You can always count on Murphy’s Law, and nowhere is that more true than in real estate. From failing furnaces to outlaw occupants and pets, plenty can go awry at your property, so savvy landlords know that a property inspection today can prevent major headaches tomorrow. Sure, everyone knows that a walk-through and property inspection is essential to perform with your tenant before a new lease term begins and when that same lease ends. But over the life of the lease, regular property inspections can save money in more ways than one.
Here are the seven reasons why landlords should make regular property inspections.
1. Tenant Compliance. Is the nice older lady who signed the lease agreement the only occupant, or did her deadbeat son and his pregnant girlfriend move on in too? Is the renter hoarding moldering magazines and creating a fire hazard? Is there mildew, mold or mice in the kitchen from old food and dirty dishes lying around? Are there pets residing the in the property, that were not listed in the original lease agreement? Tenant compliance is among the most important reasons to inspect properties regularly – catching problems early may mean correcting bad behavior without having to evict them. And if they still refuse to comply with the lease provisions, at least you can evict them before they do too much damage to your investment.
2. Routine Maintenance. It’s also critical to double check that routine maintenance is being done, whether the tenant or a third party is responsible for it. Test the smoke and carbon monoxide detector batteries. Check the HVAC filter to make sure it’s been replaced within the last three months, and isn’t too dirty. Is the landscaping and grass being maintained properly? Are the floors scratched to shreds, or did the tenant comply with your proviso that all furniture have felt pads on the feet?
3. Weather Wear & Tear. Weather and human activity can wear on the exterior of any property. Periodic inspections give you the opportunity to find out if there are any structural or other problems with the home and façade. For instance:
a. With brick facades, are there any issues with the brick or mortar? You might be in need of a brick pointer.
b. If there is any aluminum or vinyl siding, is it still maintaining its integrity, or is water getting behind the siding? It is essential that any loose siding be fixed immediately.
c. Are there any issues with the surrounding grounds, such as the lawn, foliage or any fencing?
d. A regular roof inspection can indicated problems at the source, before bigger issues arise.
4. Notoriously Difficult Basements & Foundations. Basement/foundation inspections are critically important, given the exponential increase in repair costs if foundation damage goes unrepaired for too long.
Cracked foundations and holes can not only cause structural instability, but openings in a foundation are invitations for mice, bugs and other vermin to invade that space. Water damage can also be a common problem for basements and foundations. Discovering problems and having them addressed now will save you thousands of dollars in the future.
If there is a basement in your property, the heater and water heating units can be inspected for function, efficiency and leakage.
5. Appliances. Many of the appliances in your property should be checked to make sure that they are safe and in correct working order. This can include the stove and oven, refrigerator, washer, dryer and any other appliances supplied by the landlord. A leaky valve on a gas stove, for example, might just end in a crater and a mushroom cloud – talk about a bad day for everyone involved.
6. Mechanical Systems. A property is like a body, and the skeleton of that body are the mechanical systems. Sure, there is inevitable wear and tear, but be sure to periodically check exposed plumbing lines and fixtures for sinks, toilets, tubs and dishwashers, including access panels and under sinks. Also check electrical switches and outlets, making sure that no breakers are being overloaded. (A more in-depth inspection of the plumbing and electrical can be done by a contractor between tenancies, or if you suspect a problem now.)
7. Good Tenant Retention. Attentive landlords keep their good tenants! Remember that while it may be your investment, but it is also the tenant’s home, and they should want to make sure it’s being well-maintained by the owner. There are plenty of reasons why tenants should welcome the idea of periodic inspections:
a. Inspections can give them peace of mind that the building’s structure is sound.
b. All periodic replacements of batteries and filters keep the property safe (if not the tenant’s responsibility).
c. A periodic safety inspection can build trust between the tenant and the landlord.
Trust is important in relationships as easily frayed as landlord-tenant relationships, which is why tenants should be notified up front when they sign the original lease that periodic inspections are part of your rental management, for both the property’s and their own safety. The tenant should also be with the landlord during the inspection whenever possible, to insure that level of trust and prevent accusations of theft. The landlord should be regarded as a guest, not an intruder.
Use our Periodic Property Inspection Checklist as you walk through the building, and double check that both your rental property and tenant’s care of it are tip top. Send or post a Notice of Entry in the legally-required timeframe in your state or province, and phone the renters in addition to giving them the notice, to arrange for them to be present if possible.
You may rather spend Saturday morning golfing than touring your rental properties, but if you want to earn the max return on your rental investments, be proactive and find problems while they’re small and cheap to fix, instead of catastrophes.