What to Look for During a Rental Property Inspection

by Chris on August 8, 2011

Routine property inspections during the term of the lease can help to reduce damage in rental properties, limit liability for injuries on the property, and are crucial in catching tenants who are misbehaving.

Here are some things to watch for in order to make a routine inspection more productive.

Unauthorized Pets

A common find in a routine inspection is an unauthorized pet that the tenant snuck in under the radar. Smells usually give them away, or noises coming from a laundry room or distant bedroom.

Look for scratches around the doors and windows, and holes or trails in the landscaping.

Depending upon your lease agreement and policies, and the tenancy laws in your area, you may have the right to evict the pet, evict the tenant, or charge a pet deposit to cover potential damage to the property.

Additional Occupants

Check for strange cars parked outside, several sets of keys hanging by the door, or furniture that seems out of place. While the additional occupant may not be grounds for eviction, chances are the lease provides that the occupant undergo a tenant background check and complete a rental application. It is important to know who is residing in the unit.

Illegal Activities

Often, the telltale signs of illegal activities like drug manufacturing are visible from the exterior of the property, if you know what to look for:

Windows that are always dark, boarded up or otherwise blacked out.
Condensation on darkened or blacked-out windows.
“Skunk” smell in the air, often at the same time each day or night.
Humming noise or motorized fan-like noises.
Discarded potting soil, small plastic “bedding” plant type pots, 1 gallon plastic pots.
Lack of garbage put out to the curbside.
Bright lights.

Hoarding or Fire Hazards

Look for piles of materials like boxes, books, clothing–anything that can block exits in case of fire.  Blocked exits, hallways, stairwells, fire escapes or patios can be fire code violations.

Proper Maintenance

Note the condition of the landscaping, make sure trash area is neat and clean, with no hazards or rodents. The tenants may not understand their obligations regarding maintenance, and this is a good way to go over what is expected if the tenant wants a full refund of their security deposit.

Safety Hazards

Take a few minutes to check stairs, banisters, smoke detector batteries, any warning or instruction signs posted, and other safety items on the property.

Items That Need Repaired

Find out from the tenant if anything is broken. Early repairs typically save money.  Ask about pest problems that could spread to other units.

What Are the Neighbours Saying?

Check with the neighbours to see if they have any complains about the tenant, like noise or parking problems. Nip the problem in the bud before it becomes a full-scale dispute or the police are called in.

Always remember to give proper notice to the tenant before performing an inspection.

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.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

BIG in Philly August 24, 2011 at 1:43 pm

Great post. I conduct property inspections twice a year and trust me they help. They keep tenants on their toes and help me to make sure the lease terms are being upheld. I had one tenant who had a long stay visitor, until I showed up and said pay for back ground check or leave. After making additional scheduled visits the guest decided it was best to just leave than to keep hiding in closets. I had a tenant sneak in a pet and demanded a pet fee or eviction, they paid the fee. I had a tenant with all sorts of fire violations, improperly used extension cords, hanging blind cords in child’s room, smoke detector removed and all sort of toys/clothing near the furnace in the basement. They had one week to make repairs. I kept a close eye on all of these and after about a month on each, they complied. I really have great tenants bless God, but they all try you at times. I appreciate these post. Keep them coming.

Paulette February 15, 2012 at 11:41 am

After I conducted a routine inspection to determine if a tenant had an additional occupant, the tenant took me to Dispute Resolution. The DRO stated in her decision that my inspection was “intruding on the tenant’s privacy intended to determine if her male guest had possessions inside the rental unit so the Landlords’ (sic) could support their allegations that he was residing in the unit, which is a breach of sections 28 and 29 of the Act.

I note that the Landlords’ (sic) testified that they have attempted to restrict the amount of time the Tenant’s (sic) has guests, listening to heavy footsteps and tracking how many days her guest is there which is a breach of sections 28 and 30 of the Act…”

So, please beware. DRO’s do not always acknowledge a Landlord’s right to “know who’s residing in the unit” as Chris states above.

Shinder Panesar October 13, 2014 at 7:26 pm

I am new in property management and found your website very helpful. thanks a lot I will be visiting it more often.if u guys can suggest me anything to improve my career that will be a big help.

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