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Deducting Cost of Repainting Purple Walls From Security Deposit

By Adam Leitman Bailey

Q: One of my tenants moved out of her apartment, leaving behind walls that she had painted purple. Can I deduct the cost of repainting the walls from this tenant’s security deposit?

A: Yes, says Manhattan attorney Adam Leitman Bailey. In general, if a tenant moves out of an apartment leaving behind walls that need to be repainted because of minor holes or marks on them, it’s considered normal “wear and tear,” so you can’t deduct the cost of repainting from the security deposit, he explains. But if the tenant has painted the walls purple, this goes beyond normal wear and tear, he says. And most leases require the tenant to leave the apartment in the same condition as when the tenant moved in. Purple walls would clearly violate this lease provision.

PRACTICAL POINTER: Keep copies of any invoices or canceled checks for the cost of repainting the apartment. That way, if the tenant sues you for the return of the security deposit, you’ll have proof of the cost of repainting the walls.


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