Can a Tenant Paint Without Permission?


Finding a place to rent can be tough. First of all, there are so many options. Since the inception of websites like Zillow, Trulia, and Realtor.com, tenants started having so many options that in some cases it actually became HARDER to find the right home. Some place will have a perfect location, yet it has no pool. The other place may have a pool, but it is not renovated. The list goes on, and you find yourself eventually having to compromise in areas that are not that important for you.

Sometimes you’ll find a place that it checks pretty much all of your boxes, except one: its walls are so ugly that you might find yourself not wanting to wake up, just so you don’t have to look at them. So if you find yourself stuck in an apartment like that, what should you do?

Are tenants allowed to paint walls without permission? As a tenant, the first thing you need to do is to check your leasing agreement. Some landlords will specify in the lease that tenants can paint whatever they want, other landlords will have more specific conditions, and others will explicitly tell you not to paint anything. However, sometimes the lease won’t specifically mention painting but instead will use the term alterations.

After checking your lease, you may have the answer to your question. If the lease gives you any kind of instruction about painting, you should make sure you follow the rules. If you still have doubts, you should always contact your landlord. Below, we’ll cover some of the most common scenarios.

If the Lease Doesn’t Mention Anything About Painting

If you can’t find anything on your lease agreement that mentions painting, making alterations or modifications, then most likely you will be able to paint. We recommend always speaking to your landlord before painting anything, just to make sure he or she is ok with it. It will save you from possible future headaches.

In case you do decide to paint it, make sure you paint it with fairly neutral colors and that you do paint it very professionally. If you do that, you’ll be able to make the home exactly how you like it and the landlord will have no reason to complain.

If the Lease Allows Painting, But With Specific Conditions

While every lease is different, the most common conditions you’ll find in them is to check with the landlord before painting and to return the walls in the same conditions as when you moved in.

  • Check with the landlord first: while I recommend that you always do that, if the lease mentions it then you definitely need to do it. Otherwise, if you decide to paint without notice, the landlord might be allowed to keep your security deposit after move out. You will most likely just need to let them know why you’re looking to get them painted, which color you’re using, and if you’re doing it yourself or hiring someone. The landlord reserves the right to tell you no (unless the walls are in terrible shape). He might also tell you that if you decide to do it, you’ll need to repaint them with the original colors before you move out.
  • Return in the original conditions: sometimes this will be explicitly stated on the leasing agreement. Landlords are protecting themselves against people that would paint the whole house bright purple if they could. If you’re looking to paint with a basic neutral color, you might want to check with your landlord beforehand. He might be on board with it and might even want you to leave it like that after you move out. You never know.

If the Lease Specifically Tells You NOT to Paint

Unfortunately, if you’re renting apartments and/or short terms, this is what you’ll most likely find in your lease. Your options are pretty limited in this case, but there might be something you can do. You can always reach out to the landlord and see if he would be ok with it.

If that’s not the case, then you need to take a deep breath and see how much you really want those new walls. If you’re really desperate, go ahead and do it. However, your landlord is most likely going to hire a professional painter and discount the costs from your security deposit. Chances are that they’ll hire an expensive one since it will mean a free repaint for them.

If the Walls Are In Really Bad Shape

If you have been living at the property for a couple of years, then things are a little different. While state and local laws slightly differ on this topic (and most of them are pretty broad anyways), courts usually rule that it is the landlord’s responsibility to repaint them. That’s unless you have done major damage to the walls – then you’d be responsible. But if the walls have been damaged due to ‘normal wear and tear’, then you can contact your landlord and request him to paint it. If you’re into DIY projects, you can ask him and he might be ok with you repainting them yourself.

Can I be evicted for painting my apartment?

While your landlord may get upset, it is unlikely that he or she would be able to evict you just because you’ve painted the walls without their consent. Worst case scenario, they will be able to make you repaint the walls, take some money out of your security deposit, and just be a little extra annoying whenever they can.

This is by no means legal advice, only what I found based upon my research. I’d recommend you always check your lease, talk to the landlord, and treat the house like if you owned it. It will save you from a lot of headaches!

Gui Hadlich

Hi there! I'm Gui. I've had to move 12 times in the last 6 years, and I've learned a thing or two about moving, decorating, and buying and selling furniture. I've started Budget Friendly Furnishing with the intent of helping people furnish their homes in style without having to break the bank!

Recent Posts