Is repainting rule unreasonable for renters? | Inman News for Mt Kisco NY Real Estate

Is repainting rule unreasonable for renters?

Can landlord keep security deposit if tenants use 'unapproved' contractor?

By Robert Griswold, Friday, May 20, 2011.

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Q: We have lived at my apartment complex for nearly 16 years. Recently, I have heard from many friends who have moved out that the property management company has some rather stringent restrictions regarding the painting of walls upon moving. The rules state that the "tenants upon vacating their rental unit must submit a paid receipt from (a particular painting contractor) or they will not be considered for a refund of their deposit(s) of any kind."

I did paint some accent walls in vivid colors with the understanding that when we moved out we would have to repaint the unit back to the drab "Navajo white" that was used throughout our 2-bedroom rental unit when we moved in. I called and have found that the proposed cost of repainting our rental unit with this particular painting company is not out of line.

But I have heard rumors that this company is owned by the owner’s son, which is the real reason behind their requirements. Is it proper for the property management company to demand that people moving out must utilize only one painting contractor that they recommend?

A: I don’t believe it’s reasonable for your landlord to demand that a specific painting contractor is used regardless of who owns the company. I do think the landlord has the right to be concerned that the restoration of the painted accent walls is done in a professional manner.

Depending on the color of the accent walls, it may require the painting contractor to apply a primer coat and then more than one coat of paint to properly cover the accent wall.

I would have no problem with the property management company offering a list of preferred painting contractors to their tenants when they move out.

This could actually be helpful and would be especially attractive to you as the vacating tenant if the painting contractors are willing to do the work at lower rates that are typically only available to large rental property owners or property management companies.

I also would expect the landlord to be willing to allow you to do the painting yourself as long as the work was done properly and the results were good. They may be able to provide you with some help by recommending a local paint and materials supplier so you can quickly and efficiently return the brightly colored walls back to the landlord’s favorite, Navajo white.

In your case, you were a tenant for 16 years so I wouldn’t expect your landlord to require you to do any painting unless they had routinely repainted your rental unit periodically throughout your tenancy and the paint was damaged.

Of course, if you agreed to repaint the access walls upon moving out, your landlord may want you to fulfill your promise, but many landlords would just be delighted that you stayed for such a long time and will gladly cover all repainting costs.

Q: We have been good renters for more than nine years and live in a modest rental home in the suburbs of a large metropolitan area. Every year we sign a one-year lease, and there have been no changes at all to the terms of the lease except for an adjustment of the rent to a higher amount in some years.

We understand that rents for comparable homes in the area have increased and believe our landlord has been fair to us. Of course, we also think that we have treated the rental home as our own and always pay our rent on time if not actually early in some months.

However, we just received our latest proposed 12-month lease agreement and were shocked that the landlord has increased the required security deposit by $100. Our current lease will expire at the first of next month, and there is no provision that the lease will convert to a month-to-month rental agreement. She hasn’t given us any explanation, but we wanted your thoughts on whether she is allowed to arbitrarily increase our security deposit. Can she?

A: Yes. You have had a series of nine 12-month leases and each lease is a contract that stands on its own. So once your current lease has expired you will no longer have a valid contract. So each year what you and your landlord have essentially done is agreed to a completely new contract. Both parties have the ability to renegotiate or seek to change the terms of the new contract.

In this case, your landlord has asked that you increase the amount of your security deposit by $100. That is a reasonable request that you can decide to abide with or you can refuse and decide to vacate the premises.

Of course, you certainly have the right to ask the landlord the reason for the increased security deposit, but she does not have to justify her reasoning. Most likely the landlord is simply trying to make sure that she has sufficient funds to protect herself.

You have acknowledged that your rent has increased over the last nine years while the security deposit has remained the same. The expected costs for the landlord to make any repairs to the rental home to cover any damages that exceed normal usage when you move out have also increased.

An exception is if the security deposit held by your landlord is already at a maximum allowed level under state or local law. For example, some states have a maximum security deposit that a landlord can require that is equal to two times the monthly rental rate. If that was true for your area, then if your rent is $1,000 per month the maximum security deposit would be $2,000.

Also, check the lease to see whether the landlord has provided a proper period of written notice for the increase in security deposit.

This column on issues confronting tenants and landlords is written by property manager Robert Griswold, author of "Property Management for Dummies" and "Property Management Kit for Dummies" and co-author of "Real Estate Investing for Dummies."

Email your questions to Rental Q&A at Questions should be brief and cannot be answered individually.

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