The following article was provided by Rachelle Lea of Dixieland Inspection Services.
As a landlord or property manager, you should always inspect a rental property during these times: before a tenant moves in, while the rental is occupied, and when the tenants move out.
If you inspected a rental property when the last tenants were on the way out, is it really necessary to inspect it again before the next one moves in?
Absolutely! There are a couple of reasons for this. The first is in cases where there has been a vacancy in between tenants. You will want to make sure nothing has happened in the interim, such as a leak or rodent infestation. The second reason is to establish a “baseline” with the new tenants.
When tenants are moving into a rental property, they should be present during the initial inspection. This will allow you to review the home together and make notes on the current condition of the property. For example, there might be a cracked tile in the bathroom or a small stain on the carpet. Maybe the dishwasher is brand new, etc.
You can take photos or videos and make sure the new tenants are in agreement about what they are getting and the way the space should be maintained.
The lease agreement should clearly state the expectations for the tenant and the property manager but going over the property with the tenant is an opportunity to respectfully but clearly go over the details. You can make sure they know how to perform simple maintenance, such as how to change the AC filter and operate the thermostat or appliances.
If they don’t, offering to show them is a great way to start building a positive professional relationship with the tenants. Tenants who feel valued instead of mistrusted will be more likely to pay on time, treat the property respectfully, and contact you with any issues sooner rather than later.
After the new tenants have settled in, you’ll want to begin conducting regular property inspections. Here are some things you can do to make this go as smoothly as possible:
1. Make sure you have included this practice in the terms of the lease and made the tenants aware upfront. Even if they have agreed beforehand, some tenants may still be a bit wary of allowing you into the home. This is another benefit of a positive relationship between tenant and landlord or property manager. They will feel more comfortable when you request an inspection.
2. Review the laws in your area to be sure of conducting the inspection properly. In Florida, for example, tenants are required to allow periodic access to the premises to inspect for damages, show a property to a prospective tenant or buyer or make repairs as outlined in Florida Statute 83.53(2).
The landlord or property manager must give reasonable notice (at least 12 hours) to the tenant and come at a time between 7:30 am and 8:00 pm. In other states, the laws may be different. In California, a 24-hour written notice is required. In Arizona, the law requires two days’ notice.
3. Be aware of what you can legally do and not do regarding inspections because they are vital to the success of the rental business. For instance, there are very few situations where a landlord or property manager can legally enter a property when the tenant is not present.
Also, you should never take photos or video of a tenant’s personal property or open drawers, etc. while in the home. Know the rules in your area and use common sense and respect if an issue is unclear.
4. Don’t schedule more inspections than necessary. It is common to conduct inspections every 3-6 months for typical long-term rentals. Tenants have the right to a peaceful and private possession of the property. That right to privacy must be balanced with the manager’s right to conduct repairs or show the home to a prospective tenant or buyer.
5. Be patient and courteous. Aside from the law, it is good business sense to interact with your tenant politely. Try to give the tenant several days’ notice and agree to a time that is convenient for both of you. Tell the tenant why you want to do an inspection, how long it should take, and what you will be looking at while on the property.
Answer questions without being condescending. Explain that inspections are necessary to make sure the property is in good shape for general maintenance reasons and for the safety of the tenant.
During the inspection, you will want to look for any maintenance issues. You might assume the tenants would notify you right away if any issues arise, but this is not always the case. Tenants might not think the issue is important enough, they might be unaware of the problem, or they might not care enough because the home doesn’t really belong to them.
It is crucial to catch damage or disrepair early to avoid bigger problems later. A tiny leak could cause tremendous damage and require lots of time and money to fix if left untreated. A few bugs could lead to an infestation in no time. Broken exterior lighting could be a safety hazard for the tenant. A non-working smoke detector could literally be the difference between life and death.
Use a checklist for the interior and exterior of the property to look for things such as dampness or mold, leaky faucets or pipes, broken appliances, etc. Make sure the smoke detector and carbon monoxide detector are working. See if the AC filter has been changed. Check for general good order and cleanliness.
Note any issues with details and go over them with the tenants reasonably and respectfully. Use this as an opportunity to continue building a positive relationship with your tenant/customer.
The reason for an end of lease inspection is pretty obvious. You need to make sure the rental is in good condition, aside from normal wear and tear. If you have been making regular inspections during the occupancy, there shouldn’t be any huge surprises in store for the exit inspection.
There will most likely be some areas in need of repair or upkeep. The tenants probably left some small nail holes from hanging photos or some scuff marks on the baseboards, for example. There should not be any gaping holes in the wall or broken windows, etc.
Presumably, any damage would mean the loss of the tenant’s security deposit. You would need it to help with the cost of necessary repairs.
Rental inspections are very important. They give all parties involved a realistic picture of the property. They allow for continued maintenance, which is important for both the safety of the tenant and for a positive return on your investment.
Whether you own the rental property or manage it for someone else, you want your business to be successful. Having a well-maintained property is a win for all involved.