Q. My roommates and I heard that a landlord must paint a tenant's apartment every three years if requested.  Is this true? What is the law and are there any stipulations? Is it only for rent-stabilized units?

A. It's true that a landlord is required to repaint or recover (with wallpaper or other acceptable coverings) the walls and ceilings of an apartment every three years.  The law, New York City Administrative Code Article 3 - § 27-2013, applies to all buildings with three or more units, whether rent stabilized, rent controlled, or market rate. 

Note that the law simply states that it is the landlord's obligation to paint, which means the burden is not on you to ask. The terms of your lease may require that the landlord  paint even more frequently. However, no matter what the lease says, your landlord is required to paint at least every three years.

There is one exception: If the three-year deadline is a month or less away, you can let your landlord off the hook for up to another two years maximum (i.e. your landlord would need to paint at least every five years).  This option can be useful in the event that moving furniture and accommodating a painting crew and their equipment feels like far more of a chore than a benefit.  

The Administrative Code also requires that a landlord “keep and maintain records relating to the refinishing of public parts and dwelling units showing when such parts were last painted or covered with acceptable material and who performed the work.”  In the event that your landlord claims that the painting was done more recently than you believe, you may be able to use this to force their hand and get the work done.  However, a landlord isn’t technically required to share their records with tenants. 


Mike Akerly is a New York City real estate attorney, landlord, and real estate broker. He is also the publisher of the Greenwich Village blog VillageConfidential.     

Note: The information provided here is for informational purposes only. It should not be construed as legal advice and cannot substitute for the advice of a licensed professional applying their specialized knowledge to the particular circumstances of your case.

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About:

Rent Coach Mike Akerly is a NYC real estate attorney, landlord, real estate broker, and the publisher of the Greenwich Village blog VillageConfidential.