Too often, landlords report they re-entered a rental property only to discover extensive damage or other dangerous conditions, like drug manufacturing or hoarding. Too often, these conditions went unchecked for weeks, months, or years — greatly increasing the landlords’ losses.
Property damage is predictable, and as such, can be prevented.
Many landlords understand the importance and benefits of conducting both a move-in inspection and a corresponding move-out inspection. However, the best way to protect a rental property is with a policy of rental inspections during the lease term.
Otherwise, a landlord may be surprised to find:
Cumulative damage that has been ignored;
Signs of criminal activity, which can lead to fines, prolonged vacancies, and even forfeiture; or
Dangerous conditions like environmental hazards, blocked exits, dangerous animals, or unknown occupants.
Any one of these conditions can spell income loss for landlords, yet many are uncomfortable conducting routine rental inspections. Don’t wait to become a victim. Consider the economics, and invest time into an inspection program.
Rental Inspections: The Ground Rules
Landlord tenant law can vary from state to state, and even city to city. The first step in a successful rental inspection policy is to understand what limitations a landlord may face when entering the rental unit to inspect the property.
In general, every tenant has the right of quiet enjoyment, and unauthorized visits from the landlord may be a breach of the lease agreement.
Local statutes often provide both limitations and exceptions that govern when a landlord can lawfully enter the unit. Make sure you know the local law before entering the premises.
Typically, the landlord will be allowed to make a routine inspection so long as:
The tenant is given notice as required by law, usually not less than 24 hrs;
The visit occurs during reasonable hours;
The duration of the visit is reasonable; and
The purpose of the visit is reasonable.
In some cases, there are additional requirements that must be set out in the lease agreement.
While law enforcement agencies have encouraged inspections as often as every six or eight weeks, many landlords are more comfortable with a schedule of every three to six months. Whatever the schedule, it should be applied the same to every tenant.
Use a checklist that incorporates local landlord tenant law in order to make your inspection work smoothly. Allowing tenants to understand and participate in the inspection program not only will reduce disputes, it will lead to a quicker turnaround of the unit at the end of the lease.
Here are some additional tips for rental property inspections:
1. Never cut corners on tenant screening. Finding the right tenants will reduce the likelihood of property damage.
2. Discuss the inspections with prospective tenants at lease signing. This will serve as an incentive for tenants to keep the property in good order. Most disputes can be avoided simply by telling tenants what is required.
3. Encourage the tenant to be present during the inspection. This is especially important if you want the tenant to understand what they are doing right — or what they are doing wrong.
4. Always provide written notice prior to entering, even if you’ve spoken with the tenant about the inspection.
5. Keep the focus of the inspection on the condition of the property, and always avoid personal comments or criticism.
6. Never threaten or harass tenants during the inspection, regardless of their behavior. If damage is severe and an eviction is indicated, don’t confront the tenant in their home. Document the situation and then call your attorney to discuss your options.
7. Plan your inspection schedule so that an inspection falls about a month from move-out. This allows the tenant the opportunity to fix what’s wrong while there is still time.
8. If the tenant would prefer to be there, and agrees to a specific time after work hours, try to accommodate that schedule.
9. Explain to tenants that they benefit from the inspection, too. A properly inspected unit is safer, has less need of repair, and a clean inspection increases the likelihood that the tenant will receive their full security deposit back.
10. Allow the tenant the chance to talk to you about the condition of the property. Encourage them to make a list of any items they think should be checked or repaired. That’s a good way to reduce damage from neglected repairs and at the same time foster cooperation with the tenant, which is key to keeping the property in good condition.
Finally, don’t forget to praise tenants who are doing a good job caring for the property!
This post is provided by Tenant Verification Service, Inc., helping landlords reduce the risks of renting with fraud prevention tools that include Tenant Screening, Tenant Background Checks, (U.S. and Canada), as well as Criminal Background Checks, and Eviction Reports (U.S. only).
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Disclaimer: The information provided in this post in not intended to be construed as legal advice, nor should it be considered a substitute for obtaining individual legal counsel or consulting your local, state, federal or provincial tenancy laws.