Do we need to repaint to get our deposit back?
November 11, 2011 11:03 AM   Subscribe

We're moving out of our San Francisco apartment after 6.5 years. We painted one wall orange. After mentioning to a few people that we were bummed that we wouldn't have time to repaint it and thus would get a ding to our security deposit, they all said that after a certain amount of time, we weren't responsible for repainting. What are the laws on this? Checked the San Francisco Tenants Union and Housing Rights Committee sites, but didn't see any info. Would one or the other be better to call, or can anyone point us to the information?
posted by jaybeans to Law & Government (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
I used this information.

As a general guideline- it's suggested:

One approach for determining the amount that the landlord can deduct from the tenant's security deposit for repainting, when repainting is necessary, is based on the length of the tenant's stay in the rental unit. This approach assumes that interior paint has a two-year life. (Some landlords assume that interior paint has a life of three years or more.)
Length of stay
Less than 6 months
6 months to 1 year
1 year to 2 years
2 or more years
Deduction
full cost
two-thirds of cost
one-third of cost
no deduction


Using this approach, if the tenant lived in the rental unit for two years or more, the tenant could not be charged for any repainting costs, no matter how dirty the walls were.
posted by Zophi at 11:12 AM on November 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


I lived in my San Francisco apartment 12 years and had painted one wall red and my kitchen cabinets green (along with hand-painted ivy leaves - note to self: do not do this again as I am not that talented). Anyway, I received all of my deposit back.

My thoughts are that 1) after such a long time, the apartment was going to have to be repainted anyway and 2) it probably wasn't worth the landlord's hassle to try and keep some of my money and possibly have me fight it. YMMV.

After six years, I think you'll get all your money back.
posted by shoesietart at 11:19 AM on November 11, 2011


I know San Francisco has very strong tenant protections so my take on it might not be valid, but if the wall that is painted orange takes an extra coat to cover the orange then you may be responsible for just that work.
posted by Crashback at 11:32 AM on November 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


In LA, a landlord must paint every 4 years by law. This isn't up to the landlord's descretion.

As a landlord I would charge you for the orange wall because it would involve extra priming to get the wall back to "landlord white."

Check with your jurisdiction first, and then your landlord or management company.
posted by jbenben at 11:34 AM on November 11, 2011


Check your lease. Zophi's guidelines usually apply but my two most recent leases in SF have had clauses indicating that the apartment's walls needed to be the original color when the keys were returned or we could be charged for repainting. Landlords in both cases confirmed that they would charge for repainting walls that were not in the original color no matter the length of occupancy.
posted by animalrainbow at 12:14 PM on November 11, 2011


I've dealt with this exact issue recently. In the Bay Area, in a suburb that doesn't have any rent control laws. I AM NOT A LAWYER.

We (the tenants) spoke to a lawyer about this, and based on his advice, sued in small claims to get our deposit back (where one of the main issues was paint). We never actually went to court, the landlord finally gave us our deposit back after the court filings proved we weren't going to lay down and eat it.

The relevant CA civil code section is 1950.5 (I think those leginfo.ca.gov links break sometimes, sorry if they do; you can search again here.

The key bits are about "reasonable wear" and the requirement that they notify you in writing of your right to a walk-through inspection, and that they conduct the inspection properly. If they fail to do this, they basically have no claim on any part of the deposit.

As for reasonable wear, other comenters have mentioned the guidelines for this:
3. Repainting walls

One approach for determining the amount that the landlord can deduct from the tenant's security deposit for repainting, when repainting is necessary, is based on the length of the tenant's stay in the rental unit. This approach assumes that interior paint has a two-year life. (Some landlords assume that interior paint has a life of three years or more.)
Length of stay        Deduction   
Less than 6 months    full cost
6 months to 1 year    two-thirds of cost
1 year to 2 years     one-third of cost
2 or more years       no deduction
according to the attorney we spoke to, the rationale is that paint has a useful life of two years, and so any damage to it that must be replaced is pro-rated against that reasonable lifetime.

Good luck, in my experience with landlords you usually have to fight a well-documented battle of writing before they finally decide to do the right thing.

If it gets sticky, it's *absolutely* worth talking to a competent landlord/tenant lawyer.
posted by colin_l at 2:01 PM on November 11, 2011


my two most recent leases in SF have had clauses indicating that the apartment's walls needed to be the original color when the keys were returned or we could be charged for repainting

Color me cynical, but landlords have been known to include all kinds of illegal, non-enforceable language in leases. It would be worth checking with a tenants-aid or tenants-rights society, or even a lawyer, to find out if that clause has any legal validity.
posted by Lexica at 3:20 PM on November 11, 2011


I had exactly that experience renting in SF (well, almost: 10 years, and green not orange.) The landlord did charge for restoring the wall to white, and at the time I checked that was legally OK.
posted by anadem at 3:56 PM on November 11, 2011


You could cover a wall in two coats of paint in a day, one in the morning and one in the evening, with a total time investment of a couple of hours.
posted by spitbull at 5:18 AM on November 12, 2011


Best answer: I used to be a landlord, not in California. An orange wall will take more than a quick coat of white paint. Does your lease have a rule about painting? What would it cost to have the wall painted? I had tenants who did terrible paint jobs or used deep colors, requiring a fair amount of effort to cover. Call the landlord, make an offer. $150 - 200 out of your deposit sounds fair to me.
posted by theora55 at 7:30 AM on November 12, 2011


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