When I was younger, I used to live in a rental property with my family, and this was a time I won’t forget.
One day, my mother wanted to give my brother a surprise for his birthday, and DIY painted his room bright blue (his favorite color).
Before even asking the landlord – if it was okay to repaint the walls in a rented house – she went to the local paint store, bought the paint supplies, and started painting.
I kid you not; the next day, the landlord came around to do a random check of the property while my Mom was halfway done with the room.
Although I was too young to remember much, I do remember the arguing that came from the closed bedroom and my Mom crying afterward.
I learned that we lost a part of the security deposit as the landlord had to repaint the walls. And honestly, it was just a messy experience.
A mess that could have been avoided if this article had existed back then…
Can You Paint a Rental Property?
Well, there isn’t a simple answer to this question, as it depends on the landlord, the property, or even where you are.
Generally, tenants do not have to paint the property.
Any repairs or changes to the apartment are usually done by the landlord – the tenant doesn’t have to worry about it.
However, what if the tenant wants to paint the property? This again depends on the lease and the landlord’s approval.
In many cases, I found that if the tenant does not get approval for painting and goes ahead and paints the property, funds can be withheld from the security deposit. So, it may be in your best interest not to.
But let’s say you want to. In my opinion, all you have to do is get the owner’s approval; it’s as simple as that.
If they say no, well, you are all out of luck.
If they do say yes, then you can paint the property. However, you must pay for the paint and labor.
Also, the landlord usually has to approve the design and color, so keep that in mind.
7 Rules to Follow When Painting Your Rental
Your landlord approved the house paint, but that does not mean you can hire a contractor and start right away.
Instead, you will need to follow specific rules before you can do that. This will prevent things from getting complex.
1. You Must Get Approval
As we previously mentioned, this is probably the most critical part of the whole process. You need permission from your landlord.
If you look through your tenant agreement, there is a solid chance that it says you are not allowed to paint.
However, if you simply talk to your landlord, many are understanding. They will give you approval, especially if you agree to paint it back to the original color before you move out.
2. Don’t Go Overboard
Think about why you want to paint your rented accommodation. Maybe you just are bored with the bland colors of your rented house and want something to pop, or your child wants a green-themed room. In either of these situations, you don’t have to go overboard.
I recommend starting small, like painting one wall at a time. There usually isn’t a good reason to paint every wall in every room a new color, especially if you have to repaint it when you decide to move out.
3. Be Extra Careful
When you are painting, it is guaranteed to happen. You spill a little paint. This usually isn’t a big deal, but it can be a huge deal when you spill black paint on a white carpet, especially when you don’t own it.
Try to think like a professional painting team. You wouldn’t go into someone’s house and just start throwing paint around; you would be careful and calculated.
You would prep everywhere near the painting surface by moving the furniture away and covering the floor.
If you ruin a piece of furniture or something you didn’t get approval to paint, you can bet that the repair cost will come out of your security deposit.
4. Don’t Spend Too Much
This is a very common theme in this article, but it’s super important. This is not your house. And there is a solid chance you will move out of it within the next five years.
You shouldn’t invest a ton of money in painting the property.
Like, I don’t even think you should use a painting service since they usually cost a lot of money. Feel free to use cheaper paints.
Although cheap paints do get a bad reputation, especially considering their lifespan, they are perfectly fine to be used on walls for a few years.
The less money you spend on your property, is better, in my opinion. However, if a higher-quality paint makes you that much happier, I’d say go for it.
5. Experiment with the Paint
Since this is a rental property, and you will likely not be living here forever, take a risk.
Try painting your walls in such a way that they are experiments. For example, you can try painting just one wall a super bold color like dark red, purple, or thing bolder.
This will be a huge difference in the room’s look; you don’t have to use that much time or paint if you just paint a single wall.
You should have fun painting, so I think you should do what you think is fun. Maybe this will be painting an excellent design on the wall or painting the entire room hot pink.
It’s your place of residency for at least a little bit; you might as well have fun.
6. Talk to Your Landlord Before Moving Out
We mentioned it a few times before – talk to your landlord before you move out.
Some landlords will require you to bring the paint back to the original shade, while others will ask you to use a neutral color.
But, if you are really lucky, have a friendly landlord, and they like your paint choice, you won’t have to paint again (but this is very rare).
7. Give Yourself Time
On the same subject as number 6, make sure you give yourself time to paint the property before you leave.
I have seen too many times where tenants are rushing within the last week of their lease to paint and move out at the same time. This just creates a lot of unnecessary stress that is not needed.
I recommend tenants give themselves a month before they move to repaint their property so they don’t have to stress.
It is a general rule that if you don’t give yourself time, problems will happen.
Best Paint for a Rental Property
You do not own the rental property you are living in. After a certain time period, you will need to leave it – it may be due to the transfer in your job or to updating to a better apartment.
Renters, therefore, do not love to spend lots of money on a house that they do not own.
Hence in a rental, the best paint option is the one that can last for a long without the need for frequent updates.
If you are planning for an update, keep in mind the original color and try to repaint it with a color that looks like it.
You can go with satin or semi-gloss paint for your rental, as it can easily be wiped clean. Plus, these do not require much maintenance and are longer-lasting.
If you are also considering painting the exteriors of your rented building (like siding, railings, deck, etc.), make sure to choose the specially formulated exterior paint that can resist harsh weather conditions.
What Paint Colors are Best for a Rental House?
Lighter paint shades are best to use for a rented house.
You can paint the majority of your house in light shades and can try a bit darker shades for high-traffic areas like your bathroom, dining room, etc.
Grays, creams, tans, canary yellow, sky blue, etc., are among the best neutral paint colors to pick if you plan to get your rented property painted.
Remember, a neutral theme not only refers to the light paint colors but also to tiles, hardwood floors, cabinets, carpeting, and light fixtures.
One of the greatest advantages of picking an evergreen neutral theme in your rental home is it will save you from updating the colors constantly.
This means you do not need to invest your money in regular updates and switch over to the most current trends.
Is Removable Wallpaper Good for Renters (Instead of Paint)?
Instead of spending huge on painting, a tenant can alternatively install temporary wallpapers that are easily removable.
This is a good option for you if you plan to move out in the near future from your rental property.
This peelable wallpaper (also called renter’s wallpaper) comes with a self-adhesive and can easily be removed from walls without causing any damage.
If you want to improve the looks of your interiors without painting, you can add some bold curtains, artwork, rugs, and house plants.
You may also change some hardware on the bathroom and kitchen cabinets (using pre-existing holes). This can help you make your apartment more appealing and personal.
Is it Mandatory for the Landlord to Get the Rental Property Painted?
Most landlords usually get their property painted when the tenants move in or move out.
In many places, it’s compulsory for them to get the painting done every 3-4 years.
If it’s the responsibility of your landlord, they may have their own pre-selected painters or contractors to do the job.
If you need to get the painting done before, you will need to bear the expenses, take permission in writing and follow the strict guidelines provided by your landlord.
You may then call your own handyman and a pro painter. Or you can try DIY painting the rentals on your own, which can save you a good amount of money.
Remember, if you are repainting it yourself or calling a professional, you will be prepared to spend anything between $1,000 to $3,000 on average.
Can I put nails on my apartment walls?
The requirement to drill holes in apartment walls generally arises when you want to either mount heavy objects like TVs or put up shelves.
While it’s technically possible to do both without drilling any holes, it’s generally not considered acceptable by landlords.
For one thing, the weight of a heavy object like a TV can cause severe damage to both the wall and the object itself if it’s not adequately secured.
Additionally, many landlords require that any deeper holes be filled and painted before you move out, which can be a hassle.
Shelves or window curtains (or blinds) are often easier to put up without drilling deep holes since they don’t tend to be as heavy.
However, you may still need to use screws or nails to secure them, which could still damage the wall if not done carefully.
So, as long as you’re careful and take the necessary precautions, you should be able to put smaller nails and holes in your apartment walls without too much trouble.
Just check with your landlord first and get their permission before doing anything so that you are compliant.
What are apartment security deposits, and how does it work?
An apartment security deposit is a sum of money, usually one month’s rent, paid by a tenant to a landlord when they move into a new apartment.
The landlord holds the deposit in case of any damage to the apartment or the tenant fails to pay rent.
When the tenant moves out, the deposit is returned to them minus any damages or unpaid rent deductions. In some cases, the security deposit may be non-refundable.
For example, if the tenant causes significant damage to the apartment, the landlord may keep the entire deposit to cover the cost of repairs.
For this reason, it is essential to be aware of your rights and responsibilities as a tenant before you sign a lease.
Can my landlord charge me for putting nail holes and painting?
Yes, your landlord can either charge or can deduct a portion of the tenant’s security deposit for putting nail holes and paint if they consider it damaging to the property.
But if the spots are unnoticeable and small, or if the paint is of the same color, the landlord may not charge or deduct the security deposit.
How much they will charge or deduct can depend on the state or local law, so it’s best to inquire about this with your landlord or consult your lease agreement.
If there is no mention of compensation for damages in the lease agreement, then the security deposit cannot be used for that purpose.
In that case, the fee they may charge will depend on the cost of the contractor that they hire to fix the wall, which can range from $50 to $200 per hour.
The landlord may also deduct the cost of paint from the security deposit if they have to repaint the entire unit (about $3 per square foot) because of the tenant’s lousy paint job.
The bottom line
According to painting rental property laws in most states, a tenant is not allowed to paint the apartment without proper permission. If you do so, you can even be evicted from the property.
How long the paint lasts and how often you need to get the painting done will largely depend on how you treat you’re rented apartment.
It’s good to take care and prevent the walls (and other surfaces) from getting scratched and punctured. This will increase the durability of the paint and will avoid the hassles involved in painting the rented property early.
If you really need to get your rented apartment painted, go through the painting charges clause in the rental agreement, take written permission from the owner, and use neutral paint colors.
Jack Luis is a semi-retired painter who loved painting his clients’ ideas on their walls.
He had worked as a painter for over a decade serving customers in areas such as Charleston, Mount Pleasant, Beaufort, and Georgetown, SC (South Carolina). Today in his free time, he likes to read and write about the newer techniques implemented in his profession. You may read more about him here or get in touch with him here.