Rental Remedies

Reader Q: How to ask landlord for permission to paint

I absolutely love getting emails from readers!  Recently this challenging question popped up in my inbox, from a new reader who’s not sure how to ask her landlord for permission to paint.


It must be fate because I’m moving into a new house rental in 3 weeks and here you are with amazing advice for pet owning renters like me!

Thanks for the great advice on preparing for the move (I don’t feel crazy now for packing already).  The trick is that we are moving into a house (finally out of the condo).  We hope to live here for the next 2-3 years.  That being said, I need help.

How do you tactfully and successfully ask your landlord if you can paint?

Our landlord is an interior designer, and for whatever reason he’s chosen to paint lavender on the walls of the small kitchen!  The tile on the counter tops is green (the house is an old Craftsman style).  My KitchenAid and kitchen art is RED!!  Eeeek!  Paint is a must.  I don’t want to offend, but I must find a way to ask successfully.  I’ll go with something mild to tie in green and red without making it look like Santa’s workshop- thinking pale yellow, soft green/blue or in the least bone white.

Tips/advice?  We move in three weeks and I haven’t asked yet for fear of offending his taste.


Hmm, what a conundrum!  A landlord who is a designer?  With a green & lavender kitchen? That’s a tough challenge.  But here’s my take on things.

First, I absolutely love Craftsman style homes, so I’ll try not to be envious.  They have so much character, like nice wood trim and great windows.  But green tile, lavender walls? That sounds a bit . . .  unusual.

If you’ve got red appliances and accessories, my gut says I’d go with a soft off-white or pale neutral color on the walls, just to help keep things a bit more neutral.  I’d be reluctant to bring in too many other colors with that green tile on the counters.

There’s another approach you could take, though.  Playing off the green tile and red appliances, go for a more Tuscan feel in the space, using a warm gold-ish color on the walls.  My best friend is doing that in her modern kitchen – red, green, and a nice warm goldish yellow.

Regardless, I’d wait until move-in to ask the landlord about paint. You don’t want to give off the vibe that you’re correcting his design style before the keys have changed hands.   Move in, get settled, then after a few weeks ask him about it.  Flattery gets you everywhere, right?  So I’d probably start by telling him how much I loved the place.  Then I’d probably say that since we were planning on living there for 2-3 years, we’d really like to repaint the kitchen to help it better work with our stuff and our style.   Then maybe I’d ask  “if we were to do that, would you prefer that we go with a neutral or off-white, or would a color be ok?”   I asked my last landlord to approve the colors before I did them.  To help seal the deal, I’d say something like “of course, when we move out, we’d be happy to paint it back to your current color.”

I always try to be friendly with my landlords, because it’s helpful to get along with the person who owns your home.  Of course, renting places that I love makes it easier.   Also, landlords don’t like to be bothered with every single little issue in the space, so if something needs fixing and I think I can do it easily, I’ll let them know what I found, and ask for permission to fix it myself.   I could be wrong, but I think it helps your relationship with the landlord if they a) feel like you care about protecting their space and b) are trying to help fix little things rather than making them send a maintenance person out for every little bitty thing.

So that’s my 2 cents – do you guys have any other advice to share with this reader?

Also, if you’re renting and want to paint, check out my 6 Tips for Painting Rentals.


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  • Reply Anonymous at 4:17 pm

    Most of the places I’ve rented have something written in the lease about painting (anywhere from ‘paint whatever you want but it has to be white when you leave’ to ‘paint whatever you want as long as you don’t touch the fixtures or the floors’). It may be worth scanning the lease to see if anything’s in there, and then incorporating that into the conversation with the landlord.

  • Reply Katie makingthishome at 4:19 pm

    good suggestion, Jane!

  • Reply Kate at 4:22 pm

    Great advice! I actually heard (as we were moving out of course…) that one of the apartments we lived in would let you paint as long as you painted them back to white before you left. It seems like landlords are getting more flexible about painting rentals.

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