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Can I Paint My Apartment? What About Other Alterations?

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Welcome to Ask a Rental Agent..., part of Renters Week 2012 here at Curbed Boston. Nick Warren, president and C.E.O. of Warren Residential Group, is here to answer readers' questions on renting in the Hub. Email us your questions today. Last chance!

This isn't a question about finding an apartment, but I'm hoping you can help anyway. We live in your standard large managed building in the South End. New apartment, boring landlord-white walls, unhelpful building managers. Our lease says no alterations allowed (including pictures on the walls!) and includes a scary clause that allows them to choose not to renew our lease/evict us with seven days notice for anything they don't like. I would love to paint, but I'm afraid of failing the annual inspection and being asked to move out. What do you think? How much do landlords care about (light, well-applied) paint?

Most landlords have some sort of standard language in their leases about how no alterations are allowed. It seems harsh, but it's to protect them from tenants claiming that they don't need to pay for damage to walls from mounting flat-screen TVs, hanging pictures, or painting it a color other than what is standard in their apartments. You have to think about it from their prospective —every time they turn an apartment over, they need to pay a handyman to bring it back to its original condition.

Most landlords won't kick you out for painting or hanging pictures because it would cost them more to go vacant and try to re-lease the apartment. They will just charge you for any damage or changes which you don't bring back to the original condition before leaving, though. My suggestion would be to talk to the property manager and try to get a thing like a paint color approved so maybe you won't have to repaint it when you leave. Also, make sure to touch up any damage from pictures, mounted TVs etc., or else expect to have it deducted from your security deposit.

Want to follow up with Nick further? Email him here.

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