Is the Landlord Legally Required to Repaint Rental Units Between Tenants?

Question

I’m moving into an apartment that really needs some painting. Is the landlord legally required to repaint rental units between tenants?

Answer

State and local laws (with the exception of some cities, including New York City) provide no firm guidelines as to who is responsible for repainting when a rental unit needs it. That said, courts usually rule (when this type of case ends up in court, such as in a security deposit dispute) that if a tenant has lived in a unit for several years, painting should be done at the landlord’s expense, not the tenant’s. On the other hand, tenants who have lived in an apartment for less than a year, and the walls were freshly painted when the tenant moved in but are now a mess, shouldn’t expect the landlord to pay for all costs of painting and cleaning the walls.

When it comes to moving into a new rental unit, it doesn’t hurt to ask the landlord to paint. If the walls aren’t too bad, and your landlord refuses to paint, see if the landlord will allow you to do the painting, with the landlord paying for the paint and supplies. Use the Sample Agreement With Landlord Regarding Painting Rental Unit for this purpose.

And if the paint is creating a habitability problem—for example, paint that’s so thick around a window that you can’t open the window—your landlord should fix this. And the landlord also must comply with laws regarding lead-based paint.

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