Many local jurisdictions conduct inspections of rental units for the purpose of identifying housing code violations. These violations may include faulty smoke detectors, health hazards such as roach or rodent infestations or other conditions that cause property deterioration including roof leaks or plumbing problems. City or county inspectors are limited in what they can cite to the various codes: property standards, health.
Landlords are not so limited. While maintaining property in conformance to housing code is generally in the best interests of both landlord and tenant, landlords are entitled to know whether a tenant is in compliance with the lease and is taking good care of the property. So, landlord inspections can and should be more thorough.
Most jurisdictions permit the landlord to make inspections of their property with notice, 24 or 48 hours, to the tenant. It is usually desirable to have the tenant’s cooperation in this inspection. We find tenants to be understanding and cooperative if they understand that the inspection is not the result of their being singled out for some suspected wrongdoing; rather that it is a normal part of our management operation. We explain that we will be inspecting not only for lease violations or general cleanliness but for items of routine or preventive maintenance. As long as a tenant is advised that this inspection will involve a look at bathtub caulking and a check for leaks inside bathroom vanities, there need not be any concern about opening shower curtains or cabinet doors.
Conducting an inspection should take about 15 minutes. We are not engineers or licensed home inspectors, so our objectives are to ensure that the tenant is taking proper care of the property and that there are no visible signs of maintenance needs.
Some of the conditions we look for are:
- Evidence of roof leaks or damaged/missing shingles, vegetation in the gutter
- Evidence of window leaks or plumbing leaks
- Evidence of basement leaks and possible sources of water
- Peeling paint on exterior surfaces
- Condition of brick and concrete
- Rotted/decayed flooring
- Damaged appliances
- Tub/Shower caulk and grout
- All bathroom and kitchen fixtures securely attached
- Obvious termite damage, generally evident in unfinished basements
- All electrical boxes covered
- Flammables stored near furnaces and gas water heaters, flue pipes connected
Proper number and type of smoke detectors and we will test accessible smoke detectors We will ask the tenant:
- Are there any problems with the electrical, plumbing, heating or A/C systems?
- When was the last time the furnace filter was changed?
- Whether they have any plans to move.
It’s time well spent if you can identify a problem that could cost thousands to repair if not tended to. Inspections should be conducted annually. When managing rental property, rent collection is only one part of the job. Preservation of the value is equally important and only inspections followed by appropriate maintenance can help ensure that the condition of the property will not cause a decline in value.
One final note; a written record of all inspections should be maintained for several years. In addition to helping track the effectiveness of maintenance and any trends in the overall condition, this report can be useful in court to provide evidence that there is an interest taken by the landlord and that defects noted are repaired. Written inspection reports and written repair records will show a court that the property owner takes an active interest and cares about the property.