Once in a while, it’s worth checking on your property to make sure that your rental unit is as it should be. Whether you own a single-family home, townhouse, or other types of residential rental property, conducting a regular inspection can protect your real estate investment and prevent problems down the road. But what should you check, exactly?
What is a rental property inspection?
A rental property inspection allows you, the landlord, to assess the property’s condition at any time during the rental period. Move-in inspections allow the owner and the tenant to review the property’s condition and to set the “standards” for what the property should look like when the tenant eventually moves out. On the other hand, move-out inspections give you or your property management company the opportunity to identify the repairs (if any) that the tenant should cover.
Aside from the move-in and move-out inspections, you should also evaluate the property’s condition via routine inspections. Property management companies such as Luxury Property Care suggest visiting your investment property at least three times a year. If you’re a long-distance landlord, you can inspect the property in the middle of the lease agreement. This is also called the sixth month or six-month inspection.
Why should you conduct a rental inspection?
As a landlord, it’s in your best interest to protect your property, and the best way to do that is by maintaining it. A property inspection can help pinpoint issues that need to be nipped in the bud while it’s still early, otherwise, they may turn into costly problems that can drain your rental income. For example, a leak that isn’t fixed can cause water damage, which in turn can cost you thousands of dollars in repairs. According to Home Advisor, the average cost to restore a property due to this type of damage is $3,209 – that’s around three months’ worth of rent!
Another reason to conduct a rental property inspection is to confirm if your tenants are holding up their end of the lease agreement. Remember, the moment your tenants signed that lease agreement, they also said “yes” to their obligations. If your tenants fail to abide by these obligations, it’s up to you to remind them of the ramifications.
Keep in mind that while the law allows you to evict tenants that violate their rental contract, you also have the choice to give your tenants a chance to correct their mistakes. Ultimately, it depends on the severity of the violation – if it can’t be corrected, then you may have no other choice but to evict your tenant.
Can you conduct a rental inspection at any time?
The short answer is no, the law does not allow you to conduct a rental property inspection at any time. Your tenants have legal rights involving inspections, so it would be wise to consult a real estate lawyer (alternatively, a property management company) to ensure that you abide by the laws that apply to your particular property.
Here’s what you should do to ensure that you don’t violate your tenants’ legal rights during inspections, and in turn, to avoid tenant turnover:
- Give advanced notice. Inform your tenants of the inspection at least 24 hours before you plan on visiting your investment property. Laws governing the amount of time that the notice should be served vary by state, so be sure to consult your lawyer or property management agent.
- Inspect with the tenant present. While you can conduct an inspection without the tenant, it would be better to ask them to stick around. This gives your tenants the opportunity to bring up problems they may have with the unit. Make sure that your tenants sign and keep a copy of the inspection checklist. This can protect you in case your tenant sues you for the failure to conduct routine inspections.
- Respect your tenant’s personal property. You or your South Florida property management agent will likely take photo documentation. Be sure to keep identifiable property out of the picture, like portraits on the wall, pets, and other items that no one but your tenant could possibly own.
What should you look for in a six-month property inspection?
Your inspection checklist should be custom-made for your property, but here are a few key areas to pay attention to:
#1 Walls and Floors
Wear and tear on the walls and floors is expected, however, when they’re way too excessive, you need to intervene to protect your investment property. If your rental property has hardwood floors, it’s worth checking for scuff marks. If you find any, be sure to remind your tenant to be more careful. The same goes for walls that might have been scratched or dented due to furniture being moved around.
#2 Water Damage
Leaks put your property at risk. The problem with leaks is that they’re not that easy to spot, so your tenants might not even be aware of them. If possible, hire a plumber to check for leaks in areas like under the sink and the toilet.
#3 Fire Alarms and Carbon Monoxide Detectors
You are not only obligated to provide your tenants with smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors but also to make sure that they work. Use routine inspections to check if they work, or if not, to switch out their batteries before it’s too late. Although your tenants can take care of this on their own, it would be riskier not to undertake this task yourself. In case of a fire, you will be liable for what happens to your tenants. You can’t put the blame on them for not replacing the batteries.
Pests are a problem because if they’re left untreated, you could be forced to close your rental property. Make sure to check for critters when conducting the inspection, and to ask tenants if they’ve seen pests around the property. If the pests were caused by your tenant’s negligence (e.g. overflowing trash bins), be sure to remind them of their obligations.
Need help conducting a rental property inspection?
There are countless more items you can add to your property inspection checklist. What’s important is that you get a general idea of how the property is doing and what its condition is like. By doing so, you’ll be able to protect your property and ensure that your tenants are as happy as possible.
If you need help making an inspection checklist, feel free to ask the expert property managers at Luxury Property Care. We’ve been in this industry for over fifteen years, so we know exactly what to look out for during regular inspections.