnover. 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 belongings, many landlords choose to paint between tenant occupancies. Of course, it is 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: Choosing The Right Paints

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

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

Here is 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 things like trim, doors, and perhaps cabinets.
  • Semi-gloss: Perfect for areas that have moisture, like kitchens and bathrooms. It’s also good for trim and cleans up easily thanks to that glossy finish.
  • Satin: Just right for high-traffic areas like children’s bedrooms and playrooms, hallways, and family rooms. This velvety finish is tougher than it looks.
  • Eggshell: For rooms that don’t get a lot of 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. Not as easy to clean, this type of paint finish works in low-traffic rooms like bedrooms.

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 a shorter amount of time than you could do the job.

Painting the interior of a home is much more than just moving a paintbrush around, and you will be happier with the results of a paint crew unless you know what you are doing. That said, there are plenty of landlords who 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.

It can be cool to have a bold accent wall, but this wall might scare away some tenants who simply don’t want that kind of paint job in their home. Sticking to tan, sage, cream, beige, off-white, and other neutral colors is likely to be most popular with those coming to tour your rental unit.

If you allow your tenant to paint any color they want, make sure to provide them with a list of approved colors to repaint after they move out. Alternatively, they can pay you to have the apartment repainted so they don’t have to do this themselves.

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

Landlords have many responsibilities, but you can decide when to paint your rental property and how often. It’s important to find the balance between keeping the apartment looking fresh, new, and lovely without spending a lot of 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 Reviewing The Rental Property

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

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

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

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 they are actually cleaned.

3. Do You Need To Paint All The Rooms?

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

Make sure to keep track of what you repainted, when you repainted it, and what paint you used. This will make it much easier to do touch-ups and upkeep down the line. Otherwise, you might end up repainting something that doesn’t need to be done.

4. Do You Need An Edge?

Suppose your rental property is in a hard-to-rent area. In that case, your city is experiencing some economic downturns or you otherwise have a difficult time attracting quality tenants, and 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 truly transform a space. It’s also an inexpensive way to try to attract tenants, so it is 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 rental 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 find the balance between 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?

Typically, this job will fall on the landlord as outlined in most leases. A tenant should only paint with written permission from the landlord to do so. Most landlords prefer that tenants do not paint the rental or make any improvements or repairs without approval.

Tenants who respect your property will not paint without your permission, but it can sometimes be necessary to clear things up. Doing this in the lease is the best way to ensure that you won’t end up miscommunicating with your tenant.

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

FAQs On Landlord Painting Responsibilities

How often does a landlord have to paint?

Unless required by city laws, there are very few situations in which a landlord has to paint their rental properties. The law typically only requires this if there is some 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 for upkeep purposes.

Should a landlord paint between tenants?

The answer to this tricky question depends on how frequently you are turning over the property. If managing short-term leases of six months or less, it won’t be cost-effective to repaint between every tenancy unless there is damage that requires this job to be done.

If a tenant has been in the property for two years or more, it is probably best to repaint before finding new tenants, but this is not a requirement. Whether or not you repaint should be decided based on the actual conditions. Ask yourself questions such as:

  • Does the paint look dingy?
  • Would updating the color help me find renters faster or bring in more rent?
  • Is there smoke or vape damage that needs to be removed?
  • Are there any walls painted by tenants that need to be reverted to their neutral color?

If the answer to any of these questions is yes, the landlord must repaint if they want to take full advantage of their rental potential.

Are landlords required to paint over lead paint?

No, landlords are not required to paint over lead paint or remove it from their properties. However, the landlord must give this EPA lead paint information pamphlet to renters and include a lead paint disclosure in their lease agreement in most states. This is only required if the property is known to have lead paint in it or 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 do decide to paint over lead paint, it must be done the right way, and it is probably best to call in a professional to make sure everything is safely removed. The dust generated by lead paint can be toxic, so take this risk seriously.

Does a tenant have to paint when they move out?

Sometimes yes, sometimes no. A few things need to be considered when determining if a tenant needs to repaint any walls in the rental property before they move out.

  • Lease conditions:
    If the lease agreement legally includes a clause that the tenant must repaint the walls when moving out, then they must do so or pay the owner the cost to have this professionally done.
  • Repainting to neutral:
    Often, landlords do not allow tenants to paint the rooms unless they agree to repaint the walls to an approved color before leaving. If a tenant painted the walls, they’ll need to repaint the original color.

Generally, however, tenants are not responsible for painting the walls, even if there are some light signs of wear. Normal wear-and-tear is expected on the walls, so this cannot be their responsibility.

Do tenants have to repaint walls that they painted?

Once again, the answer to this question is dependent on the property location and the terms of the lease agreement.

Most tenants need to get permission from their landlords before painting, and the landlord will let them know the rules about painting at that time. 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 is up to the tenant and landlord to come to an agreement on whether or not the walls need to be repainted at the end of the tenancy period.

How much can a landlord charge for painting?

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

A landlord can only charge tenants for the cost of painting what goes beyond normal wear-and-tear. For example, a landlord could not charge their tenant the full 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 full 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?

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

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

This information should be clearly outlined and defined in the lease agreement so that all parties are aware of and informed about the rules that will apply when the tenancy ends. That way, there will be no 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. This is because it is considered to be part of normal property upkeep, and those costs cannot be passed to the tenant.

If, however, the landlord has to do extra painting work or hire a professional painting service to handle excessive damages, the cost of this service could be taken 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 are only required to paint a property if there are lead paint hazards. 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, when you go about painting your rental properties is not going to be something that is dictated by law. However, it is in the best interest of your business to make sure you are keeping up with regular painting.

Just as maintaining the condition of windows, floors, and appliances is essential for the upkeep of your rental property, so too is painting. Without an occasional fresh paint job, your property’s overall value and income will suffer. Keep things fresh by painting with purpose!

16 Comments

  1. I don’t think my landlord has ever painted the house himself. He had in the contract something about the renters being able to paint the house as they see fit. I will have to go back and see what it says exactly, but I remember reading something about that. It looks like the people before us had painted a couple of rooms because they were a different color than the rest of the house. I wish that the landlord painted the house though, then we wouldn’t have to worry about doing that ourselves.

    • Double check the lease for sure Laila. Most landlords will want to keep a good tenant, so asking if he could paint to update the property wouldn’t hurt to ask. At least you’ll know where you stand.

  2. When I walked the house before I signed the lease the landlord said I could paint, but if it was crazy colors I had to change it back before I left. When I took over the lease 2 rooms had 1 wall painted either dark green or red and the kitchen wallpaper was peeling. When I was handed the keys I verified I could paint. I wanted to removed the peeling wallpaper and I was told NO. Now I have to live with it for 2 years. Why turn down a tenant willing to improve your property at no cost to you?

  3. I’m not sure why your landlord wouldn’t want you to repaint unless he doesn’t trust it will be done correctly. Did you share with him the paint color you’ll be using etc.?

    • He didn’t even ask. He did say that after I’m there a year we can discuss it. But why would I bother painting his house when I’m halfway through my lease? I’ll save my money for painting the house I buy at that point.

  4. I have to agree with you Christy. I think the landlord wanted to be sure you were a long-term tenant, but it’s not like you were making wacky improvements. Just a paint job to cover a horrible one!?
    His loss Christy. I would have let you paint 🙂

    • Thanks Stephen. Yep. He went from having a person who cared about the property she lived in to someone who will just live in it. More work for him later on. The next tenant may demand he repaint.

  5. You’ve got the right attitude Christy. Unfortunately not every landlord reads our blog to become better at managing tenants 🙂

  6. Well how do they look? If they’re in good enough condition that you can’t tell it WASN’T painted yesterday, what’s the difference?

  7. Not all paints are shiny, so this can be ruled out. And I’m not sure all paints have that familiar smell most people think of when they imagine something freshly painted. Either way, it would only be a problem if there was something wrong or if you had reason to complain I would imagine.

    • They lied to rent it out and make money. They probably just cleaned them with those magic sponges they have out now and as long as they look clean..well. I think otherwise, they lied. But YOU will have to come off spotless? Did you pay the IRS on time? Would you expect to go in a new car and not get new car smell? Shiney should only be in the kitchen cause it cleans easy. The spider’s webs? Come on. Wake up people. Am I the only one expecting buy what you pay for. Blood suckers. Well, there are some private individuals and then there are slum lords. And in Bucks County? No way….Yeah (Did you see Trump is neck and neck with Clinton in PA and she’s ready for ‘saving hope’.) . 🙁

  8. Hi! My landlord had been painting our house since mid summer… he’s been here 3-5 days a week for about 5hrs per day. Then fixing windows that didn’t really NEED replaced, but whatever. I just want my space back!!!!!!! We called to tell him we needed some privacy for a week when I went in for surgery (as his being at the house is quite noisy and stressful!). He is mad and now gave me a nasty letter about how he “enjoyed improving our living space until we thought of him as an intrusion in our lives…”. Wtf?! I just want my privacy back! The kids weren’t able to play outside when he was here (he’s a bit of a creep- telling my hubby he “was watching the hot neighbor as she lay out in her yard” and suggested he come up on the roof & look too!) & it’s caused quite the frustration on my part! I couldn’t hold a 40th bday party for my hubby here at the house, which was really frustrating!!
    Do I have any rights?!?!!!

  9. I have been living in a place for % years no paint burn holes in the carpet leaks in the ceiling and no air flow vents are black… I ask over and over hes all over me all the time for everything rent increase, late fees, I can’t get him to do anything…

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

(function(s,u,m,o,j,v){j=u.createElement(m);v=u.getElementsByTagName(m)[0];j.async=1;j.src=o;j.dataset.sumoSiteId='cd5d6d686713b824b92ffe33725238bc66e6e85c2661615aecf9405b7085006c';v.parentNode.insertBefore(j,v)})(window,document,'script','//load.sumo.com/'); (function(d, src, c) { var t=d.scripts[d.scripts.length - 1],s=d.createElement('script');s.id='la_x2s6df8d';s.async=true;s.src=src;s.onload=s.onreadystatechange=function(){var rs=this.readyState;if(rs&&(rs!='complete')&&(rs!='loaded')){return;}c(this);};t.parentElement.insertBefore(s,t.nextSibling);})(document, 'https://rentprep.ladesk.com/scripts/track.js', function(e){ LiveAgent.createButton('20edc119', e); });