Tenant Painting and wanting me to pay for paint

17 Replies

Just wanted a general consensus on what people think about this situation. 

I have a tenant who signed a 2 year lease. Paint was fine at move in. A couple of nail holes in the wall. 

My tenant calls me one day and has repaired  the nail holes and took it upon themselves to paint using a can of paint in the basement. Turns out it’s the wrong color. 

Now, they’re wanting to re-paint the room with them providing labor, materials and me reimbursing for the paint ($75). 

They are also treating it as if it’s an urgent matter that needs to be attended to ASAP. 

Currently, I’m of the mind that this is not my responsibility as the paint was fine upon move in. 

What are your thoughts and how would you proceed? 

@Trischa Serafico Does your lease specify what the condition of the property is/will be upon move-in? 

It's been my experience that tenants are almost always bad painters, but I think Landlords, on average, spend too much time arguing with tenants about small things instead of focusing on keeping tenants or working on the next deal. 

I'd try find a quick compromise (maybe splitting the cost of the paint) while still letting them know that you're not going to be a pushover for the next two years. 

It is our responsibility as Landlords to train tenants in the ways that we want them to act. Preferably before or during the lease signing if at all possible.

Good morning Trischa,

Being a former renter for nearly 20 years there was always a stipulation in the lease if I wanted to paint my home/apartment. 

If I wanted to paint I ALWAYS had to check with the landlord prior to painting

If I did paint a room/wall etc.  I had to pay for the materials unless the paint was overdue for a paint job.  Generally speaking paint in a rental lasts 3-5 years

You may want to take a look at the lease you had your renter sign to check if there were any painting/alterations to property stipulations.  If there are then just explain to the renter that they agreed prior to moving in that no alterations were to be made to the property without the landlords approval.  If there wasn't any stipulations you may just want to bite the bullet and negotiate with them on paying for part of the materials but only if they did a good job and you won't need to repaint it.  Also the $75 paint seems VERY high.  If you do agree to pay for the paint or part of it anyway I would suggest you require the client to furnish you a receipt.  It's my experience that a gallon of paint will cost around $20/gallon (depending on the brand of course).

I hope this info helps a little.  I'll be interested in knowing how all this plays out.


Tenants should never be allow to do any work on the property including painting.

The harm is already been done at this point. I would inspect the work and determine if I wanted it repainted. If so I would be hiring a professional contractor to repair the tenant damage and charge the total cost to the tenant

Discipline your tenant and advise them that in the future they are not to take it upon themselves to do any work. Tenants must be trained.

Originally posted by @Thomas S. :

Tenants should never be allow to do any work on the property including painting.

The harm is already been done at this point. I would inspect the work and determine if I wanted it repainted. If so I would be hiring a professional contractor to repair the tenant damage and charge the total cost to the tenant

Discipline your tenant and advise them that in the future they are not to take it upon themselves to do any work. Tenants must be trained.

Yeah, just go ahead and start a 2 year relationship from hell over a little paint.

Go look at the house, speak with her in person and go from there. If it costs you $25 in paint then who cares. Surely to goodness you can make that back over the next 2 years?

"Yeah, just go ahead and start a 2 year relationship from hell over a little paint."

Tenant already did that by assuming the property was theirs to do with as they pleased. The root issue is not a "little paint". If their attitude is not corrected immediately the relationship is going there anyway. May as well deal now than later. 

Managing a property and tenant never involves ignoring or tip towing around issues. That is how relationships go to hell.

@Trischa Serafico   I assume that you don't have the original paint or know the paint code to match.  Your in a tough spot.  Its very unlikely that they tenant will not repaint the walls, nobody wants to look at walls with different color spots on them.  Sure, the tenant should not have taken it upon themselves to make repairs.  

If you say no, who knows what they will paint the walls with (paint color and paint quality).  If you say yes, who knows how sloppy the paint job will be.

Personally, I would go over and look at the walls, and see if there is any way you can take a sample of the wall color to a paint store and have it matched (possibly cut out some of the wall behind a wall plate to take for a color match).  Be very careful with the sheen, as this can have a big difference on how the spots will stick out.  If I could match the wall color, I would buy a gallon and touch it up myself.

If you can not match the existing paint, I would try and determine how handy the tenants are.  If they are fairly handy, I would let them repaint, but make sure that everything is clear about the final product.  If they make a mess and get paint everywhere, money will be deducted from the deposit.  I would buy the paint so that I control the color and the brand/quality, tenant would supply the brushes, rollers, etc.  Your going to have to eventually repaint the walls, this way you have happy tenants and free paint labor.

Best of luck.

My two cents for what it’s worth. What I find most concerning is the way the tenants handle the issues.

The issue is they aren’t happy with the condition of the paint on the wall. A well trained tenant would firstly have brought this up prior to lease signing. The last time I rented I had this very issues. I told the manager we will move in if the landlord paints. He did and we did happy ever after. However, I’d forgive that mistake if prior to taking any action the tenant called and said “hey I don’t like the paint I found some and I want to put it on the wall.” I’d say no and then come by and remedy the situation myself and everyone is happy.

Instead of the two reasonable options of either asking for new paint up front or asking for the landlords permission to fix after the fact, your tenant went ahead and screwed everything up.

What happens with the next issue should be you biggest concern. When the fridge breaks are they gonna call or take it apart right in your kitchen? What about a broken toilet? Electrical outlet? I don’t roll the dice on tenant repairs for two reasons it’s not theirs so can’t possibly care about it like I do and two they aren’t contractors who have a reputation to protect. They have no reason to do a job beyond their minimum standards and who knows what they are.

My solution would be to go over and calmly explain that it’s not acceptable for them to make and changes or major repairs without consulting me. Chalk it up to a liability issue if you feel the need to not be a bad guy. People hear that term a lot and generally just accept it now a Days. Next I would do whatever is needed to make the room presentable up to and including totally repainting it. This will teach the tenant that he can rely on you to do the repairs that are more concerning and will probably come later. It will also solidify you as a good guy landlord and keep the relationship solid over the next couple years.

Yes the tenant is legally (probably?) responsible for the fix. But much like cash for keys it just isn’t worth the hassle sometimes. If the whole experience results in two years or more of a well trained tenant it’s worth the cost of the paint.

Why didn’t they do a test patch with the paint before slathering it up on the wall? I would want to keep the peace, but a bad paint job is a pain to fix in either your time or money. Take a look at how bad it is first. They aren’t giving me a lot of confidence that they will do a good job repainting it themselves. But what about their deposit? If they have caused an expensive fix, I would be taking it out of that (as specified in my lease and it is legal in my state, to my understanding.)

I have this sort of thing clearly spelled out in my lease. At move in they also get paperwork to line out anything they view as damaged or in need of repair so that I can address it. 

Good luck! 

The tenant sounds high maintenance. Assuming the existing nail holes were indeed small and not a lot of them, why did they even bother? And on top of asking you to pay for it all (whether or not they screwed up matching the paint), they are treating this like it is an emergency. Imagine if there truly was something wrong with the property how they'd respond.

I would recommend that you do not reimburse them. This was done on their own accord. They moved into the place accepting small nail holes. 

On a side note, if this tenant is the kind to email/text/call you often and during evening hours, go ahead and start setting their expectations by not always answering and not always responding immediately. They should get the hint. Otherwise, you'll need to make the boundaries clear to them or they will cause a lot of extra stress and strain in your life for no reason.


I have not had a single renter in 20 years that could do a decent paint job.  

I do not let renters do work unless we have discussed ahead of time and their compensation, (it is not part of their rent).  

Once renters start, it seems they continue to continue taking more and more leeway.  

A great renter is always nice to have, but once they can turn into a nuisance.  If you do not train your renter, THEY WILL TRAIN YOU.  

You can call me if you want to - looks like were neighbors. I have too much to say and don't know where to start. I like the post by Will Gaston, but you are already past that a bit and might have other considerations - I do not let tenants paint ever.

One of my tenants did not like a bedroom room color when they moved in. Gave them $100- for paint, than they decided they didn't like living room or dining room paint color, gave then $200 more. They never asked for the money, I just gave it to em. I also gave them $200-to hire a cleaning lady because my old tenant was such a slob. I go above and beyond to keep good tenants happy, it seems to have worked for me. Tenants are all over the place with painting jobs, as are landlords. 

@Alex Applebee  

"But what about their deposit?"

Never deduct money from a tenants deposit while they remain a tenant. If you do when they move out you will have nothing left to cover damages. Any tenant damage repairs made during the tenancy are billed directly to the tenant at the time.

In this case if the walls did not need painting and now do as a result of tenant negligence the courts consider it tenant damage and the cost is born by the tenant.

If the landlord chooses to carry the cost resulting from tenant damage that is on them. It will however set a precedence.

@Trischa Serafico I haven't read every comment here, but you do need to make it clear, as others have said, that you don't allow tenants to perform work. Painting in particular sounds minor but, for good work, is expensive to have done well. Tenants rarely do that job well, so it's just a flat no. 

No to repainting. Inform them they can't just start doing work on the property -- they need to inform you of issues. They do not own the place. 

Also, this is anything but an urgent issue. There are warning signs here and you'll probably have some work to put in here so that they understand the difference between a real maintenance issue and something a tenant elects to qualify as a maintenance issue. These are the kinds of tenants who leave urgent voicemails on your maintenance line about clogged toilets and burnt out lightbulbs!

Let's understand the mindset of the tenant here...

1. Tenant takes it upon themselves to patch a couple of nail holes in the wall.

2.  Tenant then takes it upon themselves to hunt down a can a paint in the basement and repaints the area, only problem is, it's the wrong color.

3. Tenant themselves wants to re-paint the room with them providing the labor and materials and the landlord reimbursing for the paint.

4. Tenant has decided this is an "urgent" matter that must be attended to ASAP.

Are you kidding me?

Couple of problems here, including the fact that this guy who can't figure out THE CORRECT COLOR TO PAINT A PATCH ON A WALL NOW WANTS TO REPAINT THE ENTIRE ROOM.

A good rule of thumb every landlord should remember...tenants have NO business painting anything except their toenails (and even that is questionable).

Suggestions you can provide to your tenant...

A. Live with the current color mismatch (suggest they hang a picture or mirror over it if they cant stand it).

B. You will be glad to hire a PROFESSIONAL painter to repaint the room with the understanding that the tenant will be reimbursing for the cost of doing so.