Painting an Apartment Every Three Years

May 29, 2018 | By Charles Botensten

Q: I am a licensed real estate salesperson and a tenant that I am representing is seeking to rent an apartment in New York City. My tenant and I noticed that some of the paint was peeling off the walls in the last apartment we visited. Is it true that a landlord must paint a rental apartment in New York City every three years?

A: Yes, under the New York City Housing Maintenance Code, the landlord of a "multiple dwelling" (which is defined as any building containing three or more apartments) must repaint or re-cover the walls and ceilings of the apartment with paint, wallpaper, or other acceptable coverings every three years. Also, the landlord may be required to repaint or wallpaper more often if deemed necessary in the judgment of the New York City Department of Housing. The time frame may be extended by voluntary agreement between the landlord and the tenant, but such an agreement is not valid unless entered into in the last month of the three year period.

If the interior walls and ceilings of the apartment become unsanitary at any time within the three year period, it may be the tenant’s responsibility to repaint or wallpaper the apartment. However, a tenant will be relieved of this obligation if they can show that the conditions became unsanitary through no fault of the tenant. In such a case the landlord would be obligated to repaint or wallpaper.

In common space, such as hallways and lobbies, the three year requirement does not apply and a landlord is obligated to repaint or wallpaper only when deemed necessary by the New York City Department of Housing.

Important Tip: If a wall or ceiling inside an apartment has been decorated with wood paneling or other materials over which paint is not normally applied, the landlord will be relieved of the obligation to repaint or wallpaper the walls, so long as the material remains in a sanitary condition.

The Legal Line Question by:
Neil B. Garfinkel
REBNY Broker Counsel

Partner-in-charge of real estate and banking practices at Abrams Garfinkel Margolis Bergson, LLP