Realty Bites

My apartment really needs to be painted. How can I get my landlord to do it?

By Austin Havens-Bowen | June 24, 2021 - 9:30AM 

It’s up to you to request a paint job, because a lot of landlords won’t volunteer to do it.



I’ve lived in my New York City rental apartment for a few years and the walls are in need of a fresh coat of paint. I know landlords are supposed to paint their tenants’ apartments every three years. How do I make this happen?


New York City landlords are required to repaint or recover their tenant's apartment walls every three years, according to the city’s Housing Maintenance Code. This applies to rental buildings and sublets in co-op and condo buildings. But it’s up to you to request this work, because a lot of landlords don’t volunteer to do it unless you ask.

Your first step is simply to ask your landlord to paint the walls. Most renters wait longer than three years to ask for their apartment to be painted, says Arik Lifshitz, CEO of DSA Property Group. But if you request this after three years, or even every three years, your landlord is still legally obligated to comply, he says.

Just know that while it’s your landlord’s responsibility to paint, it’s up to you to prepare the apartment for the work, Liftshitz says. This includes moving and covering furniture and taking down anything that’s hanging on your walls.

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Of course, painting an entire apartment is a lot of work—and may not always be necessary. Consider asking for just specific rooms in your apartment to be painted in order to get the job done quicker.

Another tip: You could offer to do the work yourself, especially if you rent from a smaller landlord who might take more time to get around to it. Tell them that you will buy the paint too—if they will reimburse you with a rent credit.

This is how you can get more of a custom look for your rental. Just remember that if you paint your apartment yourself, stick with a neutral color so you don’t have to repaint before you move out. (Many leases require you to restore an apartment to its original condition.) Or you could discuss any bold color choices with your landlord ahead of time and see if they are ok with it. Otherwise you might put some of your security deposit at risk.

Lifshitz says that DSA’s tenants are allowed to paint their own apartments, but if a tenant uses a dark color that requires more layers of paint to cover, "the tenant would be subject to a portion of their security being applied towards the extra costs,” he says.

One thing you should be aware of: If your walls become damaged within those three years, and it’s your fault, then you could be responsible for repainting or recovering the walls yourself, according to the city’s Housing Preservation & Development code.

And if your landlord still won’t paint your new apartment after three years, or even sooner if it’s peeling or cracked, you can file a complaint online.


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