Landlord painting requirements

Interior paint is both an aesthetic boost and practical need for rental properties, and landlords will have to deal with paint at some point in their management and maintenance duties. But there are some myths and misconceptions out there about painting rental units.
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 in the first place, this guide should help you get thinking about paint.

The Appeal of Fresh Paint

The smell of fresh paint and the look of bright new walls is highly attractive to the occupants of any home. 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 applicants to tour a newly painted rental property because it is more appealing than a worn and dingy one.
New paint is also a fairly affordable thing that landlords can do that gives them a real bang for the 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 that there was a problem to begin with. All these reasons and more are why landlords generally paint more frequently than the average home owner does.

Are Landlords Required to Paint Between Tenants?

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 difficult to attract the best applicants.
In some areas, such as rent controlled communities, there may be requirements for landlords 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, there is no state law that requires landlords to paint according to any schedule, but of course, many landlords do because it is easier to market their rental properties to prospective renters. Most areas don’t have any kind of regulations, so unless your municipality states otherwise, and as long as the walls are in good condition, new paint isn’t necessary but 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 things are not mandatory to do for every turnover. Due to cost and inconvenience, most landlords paint every 3 to 5 years and try to coincide that with a turnover.
Because painting is such a hassle for both the painters and the occupant, and empty rooms are much easier to paint than 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.

Paint Durability

A professional paint job should last approximately 7 to 10 years according to the experts. Of course, scuffs, chips and marks are a normal part 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 are looking dated, the walls are scuffed, nicked or 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 over it. As long as you are repainting one area, you may as well complete the wall or the room, depending on time and materials. Otherwise the new paint will be much brighter and cleaner than the older paint and be more unsightly.

Paint Basics

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 biggest 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, poor 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 area 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 study 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 extremely low traffic rooms like adult bedrooms.

Unless you have lots of experience painting, it’s best to hire a professional paint service to take care of the rental property. They can accomplish the task in a professional manner 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 being said, there are plenty of landlords who paint their rental properties with impressive results.

Deciding When to Paint

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 5 things to consider that might help you decide to paint or not to paint:

  1. Evaluate the rental property once the tenant has moved out. You’ll be able to see any damage to the walls when the place is completely empty and can best evaluate whether rooms need paint or not.
  2. Clean the walls. Sometimes scuffs, smudges, dirt and oils can build up on the wall and a quick 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. Consider painting high traffic rooms only. 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.
  4. Your property needs a competitive edge. If your rental property is in a hard-to-rent area, your city is experiencing some economic downturns or you otherwise have a difficult time attracting quality tenants, new paint may be what you need to make your place stand out above the others.
  5. Use as a renewal incentive. 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, your business and your tenants.

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.

Who is responsible for painting landlord or 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.

Are tenants responsible for painting?

No, tenants are not responsible for painting a rental property unless it is agreed upon and included in their lease. A tenant that paints a rental property without approval can be subject to funds being witheld from their security deposit.

Landlord tenant painting agreement

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


  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…

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