To paint or not to paint, that is the question

Sadly this has been a matter of contestation for some time between tenants and landlords.  Landlords only see the mess, the cost and the issue that will come from painting.  The tenant thinks, “but this is my new home, I’m paying my monthly rent, right?”

We as landlords should be careful not to simply say no, just for no sake.  I don’t say you should always say yes, because you will get a wacky funky looking house in return.  But to simply say no because you aren’t living there is also not a kind hearted notion. Remember; tenants that feel welcome, at home and are allowed to nest, stay longer, thusly keeping your cashflow alive.

Consider allowing your tenants to change a few walls, as long as they stick to your terms.


1. Tenants should always ask

It is important that you as landlord know exactly what your tenant wants to paint.  A simple mms message showing the dark wall is not well enough of an indication, nor is a ‘badge’. You need to know are they including window frames, skirtings, ceilings in the ‘wall’ they want to paint.  A quick afternoon chat at the property will be best.

With this in mind remember to take an entire range of swatches.  Have a quick chat over coffee while discussing the colour options together.  Finding a happy compromise is key and I am a firm believer in them.

Landlords know that it is practical to paint the entire property with a non-offending badge or gray.  But as a previous renter I can also say those simple badge/gray becomes dull and spirit draining, meaning unhappy tenants.  Allowing your tenants to paint a wall a slightly different tonal value might even add a touch of aesthetics to your property in the long run.


2. Landlords get a Veto card

This is the reason why you need to choose the colour with your tenants. Don’t simply discuss it over the phone by saying it will be blue, what blue, how dark a blue – there are many variations to the colour blue and so are there to red.

This is the one colour I say no to, red is known to be a difficult colour in every regard.  Covering it up is impossible, touch ups will always show and tonal values are never the same.  If your tenant wants to paint a wall, and this wall has to be a bright funky colour, then I say yes, with a big BUT…

But 1: You, the tenant will repaint the wall back to its original/pre-approved colour

But 2: You, the tenant will pay for the paint and labour

But 3: You, the tenants will pay an extra painting deposit, purely for cleaning and re-painting purposes. A neat tenant should have no problem regaining that extra bit of deposit.  Remember to note it in the original lease agreement.


3. Whats going to be painted?

As a landlord you need to always consider the longevity of a project and the impact it will have in the future to your property.

Let’s explain;

A landlord shouldn’t allow a tenant to paint the window frames bright red, when they’re going to be dull pink in 3 months.

Also consider what your tenant wants to paint,

  • Walls – yes
  • Ceilings other than white – no
  • Window frames – tenants never ask
  • Wooden skirting – forget about it


4. Who’s going to paint it?

This will very much depend on your need for perfection as a landlord.  If you need perfection then one is only to assume you will be painting it yourself.  Because you can’t expect perfection even from a day labourer or your tenant.  Expect spills and splashes if you’re not going to paint yourself.  It is for this reason that an extra painting deposit is asked, to enable you to get the mess cleaned up and give your tenant an extra motivation for a touch of neatness. Remember to make notes on both, the landlords and the tenants, Lease Agreement

5. Who pays for it?

This is something that you and your tenants will have to discuss fairly. Consider the current condition of the property:

  • Would the property benefit from a paint job?
  • Does the approved colour match your landlord style?

If the answers are yes to both these questions then you should consider paying 50-60% of the paint cost. Remember happy tenants stay longer, meaning better cash flow.

Remember to note all changes and conditions to the original lease agreement.  A tenant and landlord relationship doesn’t have to be one with constant friction. The rental property business should be nothing more than another business agreement, with clearly stipulated terms and open communication.

Please consider dropping Mafadi a mail if you have any rental concerns, we will be happy to help.

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Written by Lizl Brink, Lizl is copywriter and designer based in Johannesburg, she is also a frequent contributor to the Mafadi blog, and as an Urban investor and rejuvenation shares a passion for urban regeneration, go check out her personal portfolio here
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