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Dear Patty - Tenant Painting

Monday, August 13, 2012  
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Dear Patty,

Whether it’s prior to move-in or shortly thereafter, tenants often call and ask me if they can do some painting. Should I let them do it?

--One Blue Property Manager

Dear Blue,

Painting is a frequent request. If handled properly, this can be a win-win scenario for both the tenant and your owner. The most important thing is to get specific information (listed below) from the tenant, and to get it in writing if at all possible. Doing so will reduce the risk of any security deposit disputes that may arise if you need to retain any of the tenant’s funds to cover repainting.

  • Exact color(s) tenant wishes to use;
  • Room(s) tenant wishes to paint;
  • Quality and brand of paint to be used;
  • Painting company to be performing the work; and
  • Whether or not the tenant must return walls to their original color prior to move-out.

Color is an important factor, and with so many shades and hues available these days, it’s vital that all parties know exactly what color the tenant anticipates using. Does "Kool-Aid blue” refer to grape Kool-Aid or blueberry Kool-Aid? Exactly how dark is "kerosene green?" Major paint stores and department stores have cards and paint samples on hand, so require the tenants submit a sample of the exact color they wish to use in order to eliminate any ambiguities or confusion.

Ensure all parties understand which rooms are to be painted, and establish the fact that tenants are allow only to paint those rooms for which they have received permission.

Quality of paint is important, and quality of the job and workmanship of those doing the job are even more vital. Reserve the right to make an inspection to ensure work has been done in a professional manner.

Lastly, define whether the tenants may leave what they’ve painted "as-is” upon move-out or whether they must return the walls to their original color. If they’ve painted neutral colors and they’ve done a great job in doing so, your owner is served well by the walls remaining as they’ve painted them. If the colors they’ve painted are excessively bright or not-so-neutral, it may be best to make the tenants return the areas they’ve painted to their original colors.

Fear not, Blue. When all aspects of tenant-initiated painting are defined, every day is a "red letter” day!


"Patty the Property Manager” appears courtesy of the ORRA Property Management Subcommittee. Readers are invited to submit property management related questions to Patty by sending an e-mail to

The ORRA Property Management Subcommittee provides this property-management advice column as a service to ORRA members. The column is intended to provide a general understanding, not as a substitute for individual legal consultation. The column should not be relied upon in specific situations without consulting a real estate attorney.

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