Conducting property inspections is one of the most important responsibilities of a landlord. It allows you to keep an eye on the condition of your rental property, and ultimately prevent mishaps down the road.
Whether you own a single-family home or a multi-family building, here’s what you need to know about conducting rental property inspections.
What are the types of rental property inspections?
There are four types of rental property inspections that you should perform throughout the year. These include the move-in inspection, move-out inspection, routine inspection, and drive-by inspection.
#1 Move-in Inspection
A move-in inspection is performed before the tenant moves into the rental property. The inspection allows you to spot issues that need to be addressed before the tenant moves in. It should be done by the property owner or property manager in the presence of the tenant/s since they will be required to sign the inspection checklist. Be sure to take high-resolution photos and prepare the necessary paperwork, as these will act as a “baseline” for your move-out inspection.
#2 Move-out Inspection
A move-out inspection lets you assess the condition of the property at the end of the lease. By comparing the current condition of the property to its original, pre-move-in condition, you can determine whether the tenant caused damage to the home. The costs for damages that exceed ordinary wear and tear (e.g. dents on the wall, broken windows, etc.) may be deducted from the tenant’s security deposit.
#3 Routine Inspection
Routine inspections are done during the lease, ideally while the tenant is around. These inspections enable the landlord or property manager to examine the property to ensure that everything is in excellent condition. It also lets you spot issues that need immediate attention.
Before conducting a routine inspection, remember to give your tenant advance notice. State laws vary in terms of the minimum amount of notice that you should give your tenants. For example, Florida state requires landlords to notify their tenants at least twelve hours before entering the property. On the other hand, California law compels landlords to give their tenants forty-eight hours’ notice.
#4 Drive-by Inspection
A drive-by inspection is an informal inspection that is less comprehensive than a routine inspection. As its name suggests, it is an inspection that is performed while driving by. It allows the landlord or property manager to examine the unit from the outside, helping them spot issues related to garden or lawn maintenance. Since it doesn’t involve entering the property, it does not require advance notice. However, remember not to perform drive-by inspections frequently, as your tenants may like you’re violating their privacy.
What should you look out for during a rental property inspection?
If you haven’t hired a property management company and you’ve decided to DIY your property inspection, you’re going to have to act like a detective. Keep your eyes peeled for signs of the following:
#1 Lease violations
Despite imposing policies on smoking, pets, etc., some tenants will still violate their lease agreements. A rental property inspection is an opportunity to ensure that your tenants are complying with the terms of their lease. If you discover that they’ve breached their tenancy, you can take legal action against them.
#2 Health and safety hazards
As the landlord, you are responsible for maintaining the safety of your rental property. You must comply with the implied warranty of habitability, which obligates you to ensure that the unit meets basic safety standards. To remain compliant, you must remember your maintenance liabilities, such as providing your tenant with running water, maintaining utilities, supplying trash bins, and more.
If subletting is prohibited under your lease agreement, you may take legal action against a tenant who rents out the property to someone else. You may proceed with eviction by providing them (both the sublessor and the sublessee) with a written notice.
#4 Illegal activity
Landlords that turn a blind eye to illegal activities that are conducted on their property may face criminal charges. During the property inspection, you should look for signs of illegal activity, such as making, selling, and using drugs. You should then inform the authorities and proceed with eviction.
What should you do during a property inspection?
#1 Give advance notice
Although you legally own the property, you can’t walk into your tenant’s home whenever you want to. You are required to give your tenants advance notice before entering the property. Hence, you need to be familiar with state and federal laws governing the minimum amount of notice. To ensure that you aren’t violating the law, you may want to consult a property manager or an attorney.
#2 Ask your tenants to be home
This applies to move-in, move-out, and routine inspections. While your tenant may not feel comfortable being around during the inspection, you should encourage them to be present. This way, you can guarantee complete transparency and protect yourself in the event of disputes. Ideally, you should let your tenant sign the documents that detail the findings of the inspection.
#3 Respect the tenant’s time and privacy
Avoid scheduling inspections early in the morning, late at night, and during holidays. It’s a good idea to ask your tenant about their preferred time and date. During the inspection, avoid taking photos of their personal belongings (e.g. framed photos, jewelry, laptop screens). As a rule of thumb, take photos of the rental property only.
#4 Remain calm and professional
When inspecting your rental property, it’s best to prepare for the worst. When your expectations are already low, you are less likely to react harshly when you notice signs of damage and neglect. Remember to always remain calm and professional. You shouldn’t turn the property inspection into an opportunity to lecture your tenant. Should you need to remind them of their responsibilities, you may do so in writing.
The Bottom Line
Conducting rental property inspections throughout the duration of the lease safeguards you and your investment. It allows you to address issues before they escalate, whether they involve property damage, illegal activity, and much more.
One of the best ways to protect your investment property is by screening your tenants. At Luxury Property Care, we implement a thorough screening process to ensure that your tenants take good care of your property. That way, you can minimize the risks of property damage, evictions, and more.