Is it normal wear and tear?

8 Replies

I have the interior walls of my rental painted almost 5 years ago when my tenant first moved in. Today an agent I hired came to preview and recommended me to repaint the walls before we find new tenant. I was not there so could not tell how bad it looks but wonder if it is considered normal wear and tear. How often should we repaint the interior walls for a rental? My house was painted at around the same time but may only need some touch up. Please share your opinions. Thank you all.

This depends on the paint but I think every five years is reasonable. Not long but not unheard of.

If this is not a high-end rental, I would consider using a gloss, satin, or eggshell enamel for your next paint. The pro painters might not recommend this for appearance, but it is MUCH MORE durable than flat paint. When spaghetti sauce hits the wall and you wipe it off, you will most likely leave some type of "wipe" mark on flat paint but never with gloss.

After 5 years you should repaint. 

You can get away with touch ups if they've been there for a year, MAYBE two. After that you'll be able to see the difference between the old paint and the touch ups because the old paint will look different when dry due to the length of time its been exposed to the air.

Just my .02

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While this has always bothered me as well, it's my understanding that for anything over 3 years you cannot charge tenants for painting, at least in the states where we rent.  And under 3 years, it's questionable.  In MD, for instance, a tenant can sue for 3 x disputed amount, so unless it's a major issue, I find it not worth the risk.   I actually called the NC govt and talked to them as I find it ridiculous that after only one year, tons of marks and scrapes and nail holes (and crayon marks) in every room requiring a new full paint job is still likely considered normal wear and tear.  Charging tenant for repairing huge holes or burn marks or a zillion BB gun holes (yes, that happened) is allowed.       

There's a great webpage on the CA Dept of Consumer Affairs site that explains what you can deduct for painting.  They assume paint has only a 2 year life.  Scroll down to the blue section, almost to the end of it:

It has other good info on normal wear and tear and the normal life span of carpets, etc., and what you can charge tenants for, etc.

Also note that you were supposed to do an initial (pre-move-out) inspection, if the property is in CA.  If you didn't tell them about this option, you lose all right to their deposit.  That info is also in the blue section.

If your property is in CA, I suggest you get this book.  It's easy to read.  It was my bible.

A simple rule of thumb for normal wear and tear is - if the "damage" would have happened with normal use.  So, a fist hole in drywall would be damage, but a chair rubbing against a wall and leaving a mark would be normal wear and tear.

All great insights already here Winn, but if you are able to oversee the painting, there are some ways to help with this often unavoidable turn over expense....

For example, this time insist on some high end paint (think specialty paint store or the very best big box stuff); try a pearl or washable finish; I like one color for all the interior of all my units, ideally a white that can hide some imperfections (know and keep the code); this means no color or matching mystery later; then on the next turn over, see if you can't get away with just a wall cleaning; use a damp sponge mop with tsp or a tsp substitute  (and then rinse it with a clean water and a damp sponge mop)..not too much water, just damp.. 

Then with a good paint, you are back close to that original color and cut all the dirt and oils , a real kitchen issue and high traffic area concern.. With a short tenancy and light wear and tear you may be good to go..

Even if you need to paint, you are now prepped to paint (fill any holes, too).. But ,guess what, here I often find I can get away with a partial paint in some areas or rooms or even just a touch up, and not a laborious or costly complete repaint. Best of luck.

Three years and the place gets repainted. As we use the identical paint each time, same make, color, finish and even product, then we get an instant match. To save time we won't do a cut in as you won't notice, and generally tenants never screwed up the paint at the top of the wall. Plus, a second coat isn't really needed as you won't notice the bad spots. Painting trim depends on how disgusting the tenants were, usually a semi gloss means they can be wiped down. Worse case scenario, paint them as well.

Probably takes 2 days to paint a house, at the most.