What Every Landlord Should Know About Rental Inspections

by Chris on February 16, 2015

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.

tenant screeningMany 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.

tenant screeningIn 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).

Click Here to Receive Landlord Credit Reports.

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.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

peter b February 27, 2017 at 2:40 pm

Take note: Security deposits not allowed in many jurisdictions. Refer to section 135 in Ontario for example.

Shaun August 11, 2017 at 6:36 pm

Anyone who suggests landlord inspections every 6 or 8 weeks is insane. I am both a landlord and a tenant. And my landlord is highly irritating with her quarterly inspections. Two years of inspections – house is always immaculate. We point out issues with her house she doesn’t do anything about. I have four rental units and I treat my tenants much better.

Carol August 19, 2017 at 2:38 pm

I have tennants moving this month so my daughter can move in. I have been beyond responsible with them such as allowing rent a few times being couple days late for car repairs. They moved a sister in with another dog. Now have 2 dogs and 2 cats. There is damage from the animals, dog poop all over my deck and lawn. When I dropped off 24 hour notice about coming in tomorrow to measure tub surround and ceiling fan to replace which they only informed me of a month ago when my roof was leaking for 2 days above my panel box. Now their calling landlord and Tennant board saying I’m harassing them. Completely unbelievable. If they choose to make such a ridiculous claim then I’ll have no choice to go after them for all the damage they’ve caused inside and outside of my home.

Dawn LeForce August 29, 2017 at 7:57 am

Back when I worked & could afford to pay a deposit & full rent if I’d come across a place that did inspections I would’ve moved on. And that’s what I suggest others do now. Inspections are insulting to the renter. Just because others are crack heads or hoarders don’t mean I should have to suffer. Application fees give you the money to do background checks plus there’s references not to mention a deposit. Otherwise if you’re so worried about crack heads & hoarders maybe you shouldn’t be a landlord.

It’s only in low income housing that I’ve had to deal w/ inspections. Because in low income housing you’re stuck w/ it. I’m trying to move to another town that has more doctors & 2 hospitals & the only place I found that takes my section 8 voucher does inspections every single month. And acc’d to the people who gave me the section 8 voucher they can get away w/ it. So now I’m going to see about going to another town. And even if I am forced to live there I’ll spend the entire year of the lease looking elsewhere. It’s pathetic you can’t live in the town you want to live in because of this.

Another landlord in another place in that same town who also does monthly inspections told me if I do nothing wrong then there’s nothing to worry about. Sure there is. I’m not working because I’m sick 2 weeks a month to all month long. I shouldn’t have to deal w/ this harassment when like Shaun says – you point out issues & they don’t even fix them. In the place I’m at now I’ve complained for over a year & a half about a messed up dryer vent that prevents me from getting a washer & dryer & it’s still not fixed.

S November 2, 2017 at 10:57 am

I’m honestly not sure why people have an issue with inspections. I am a life-long renter. Due to being lower income in a big city, I’ve had to move no less than 7 times in the past 8 years and NONE of it was related to me being a bad tenant but rather serious neighbour or landlord issues ranging from bugs, drunk party people every night, black mold, pet hoarding with poop in the apartment over ours and barking all night, crime, abusive situations, severe lack of maintenance, floods left unfixed, etc… And I have pretty serious chronic health issues. I work full time. I am a single mom. I get it. It’s hard to keep my place spotless all the time and yes, inspections mean extra work to feel a little more pride about my housekeeping. 😛

AND. I still have no issue with inspections. Not at all. I have nothing to hide. This attitude of “it’s my home, it’s my privacy” seems weird to me, even based on principle. Let your landlord check it out. If you aren’t feeling safe, have a friend be with you. I let my landlord come in when I’m not home because… he seems decent and really, who would risk stealing or causing trouble when you have a paper trail of a planned inspection.

This protects US as renters. We do not want other tenants that are crackheads or have meth labs or are dog hoarders (I have lived in all 3 situations upstairs or downstairs from me and it’s hell). If you have nothing to hide, get over yourself. It’s a good thing to have a landlord who cares about his or her property.

Carol, I wish you all the luck in getting help with that and with finding better tenants if your daughter moves out. You sound like a good landlord/lady. My last one allowed that kind of thing to go on for over a year… :S

Jeannie December 11, 2017 at 12:39 pm

I lease a home through a property management company. I have a dog and a cat for which I paid a nonrefundable pet deposit of $350 each. Six months into the lease the property management told me I had to pay a $100 “annual pet inspection fee.” They told me that the provisions were in a lease addendum which they sent me and it has an electronic signature on it. I do not remember electronically signing this document and did not have a copy. I paid the inspection fee but an inspection was never conducted. Now they are asking for their annual pet inspection fee. Is it fraud to collect a fee for something which never happens?

Pat Ann March 25, 2018 at 4:16 pm

Is it legal for the property manager to charge $150 for annual tenants inspections?

Keith Harden April 17, 2018 at 5:47 am

Is it legal to photograph the property during the inspection? As a person that has to perform these inspections , I feel uncomfortable taking pictures of people’s personal belongings.

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