Repainting: Who Pays?
March 10, 2010
Q: I would like to know who would be responsible for repainting a single apartment unit. The tenant is currently living in the unit and wants to repaint the interior walls. Is the tenant responsible or is the landlord? The unit is HUD Housing located in Shelby, Montana. I would like to know for the sake of the individual that I am assisting. She is elderly and developmentally disabled.
A: There is no set area of responsibility; it depends on the circumstances. If the need for painting is the fault of the tenant, then the tenant is responsible. If the unit needs painting due to ordinary wear and tear, the responsibility is the landlord’s.
In subsidized housing a HUD inspector is supposed to inspect the property once a year to determine if it is “habitable.” One of the items checked is the condition of the paint. Chipped and peeling paint must be corrected. Apparently that was not the case with your apartment unit.
A regular maintenance schedule would dictate when units are to be repainted. One landlord I know figures interior paint should last about four years. Anything short of that he charges the tenant for, pro rata. After four years he figures it as a cost of doing business.
If a tenant just wants to paint to make the unit more attractive, you might consider buying the paint (probably no more than $30 for a small apartment) if the tenant will do the painting. Here you are taking a risk in assuming that the tenant actually knows how to paint properly, including removing outlet covers and switch plates, not painting over hardware, etc. In addition you need to have veto power on the paint color. Sometime or other you are going to have to re-rent this unit, and if the walls are deep purple it will require much repainting or finding someone who is partial to that color.
Painting a unit for a good tenant is also a great way to keep him or her. Do something nice for him or her and you are more likely to have longer retention.