The accidental landlord: top tips for interiors that last

From walls painted in washable beige to the banning of sticky-fingered toddlers, there are ways to make sure your rental property scrubs up well
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When I wrote a few weeks ago that I was about to redecorate my rental flat for the first time in eight years, one landlord suggested that  I must have “exceptional” tenants for the décor to have lasted so long.  

I happen to think it is down to my “exceptional” decorating skills, so here are my tips for painting a rental property so that it will last for a very long time.

The first tip is not to paint the walls white, which will show every darned fingermark. There is a reason councils use a lot of magnolia, but I use Dulux Barley White, which is actually a sort-of beige, and even better at masking stains.

Of course, one advantage of using a standard white paint is that it is easy to cover the odd damp patch, so I would definitely recommend white for ceilings. 

If you have a coloured paint it is hard to match it exactly, so it’s a good idea to keep half a tin or so for the odd repair job. An opened tin of matt paint should keep for up to three years. I wouldn’t use a bespoke paint that has to be mixed specially, because finding exactly the same colour for the occasional spot of re-touching will be very difficult.

Also, if you really want an easy life, paint every room the same colour. That way, if you have to touch up the walls from time to time, you won’t have to buy lots of different pots of paints. Also, you won’t have to try to remember which colour you used in which room.

The roof of my friend’s rental flat leaked like a sieve last winter, causing damp in three bedrooms and the bathroom. Now the walls and ceilings have dried out, I am helping her to arrange their redecoration, but as each of the rooms was painted a different shade we have got to source four different paints and, inevitably, one of the fancy-pants colours she used has been discontinued, which means an entire room will have to be painted a new colour. 

Pay extra for a paint that will wash. I use Dulux Endurance+, which is almost 25 per cent more expensive than standard matt paint but you will save yourself thousands of pounds in the long run because you can wash the walls and rub off marks without the colour fading, which means you will have to redecorate less often. 

Dulux claims its Endurance+ range is “20 times tougher” than its standard matt emulsion, which sounds like nonsense marketing speak but it really does work. You can hire firms to wash walls from about £15 a room, which is a lot cheaper than redecorating. Or you can do it yourself. Dust them first before washing and start from the top. I’ve found Cif cream (not spray) works really well on stains and will even shift scuffs left by rubber bicycle tyres.

Unless you are an ace decorator, pay for a professional painter. I think the key to making decoration last is all in the preparation, especially on window frames. If you slap some paint on to poorly prepared surfaces, it will flake pretty fast.

Finally, choose your tenants carefully. A friend who is letting her house for the first time is petrified she is going to end up with a group of reckless sharers, but young families can also quickly muck up your walls. Picture sticky-fingered toddlers staggering around the rooms, ricocheting off walls and leaving grubby handprints everywhere, and you’ll see what I mean. 

Go for a nice, quiet married couple - or failing that, paint every room in scrubbable beige.

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