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Peeling Paint in Rental? What to Do & Who’s Responsible

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Will Southall

Will Southall

5 months ago - 6 minute read

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Is the paint peeling off the wall in your living room or bathroom ceiling? It’s a common issue, especially in rentals.

Damp is sometimes the issue, but it’s usually caused by the surface not being prepped properly before it was painted. Since landlords aren’t exactly known for their good paint jobs, the latter is usually the case!

But blame aside (sort of!), what do you do when paint starts peeling off the wall? Do you have to fix it to get your deposit back? Are you allowed to fix it? And how would you even go about fixing flaky paint anyway?

We’re here to answer all your questions about peeling paint in rentals, including what to do, who’s responsible and how to fix it.

Why is Paint Peeling Off My Wall?

Several reasons could be behind why your paint is peeling off the wall.

The most common causes of peeling paint are:

  • Poor quality paint was used
  • Expired paint was used
  • Paint was applied in very thick coats
  • Paint was applied to a dusty surface
  • Surfaces were not properly prepped before painting
  • Water damage has occurred to the wall or plasterboard
  • Humidity is too high in the property
  • Temperatures are too high in the property
  • High sunlight exposure has damaged the paint

Landlords are notoriously known for their bad paint jobs, so your peeling paint could simply be caused by their sloppy decorating skills.

But damp is also a common issue in rentals. According to a 2019 survey by Rentokil, almost 6 million UK tenants have damp issues in their properties.

Flaky paint can be one of the earliest (and biggest!) signs of an underlying damp issue in your rental.

Damp could be your fault as the tenant (mostly if you aren’t ventilating it), but it could also be your landlords.

Either way, you should report the issue so your landlord can investigate.

Landlords are generally responsible for fixing damp issues in a rental property, especially if it poses risks to your health. This should include repainting the walls if the issue (or the repair work) has caused significant damage.

But they aren’t responsible for repainting the walls for cosmetic reasons. I.e., if they’ve simply done a bad paint job and it’s beginning to show!

Peeling Paint in Rental? FAQs for Renters

Do I Need to Fix Peeling Paint in a Rental?

Generally, no, you, as the tenant, don’t have to fix peeling paint in a rental before you move out. Peeling paint is mostly considered normal wear and tear. But it can depend on the cause and severity of the issue.

For example, if you’ve caused peeling paint in every room by having a humidifier for your houseplants, you may need to fix it before you move out. Or you’ll be charged from your deposit.

But if it’s flaking in a small area that gets a lot of sun exposure, this should not be chargeable.

It’s important to keep in mind what your lease says about peeling paint. Leases don’t normally stipulate that you need to repaint a wall if you “damage” it, but they may do. Check your lease before deciding what to do.

Related article: Dealing with black mould in your home

Will I Lose My Deposit From Peeling Paint?

Our simple answer is no, you shouldn’t lose your deposit from paint peeling off the wall in a rental.

All tenants are allowed to leave the property with “general wear and tear” issues. Peeling paint is usually considered general wear and tear. As are scuff marks and sun damage to the walls.

But it can be more complex if the paint is peeling because of a damp issue that you caused.

Legally, landlords are responsible for ensuring your home is safe to live in, which includes fixing damp issues if it poses a risk to your health.

Damp can be caused by several things, including an exterior, structural or leak issue. These are your landlords’ responsibility to fix and pay for.

But damp can also be caused by you not ventilating the property correctly, which you are responsible for preventing.

If you haven’t been ventilating the property and/or following the ventilation rules stipulated in your lease, and it’s caused damage to the property (and your landlord can prove you caused it), you may be liable to a deposit deduction to fix the damp issues on a whole. This can include the impact the damp has had on the paint.

So, the more complex answer is that it depends on the circumstances.

However, it’s generally the case that you should not be charged a deposit deduction from peeling paint.

Related article: Winning tips to help renters get their deposits back in full

Who is Responsible for Painting in a Rental?

Painting a rental property is usually the landlord’s responsibility. But if there’s an issue with the paint, like it’s peeling off the wall, your landlord doesn’t have to fix this.

This is because paint is generally considered a cosmetic issue, and damage to it is considered a normal occurrence during your tenancy.

Likewise, if you sign a lease on a property with a bad paint job, your landlord doesn’t have to repaint if you complain about it later.

If you want to repaint your walls for cosmetic reasons, you can only do this if it says you can in your lease or if you ask for your landlord’s permission.

Painting without permission can be considered a breach of lease and can lose you some of your deposit.

Related article: Is a renters’ lifetime deposit right for you?

Is Paint Damage Considered Wear & Tear?

Yes, paint damage is usually considered wear and tear in UK rentals. You shouldn’t lose your deposit because of scuff marks on the walls, peeling paint or sun damage.

If your landlord is trying to charge you for needing to repaint the walls, you may be able to dispute this.

Contact your deposit scheme to learn more about what landlords can and cannot charge you for and how to dispute a charge.

How Do You Fix Peeling Paint?

Fixing peeling paint is easier than it sounds. The process isn’t too dissimilar to regular painting, except you shouldn’t normally need to repaint the entire wall if just a small area is flaking.

If your landlord has given you permission to paint the walls, here’s an easy step-by-step guide on how to fix peeling paint quickly and effectively.

What Equipment You’ll Need:

  • Dust sheets
  • Dust mask
  • Protective eye goggles
  • Wallpaper scraper
  • Wall filler
  • Sandpaper
  • Cloth
  • Primer
  • Paint

How to Fix Peeling Paint: A Step-by-Step Guide

To fix paint peeling off the wall, here’s what you need to do:

  1. If the paint is peeling because of a damp issue, fix the underlying issue before repainting. Otherwise, the issue will return very quickly.
  2. If the underlying issue is fixed, but the walls are still wet, remove moisture in the area using a dehumidifier or by opening the window.
  3. Cover the area with a dust sheet and put on your protective equipment, including a dust mask and protective eye goggles.
  4. Scrape off the peeling paint with a wallpaper scraper. Continue scraping until no more peeling paint remains on the wall.
  5. Repair the area with a patching compound, like a high-quality wall filler. This will make the area look smooth when repainted.
  6. Once dry, sand down the area until smooth using sandpaper or an electric sander.
  7. Clean the area with a damp cloth to remove any dirt and dust.
  8. Apply a primer to the area. Make sure it’s a high-quality primer to prevent the paint from re-peeling again. Only spread a thin layer onto the wall.
  9. Once dry, paint the walls with your desired colour. If needed, apply a second coat. Only apply the coat in thin layers.
  10. Ventilate the area to dry the paint, clean up any mess and wait for the paint to dry properly before hanging or leaning anything on it.

Paint can take several days to dry properly, especially in poorly ventilated areas. If you’ve just painted a bathroom that has high humidity, refrain from showering or bathing until the paint is properly dry.

Otherwise, it can quickly collect moisture and start bubbling, ruining all your hard work!

Related article: Burnt carpet in a rental? Here’s what to do!

Can You Paint Over Peeling Paint?

You can paint over flaking paint, but you shouldn’t really do it. It’s unlikely to fix the issue, and, chances are, the peeli-ness will just come back.

In fact, it could return even worse. Applying too many coats of paint to a wall can make it peel faster and more severely.

Prepping a flaky wall for repainting is relatively quick and simple.

All you need to do is remove the flaking paint with a spackle, fill it in with wall filler and sand down the surface. Then you can prime and paint over the area smoothly.

Related article: 40+ First home essentials every new renter needs

Can You Put Primer On Top of Peeling Paint?

Technically, yes, you can put primer on top of peeling paint, but it isn’t a good idea to do it without prepping the wall properly.

Poorly prepped walls are the biggest cause of paint peeling off the wall in the first place. Slapping primer on the wall without fixing the issue won’t give you a smooth finish, and it can just make the peeling worse.

Instead, you should remove all the flakiness properly, fill the wall in and smooth it over with sandpaper. Then prime the walls and repaint in your desired colour.

Related article: How to find a remote-work-friendly rental

Moving Out of a Rental Soon?

Are you simply redecorating, or are you thinking about moving rental?

If moving and leaving behind your flaky paint issues is the best option for you, we have good news!

You no longer need to save up for a deposit every time you move.

For the first time ever, if you already have a deposit protected in a deposit scheme, you can transfer it to your next property.

A Lifetime Deposit will help you keep hold of £1,200 on average, which we think is pretty neat.

We are on a mission to help more people move, so if you are moving soon, don’t forget your Lifetime Deposit!

Get a Lifetime Deposit: Get started

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Will Southall

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Will Southall

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