Should Property Managers Let Renters Paint?

Last modified on April 13th, 2016

paintingOne common issue that property owners and managers may face is the question of letting their renters paint. According to an LA Times article that was written by a mediation expert, rental agreements should specify that renters aren’t allowed to make modifications without permission. If the renters paint without permission in clear violation of these terms, the renters should have a duty to leave the property in the same condition they found it in.

Otherwise, renters might risk forfeiting a deposit or even getting pursued for damages. After all, few property managers would care to check a vacated apartment or rental home and get surprised to find that the walls had been painted in some outlandish way. The problem could be expensive to remediate and would certainly require repainting.

Should Renters Be Allowed to Paint if They Ask Permission?

It seems fair to conclude that tenants shouldn’t be allowed to paint without permission, but what if they come seeking permission before they do any work? They might even offer to pay for paint, let the owner approve any colors they choose, and either pay for the work done or do the work themselves. Property managers might be tempted to let a good tenant enjoy some flexibility.

Owners would certainly be within their rights to deny the request. However, some property owners and managers could be prudent to relax the rules. It’s important for owners to protect their rights, but it can also be important to recognize that rental homes are still homes. It may be reasonable to let a good renter take some action like painting a nursery room blue or pink or a kitchen sunny yellow.

9936579935_f01cdcda8a_zFor example, the risk of letting a tenant make some reasonable modifications could be lower than the risk of losing a decent tenant. Very often, units have to get repainted after tenants leave anyway because of normal wear and tear. Property managers and owners might agree to some reasonable request, get everything in writing, and ask the tenant to repaint the room when they leave. If the tenant doesn’t repaint when they leave, the property manager can still deduct costs from a security deposit.

When to Consider Letting Renters Paint or Make Other Minor Modifications

It’s probably not a good idea to give renters permission to paint or make any major modifications if they are on a month-to-month lease. If tenants have 12-month leases and especially, if they have already established themselves as good tenants, it might be a good idea to let them personalize their homes in some reasonable way. Owners could frame it as a privilege that they bestow upon renters with good rental histories.

It might even encourage some renters to keep other parts of their lease agreement, like paying rent on time. Also, tenants who know they can hope to get permission for reasonable changes are less likely to simply go ahead and make modifications anyway without permission.

Typically, a coat of paint is much cheaper than a vacant rental unit or an unreliable tenant. The right answer really depends upon the situation. The most important thing is to be sure to require permission in the agreement.

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