Conducting periodic property inspections is essential to making sure that your unit stays in good condition. Not only does it allow you to repair any broken fixtures or take note of appliances that need to be updated, but it keeps you protected financially as well. By regularly tracking the condition of the unit, you will know which damages are the result of normal wear and tear and which were caused by tenants.
There are a few different types of rental inspections that you’ll need to do at different stages in the rental process. Take a look at our tips below for what to look for at each stage. Our rental inspection checklists will walk you through each step.
What Exactly Is a Rental Property Inspection?
A rental property inspection is a thorough review of the condition and quality of the unit. Using a rental inspection checklist, you should examine everything from the floors and walls to cleanliness and smell. Rental inspections are often conducted alongside the tenant during the move-in and move-out periods.
Rental property inspections are important for a couple of reasons. The first is that they allow the landlord to assess any damages that need to be fixed before the tenant moves in. The second is that conducting an inspection alongside the tenant enables the landlord and tenant to be on the same page about the starting condition of the unit. It will then (theoretically) be simple to identify any damages later caused by the tenant.
When Should You Perform a Rental Property Inspection?
At the very least, you should be performing a rental property inspection twice for each lease agreement. The first should be performed alongside the new tenant before they move in, and the second while they are moving out. In addition, it’s also a good idea to perform routine inspections every few months to make sure everything is staying up-to-date. Many landlords also choose to do “drive-by” inspections of their properties every couple of weeks or so to ensure that nothing is amiss.
How to Perform a Property Inspection
Performing a property inspection is a relatively simple process, though it can be time-consuming depending on the size of the unit. You should make sure to set aside at least an hour for each unit that you will be inspecting in detail.
To perform a property inspection, first make sure to alert your tenant and settle on a date and time that you can both be present. Next, print out a copy of your rental inspection checklist to bring along with you. When you arrive at the unit, follow the list of items on your move-out or move-in checklist and record the condition of each item in detail.
As an example, for hardwood floors you may write “good condition with a large scratch near the door” or for the windows “all curtains matching and in good condition.” The more detailed you can be, the better! Take a look at the individual rental inspection checklists below for what to look for in each type of property inspection.
1. Move-In Checklist
As mentioned above, conducting a move-in property inspection is important for establishing a baseline for the unit. By meticulously recording the condition of each room at the start of the lease, landlords will be able to tell if any damage has been caused by the tenant. This helps protect your investment, as otherwise tenants could reasonably claim that the damage was already there when they moved in.
Ideally you would conduct this inspection alongside the new tenant before they have fully moved in, as it will be easier to evaluate the condition of things like the floor and walls without any furniture in the way. Landlords should also be on the lookout for any repairs that need to be taken care of before the tenant moves in.
2. Move-Out Checklist
When conducting a move-out property inspection, you should bring along the move-in checklist you filled out at the start of the lease. The inspection process is basically the same as when your tenant moved in. First, contact your tenant so you can both be present for the inspection. Then, carefully inspect each item on the list and compare the condition with what you recorded on the move-in checklist.
If anything is noticeably different from what you wrote on the move-in checklist, such as scratches on the walls from moving furniture or a broken light fixture, you may be able to withhold some or all of the security deposit in order to pay for the repairs. Be sure to keep in mind that units will be exposed to normal wear and tear, and that tenants are only responsible for significant damage. By showing the tenant both the move-in checklist and move-out checklist, they should have no reason to argue that they were not the cause of the damage.
3. Routine Inspection
In addition to the standard move-in and move-out checklists, many landlords also choose to conduct routine inspections. Routine inspections should be conducted every three to six months, and are a good way to check in on the condition of the rental to see if anything is significantly damaged or needs repairs. Be sure to give your tenant advance notice so they may be present for the inspection if they wish, though their presence is not as essential as it is for a move-out or move-in inspection.
Routine inspections do not need to be as thorough as move-out or move-in inspections. Landlords may still wish to bring along their move-in checklist as a reference, but this type of inspection is more useful for keeping a handle on any major repairs or cleanliness issues.
4. Drive-By Inspections
Drive-by inspections are another good strategy for ensuring that your rentals are being taken care of by their tenants. Landlords do not need to alert tenants if they are planning to do a drive-by inspection, as they will not actually be entering the unit. Conducting a drive-by inspection can mean either actually just driving by the property, or getting out and doing a quick walk around to make sure everything looks okay.
Landlords should visit their properties at least once every two weeks to make sure nothing is amiss. If you notice any damages outside the units or potentially worrying behavior on a drive-by inspection, that may be a good indication that it’s time for a routine inspection.
How to Conduct a Respectful Property Inspection
In order to uphold the covenant of quiet enjoyment, landlords should be respectful when conducting property inspections. You have every right to inspect the property periodically to make sure it’s being taken care of, but remember that these inspections can be disruptive to tenants. Below are some general rules to follow:
- Give Proper Notice. As previously mentioned, make sure to always give at least 24 hours notice if you will be entering the unit in the case of a move-in, move-out or routine inspection. This gives the tenant time to adjust their schedule if need be.
- Encourage the Tenant to Be Present. If the tenant is conducting the inspection along with you, it ensures that you will be in agreement on the state of the unit and any potential damages. Plus, the tenant may feel more comfortable having you in their home if they are there as well.
- Don’t Go Overboard. A routine inspection every few months is reasonable, but if you’re entering the unit every other week or visiting the property every day it can make the tenant feel overly-scrutinized and uncomfortable.
- Be Careful with Photos. If you are recording damages, it is important to take photo evidence. However, be careful that you are capturing photos of the evidence only and not of the tenant’s personal belongings.
Regular rental inspections are important to ensure the unit remains in good condition, and that landlords are financially protected from tenant damages. Having a thorough rental inspection checklist for each situation can help you make sure you aren’t missing a single detail. Take a look at our easy landlord forms for more detailed move-out checklists, move-in checklists, inspection reports and more!