Current tenant wants the unit painted

14 Replies

My current tenant of 2.1 years wants the unit painted. The unit was not painted when she moved in, while it needed some minor touchup. She has been good on paying rent. Now she wants to paint the unit herself and have me pay for the cost (I guess she means the materials). Is it a good idea? Should I say yes or no?

@Stephanie Young

You should definitely say no. If the unit needs to be painted, paint it. If it doesn't, don't. Under no circumstances would I let a tenant complete work on a rental unit.

I agree with @Todd Rasmussen .  Additionally, paint should last about 5 years, so if it's been painted more recently then that, it should not need anything more than a touch-up.  I also would not entertain a tenant wanting to paint a unit /have it painted anything more than my standard neutral color that I use on all my units.

What you are trying to avoid is (a) a tenant dictating the color of your paint, only to move out 3 months later, (b) a tenant asking for and being granted an "improvement"; this sets expectations moving forward, (c) any cost to you for any of this stuff.

If a tenant wanted a unit REPAINTED (it would be my standard color), I would calculate the cost of materials/labor, do the math and notify the tenant that you would be happy to paint their unit, but it will cost "$x" which would require a rental increase of "$y".  I would also explain that paint is expected to last at least 5 years, and that if the unit needs to be painted sooner, it may indicate that tenant-imposed damage on the surfaces.

Remember, any improvements you make on your property should see some kind of return on investment in the form of higher rents (or possibly much higher quality tenants).

Good luck!

If she has been living there 2+ years and the unit was painted years before she moved in, there might be some merit to it. If you go and have a look at the state of the unit right now and understand that it would need repainting anyway within the next year or two, it might be worthwhile to discuss how the tenant sees this project coming together. If you can agree on the color and other factors, gather some price quotes from professional painters and can manage to shift the cost of painting more towards the tenant, you might end up saving some money in the long run + have a tenant that is happy and pays in time. 

At least half of the folks who come and view my empty rentals will ask "can I paint"?....even when I'm standing there with a wet paint roller in my hand.  When I ask them why it's not because the place needs painting (it's JUST been painted) but because they want to put their "special touch" (read lousy paint color) where they live.

Tenants should not be allowed to paint anything except MAYBE their toenails.   If allowed most will slop paint on the floors, windows and ceilings and choose a color that will make you pound your head against the walls when they move out.

Some landlords will answer the question of "can I paint" with "No but I can refer you to a professional painter so they can give you an estimate of what you would be charged to have the rental painted".

Agreed with all of the above. Having her living there currently only makes it more complicated (and more expensive). If she really wants it painted, I would say have her agree to pay for it, to have it professionally painted by a company you both agree on, paint colors you both agree on, and if the painting company damages anything (paint on floors or anything else for that matter) she pays for it. 

This will usually get a no, but if the tenant is serious and has that much disposable income, then by all means, let her. It improves your unit, makes her happy and she won't be going anywhere for a while.

I have had three tenants paint without permission. In one case, they painted the room bright blue, which is horrible because blue is too controversial. In another case the tenant got paint all over the carpet and in the final case the tenant got paint all over the trim. Having purchased many houses with DIY paint jobs, I see it is common for people to get paint on the trim. I may agree to painting the property, but would do it myself or have a professional do it. There is two benefits of painting it now. First is that the tenant will be happier with fresh paint. Even if they do move out in the next couple years, the property will have newer paint.

Hi Stephanie,

Pink front door, green ceiling, purple walls.

And who knows what quality of workmanship or sloppiness she has.

And if she falls off of a ladder are you carrying workman's comp.

If the paint is ready for a repaint, it's intelligent to hire a professional painter with professional drop cloths and insurance.

The downside is where will the renter live during this (stinky odorous) commotion, and all of the renters belongings are exposed to theft by the painters.

Good Luck!

I wouldn't be paying for paint 2yrs in unless you get a rent increase to cover the cost.  We have let tenants do improvements on there dime with approval of color and material with the use of a contractor.  We love it when the improve our property and they tend to stay longer as well.

Look at the place and see if it needs to be painted.  I've had a tenant paint something that was just painted without my permission and they made a mess.  I had another who wanted to change the colour or one wall and paid someone to come in and do it-I approved the colour options she presented.  

If it does need to be painted, give her a timeline and you can have her suggest colours, but you get final say and it may not be one of the colours she suggests.  If they want to personalize it, they can do that with furniture and accessories-ie stuff that goes with them when they move.

Originally posted by @Stephanie Young :

My current tenant of 2.1 years wants the unit painted. The unit was not painted when she moved in, while it needed some minor touchup. She has been good on paying rent. Now she wants to paint the unit herself and have me pay for the cost (I guess she means the materials). Is it a good idea? Should I say yes or no?

 At no point should you permit tenants to work on your house.

At no point should you ever pay a tenant to work on your house.

Should you paint it depends on if it needs painting or not.  Check it out and give an honest evaluation.  Also, note in the back of your mind if you say no the tenant will probably leave and they may paint it themselves anyway.  Not that you should be extorted here just good to think about the consequences of saying no and make sure you are okay with all options.  For example, if you can't afford a full turn at this point but can afford the paint that should be a consideration.  You can also compromise and paint the bad rooms now and agree to paint the good rooms at next lease renewal as a bit of an incentive.  

As for having the tenant do the work.  Not even a question.  Never.  

@Stephanie Young I’m about to offer on a property where the current owner just approved the newest tenant who moved in last month to paint the apartment. I immediately asked the listing agent if the tenant was painting herself and he said “of course”! Like this was quite common in my area. I cringed and thought to myself that I would put a stop to that if I end up buying the building for all the reasons mentioned above.

Fortunately I saw her paint swatches and they seemed to be reasonable shades of neutral grays. They may be hard to go over later if she chooses the darker shades but hopefully it will work out.

I agree that I would consider having the apartment painted in this situation if you can place some of the cost burden onto the tenant and agree on the colors. I’d also use a professional contractor.

We never let a tenant paint an apartment, but paint is fairly cheap and tenants should have a rental unit they can be proud of. I think it is a plus when a tenant wants a clean apartment and if they want it painted then they probably intend to stay. We always put a fresh coat of paint on every apartment we rent when the previous tenant has been in the unit more than 1 year. No landlord should want tenants who are okay with dirty walls with all types of marks from who knows what.

The strange thing about painting rental units is you often think walls look clean and then when you start to paint them you realize how filthy they actually are.