Can we charge a fee against the Tenants Deposit for removing unauthorized dark colored paints?

Just prior to their moving in, I did major and minor touch ups to the original Apartment Flat White paint . The unit was ALL FLAT WHITE. They took liberty to paint in glossy dark green, bright red, mauve and camel brown colors along with muted purple semi gloss. Our renters lease began in Aug. 2011. They left on Jan. 15, 2013. Our renters say they owe nothing as "you must repaint when we leave, its the law". We should be able to deduct the "labor" portion of re-painting as it will require at least 2 if not 3 coats to cover it. Who is right here?

Long Beach, CA -

Attorney Answers (3)

James Carl Eschen III

James Carl Eschen III

Landlord / Tenant Lawyer - Santa Cruz, CA

Never listen to what your tenants tell you that the law requires. It sounds to me as if they have made you expend a lot of labor and money. Charge them for it. If they want to claim you charged them for the depreciated paint job, let them go ahead.

Frank Wei-Hong Chen

Frank Wei-Hong Chen

Real Estate Attorney - San Marino, CA

As the landlord, you MIGHT be able to deduct from the tenant's security deposit for paint if the colors were not authorized. How much you can deduct will depend, in part, on how long the tenant has been living there, as well as how dark the colors were (necessitating more than one coat of paint).

For a discussion on this topic, see the blue box under:

Frank W. Chen has been licensed to practice law in California since 1988. The information presented here is... more
Marcus William Morales

Marcus William Morales

Family Law Attorney - Santa Barbara, CA

I agree with my colleagues. If your going to repaint keep all receipts for labor and materials.

If you have already refunded the deposit send a letter with the receipts demanding payment. If the tenant refuses to pay, then take him to small claims.

If you have not refunded the deposit and your within the 21-day statutory period for refunding the deposit and/or providing an itemized statement of deductions, then charge for the labor and materials associated with repainting and provide for such deductions on the itemized statement. It will then be the tenants choice if they want to challenge the deductions from the security deposit in small claims.

I think you have a good case as the tenant alterations were not authorized and are not normal wear tear.

Sorry there is no clear cut answer but the law has inherent ambiguities. Good luck with your case.

Marcus W. Morales, Esq.
Law Offices of Marcus William Morales
Santa Barbara Lawyer

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