How to Paint a Rental

Paint, in my opinion, is the easiest and most cost-effective way to transform any space. If you own your home, great – crack out that roller and get painting. If you rent, it can be a little less straightforward. Here are a few tips for painting a rental…

1. Plan Ahead
If painting is an absolute must for you, make sure you get it written into the lease before you rent. If you haven’t done this, don’t worry – it’s still possible.

2. Establish a Good Tenant-Landlord Relationship
When we moved into our loft, it was disgusting. The carpets were sprinkled with screws, tiny batteries and a thick layer of black dog hair (and we had a 13 month old with a penchant for eating weird things – not good). The washing machine was broken (among other things), the shelving in our master closet was falling down, the paint was scuffed and the previous tenants had left an assortment of cack including (but not limited to) various non-functioning electronics and appliances, dirty socks and other things I have since blocked from my memory. It wasn’t what we had agreed to, obviously, and I had to do a lot of nagging asking nicely to get it up to scratch.

Despite my inner fury, however, I (mostly) kept my cool, knowing that our landlord would be more amenable down the line if we started off on the right foot. It took a few months and cost him more than a few hundred dollars before everything was finally done. I let the dust settle for a little while, so he’d have a break from my incessant emails, then I broached the subject of painting.

3. Start Small
Pick a small area or room to begin with. If you ask to paint the entire place, top-to-bottom, right off the bat, you’re much more likely to get rejected. The army-green fireplace surround (see below) was my biggest decor headache, so that was my first request.

4. Be Specific and Appreciative
When you email your landlord to ask (and email is best, so you have a record of it all), there are a few things you should include:

  • Decide what colour you want to go with, and send your landlord a link to that colour. Even better: find a picture of a pretty room painted that colour and send that instead (just do an Google image search of the paint number/name and see what pops up).
  • Stress what a huge difference it would make to you, but don’t diss what’s already there – your landlord probably chose it themselves. I just said that that green didn’t really go with any of our furnishings.
  • Consider offering to repaint it before you leave. You might want to wait and use this as a bargaining tool if you get a “no” to begin with; ideally, you don’t really want to paint twice.
  • Focus on your experience. I mentioned that I had just repainted our old condo before we rented it to our tenants, so I was confident that I could do a quality job.
  • Throw in that you’re likely to rent for longer if you’re allowed to decorate in a way that suits your style.
  • If your landlord agrees, say thank you – profusely!

5. Get it in Writing
Hopefully, you now have an email record of your landlord agreeing to your paint job. Ideally, you should also write up an addendum to your lease and both you and your landlord should sign it. A note on your original lease, initialed by both parties, should acknowledge the addition of the addendum.

6. Do an Awesome Paint Job
Don’t skimp on the prep work – clean the walls before you start, remove all wall plates, use painter’s tape for tidy edging and drop cloths to protect the floors. You don’t want your landlord to regret his or her decision.

7. Send Pictures
When you’re done with your first little project – hopefully your landlord will think it looks just as fantastic as you do.

{After painting but still in progress}

8. Broach the Subject of Bigger Jobs
Once I’d finished the fireplace, and our landlord agreed that it looked good, I asked about painting the three bedrooms. This time, I actually sent him the design board I’d done for my son’s room so he could see how crucial the paint colour was to what I wanted to achieve (I’ve since changed my mind, but that’s another story).

9. Don’t Be Disheartened If You’re Not Allowed to Paint
It’s a bummer if your landlord says no, but there are a lot of other ways to decorate without changing the paint colour – stick around for another post about that coming soon. 🙂