Section 4 Maintenance & Repairs
Sub-Section 4.5

Maintaining the Appearance of a Rental Unit


s. 58, The Residential Tenancies Act


Cosmetic improvement: an improvement to the appearance of the unit. For example: painting, refinishing hardwood floors. A cosmetic improvement is not the same as a repair.


A tenant may ask a landlord for a cosmetic improvement to a rental unit. The Branch will usually enforce a tenant’s request for a cosmetic improvement if:

  • the tenant has lived in the rental unit for a certain period of time, usually five years; and
  • the request is reasonable.

If a tenant has lived in a rental unit for less than five years, the Branch may still issue an Order to Maintain Appearance to the landlord. The Branch may do this if it decides the rental unit needs cosmetic improvement. For example: A landlord hasn’t painted a rental unit for seven years. Shortly after a new tenant moves in, they ask the landlord to paint. The landlord refuses to paint so the tenant contacts the Branch about a request for a cosmetic improvement. The Branch inspects and determines that the unit should be painted. The Branch orders the landlord to paint even though the tenant has lived in the unit for less than five years.


Sometimes, to allow a landlord to do work in a unit, a tenant may need to move their furniture or personal belongings. A tenant is responsible to move small portable items and any other fragile belongings. For example: computer components, antique furniture. A tenant should try to move furniture whenever possible. If a tenant can’t move furniture, they should ask the landlord for help.


When a tenant smokes, there may be a build-up of tar residue on the walls and ceiling. If a tenant asks a landlord to paint a rental unit during a tenancy, it’s not unreasonable for the landlord to ask the tenant to wash the walls and ceiling to prepare them for painting. If a tenant doesn’t think the landlord’s request is reasonable, they can ask the Branch to decide. If a tenant refuses to wash the walls, the landlord can ask the Branch to decide what is reasonable.

If the Branch denies a tenant’s request for a cosmetic improvement, the tenant may want to consider asking the landlord to apply for a Tenant Requested Improvement. (See Section 13)



The officer makes sure that the tenant has spoken to the landlord. The officer determines if the tenant’s request is reasonable. The officer then follows steps in "Landlord’s Responsibility for Repairs."

Steps ▼

1.The officer checks to make sure that the tenant has discussed the request for cosmetic improvement with the landlord.

2.If the tenant is requesting a cosmetic improvement, the officer determines if the tenant’s request is reasonable. If the officer doesn’t find the tenant’s request reasonable, the officer issues a decision denying the request.

3.If the officer finds the request is reasonable, the officer follows the steps in "Landlord’s Responsibility for Repairs".

Forms & Form Letters


For information on cleaning during tenancy, see this section.
For details on a tenant requested improvement, see section 13.

Policy Developed

September, 1992

Last Revision

July, 2023

Other Resources




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