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Rental Property Inspections (Guide for Landlords)

by xyonent
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As a landlord, conducting inspections is a big part of your business – without them you’ll never really know what’s going on in the property and you’ll likely get into trouble in the future.

What is a Rental Property Inspection?

A rental property inspection is a thorough examination of a rental property. It assesses the condition of the property and identifies any issues that need repair. These inspections are usually done before a tenant moves in, periodically during the rental term, and when a tenant moves out.

Regular inspections help maintain your property, ensure tenant satisfaction, and avoid costly repairs.

Why Inspections Are Important for Homeowners

Inspections are extremely important for landlords because they help maintain the value of your property and make the rental process go smoothly. Other benefits include:

  • Identify issues early: Find problems before they require costly repairs.
  • Preserve asset values: Regular maintenance protects your investment.
  • Ensure tenant compliance: Ensure that tenants comply with their rental agreements.
  • Increased tenant satisfaction: A well-maintained property keeps tenants happy.
  • Legal Protection: Document the terms to avoid disputes and potential litigation.

Types of Rental Property Inspections

There are four different types of rental property inspections.

Tenancy inspection

A move-in inspection ensures the property is in good condition before new tenants move in. It records the condition of the property and notes any existing damages.

This process sets clear expectations and prevents disputes over damages during the rental period, protecting both you and your tenant.

Exit Inspection

A move-out inspection assesses the condition of the property when a tenant moves out. It compares to the move-in report and checks for any damage beyond normal wear and tear. This allows us to determine if a security deposit reduction is required and prepare the property for the next tenant. A move-out inspection also ensures that the property is properly prepared and cleaned for the next tenant.

Periodic inspection

Routine inspections are carried out at regular intervals throughout the term of a tenant’s lease. These inspections allow us to check for maintenance issues, ensure the property is well-maintained, and address any tenant concerns. Regular inspections help maintain the property’s value and tenant satisfaction.

Tip: Here is a property management checklist to focus on when visiting properties.

Drive-by Inspection

A drive-by inspection involves a quick visual look at the property from the outside. We assess the condition of the exterior and look for signs of neglect or damage. This allows us to monitor the upkeep of the property without disturbing occupants and can identify potential problems early.

Rental Property Inspection Checklist

It’s a good idea to prepare a rental property inspection checklist to guide you as you walk around the property. The following points are a good place to start:

Interior Checklist Items

  • living room: Check floors, walls, windows and light fixtures.
  • kitchen: Inspect appliances, cabinets, countertops, and plumbing.
  • bedroom: Examine the walls, floors, windows, and closet doors.
  • Bathroom: Evaluate fixtures, plumbing, tile and ventilation.
  • Other internal areas: Look at hallways, staircases and storage spaces.

Exterior Checklist Items

  • Roof and gutters: Check for leaks, damage or blockages.
  • Siding and Paint: Inspect for cracks, peeling paint, or damage.
  • Foundation: Check for cracks, misalignment, and water damage.
  • Landscaping and outdoor areas: Evaluate lawns, walkways, fences and outdoor lighting.

Machine and System Checklist Items

  • air conditioning: Make sure your heating and cooling systems are functioning properly.
  • Piping: Check for leaks, water pressure, and drainage.
  • electricity: Check wiring, outlets, and circuit breakers.
  • Home appliances: Test all equipment for operation and condition.

Legal and Ethical Considerations for Rental Property Inspections

It is important to understand the legal and ethical considerations when conducting a rental property inspection.

Landlord and tenant laws vary from place to place, but generally, landlords must give proper notice before entering rental property, and unless it’s an emergency, they’ll usually be required to give tenants 24-48 hours notice before an inspection.

It is paramount that you respect your tenants’ privacy. Inspections should always be carried out at an appropriate time and with the tenants’ consent. Avoid inspecting the property frequently as this may be perceived as harassment. Make sure you are entering for a valid reason such as maintenance, safety checks or to address tenant concerns.

Documentation is essential. Keep detailed records of all inspections, including dates, times, and findings. This will protect both you and your tenants if a dispute arises. Additionally, be mindful of fair housing laws and ensure inspections are conducted uniformly and non-discriminatory.

Maintaining professionalism and courtesy during the inspection builds a good relationship between landlord and tenant. Clear communication and transparency about the inspection process helps to alleviate tenant concerns, encourages cooperation, and ensures a smooth and courteous inspection experience.

Documentation of test results

Thorough documentation of inspection results is essential for both landlords and tenants. Detailed records help track the condition of the property over time, identify maintenance needs and prevent disputes. During the inspection, note issues, take photos and record the date and time. This documentation will serve as evidence in case of disagreements over damage or repairs.

A clear, comprehensive report ensures you have evidence of the property’s condition before, during and after rental and protects you legally. Effective documentation promotes transparency and trust, fostering good landlord-tenant relationships and ensuring accountability on both sides.

Normal wear and tear and damage caused by tenants

It is very important for landlords to understand the difference between normal wear and tear and damage caused by tenants.

Normal wear and tear refers to the gradual deterioration of a property from everyday use, such as fading paint, minor wear on carpets, loose doorknobs, etc. These are expected and usually not the tenant’s fault. Tenant-caused damage, however, is caused by negligence or misuse and includes issues like broken windows, large holes in walls, stains from spills, etc.

For example, wear and tear on a carpet caused by everyday foot traffic is normal wear and tear, but if you drop your iron and it leaves a burn mark on the carpet, that is damage caused by tenants.

Distinguishing between the two allows for fair valuation and appropriate deductions from the deposit.

Communicating with residents about testing

Communicating effectively with tenants about inspections helps maintain a positive landlord-tenant relationship.

First, set expectations up front by detailing the frequency and purpose of inspections in your lease so tenants know what to expect and reduce potential disputes.

As required by law, be sure to give adequate notice (usually 24-48 hours) before an inspection. Schedule the inspection at a time that is convenient for your tenant so you can get their cooperation.

Following the inspection, we will promptly provide a detailed findings report outlining any necessary repairs or maintenance, demonstrating your commitment to property upkeep and resident satisfaction.

Dealing with a difficult tenant situation requires patience and professionalism. Listen to the tenant’s concerns, treat them with respect, and strive to address the issue amicably. Consistent communication and a cooperative approach will help resolve any disputes and make the inspection process go more smoothly.

Final thoughts

Rental property inspections are as important as the name suggests. Even if your tenants trust you to properly maintain the property, carrying out regular inspections is part of being a responsible and professional landlord.

Save time and money with this fresh guide to managing your own property.

in Self-managed landlordAmelia McGee and Grace Gudenkauf share their secrets to efficient property management, tenant screening and onboarding, and business growth — all to help you break free from the drudgery of a 9-to-5 job and build lasting wealth through real estate.

BiggerPockets notes: These are opinions expressed by the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions of BiggerPockets.

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