Update: This blog has been completely revised and updated. Head over here.
After the screening process to find great tenants, the best way for property owners to protect their rental property investment is with regular inspections. Great tenants are going to treat your property like their own, so your routine inspections will mostly be a way to verify that everything is as it should be.
Even when you have good tenants in your house who are paying the rent on time and you never hear boo from them, you still can’t afford to skip a routine inspection. There are many little things that can build over time so it’s important to touch base with your house and your tenants.
Routine inspections are not hard; you should be in and out within 15 minutes. However, there are some important points about setting up and completing your routine inspections I want to share with you.
Inspect At Least Twice Yearly
The number of times you are allowed to make a routine inspection depends on the state where the property is located. In VIC you can inspect every 6 months, NSW and QLD sets the inspection limit at every 3 months, and you are allowed 4 times a year in WA.
The tenant has the right to expect their privacy, however, conducting consistent non-intrusive inspections shows the tenant that you care about the property and their comfort. This will also help prevent issues from building up and becoming a major problem when your tenants move out.
Let Them Know You Are Coming
You are not going to win any points with the tenants if you turn up out of the blue to do an inspection (not to mention that it’s against the law). Even though it’s your property, it is their home. Respect that by giving written notice of when you intend to conduct the inspection, and follow up with a phone call or text message. Depending on your state, it’s generally a minimum of 7 days notice you’ll need to give.
How To Conduct The Inspection
I keep reminding myself that I am there to inspect the property, and not the people living there. As I mentioned, I work very hard to find the best tenants I can, so this is usually not an issue. The tenants need not be present during the inspection, although I prefer to see them. This way there is no issue with access and they cannot say I am snooping around their stuff. I also like to bring along a camera or my iPhone so I can make a photographic record of any issues I come across.
Rental Inspection Checklist (things to do at the inspection)
- Ask the tenants if there are any issues you need to know about before starting. This allows the tenant to come clean and point any hidden issues. You may never find them otherwise.
- Test the Smoke Alarm. If your property has a battery powered smoke alarm I like to bring a box of 9V batteries and just change them. This just helps me sleep better at night.
- Check the oven (a dirty oven will wear out sooner).
- Check for cleanliness.
- Make notes on any damage.
- Check ALL the rooms in the house.
- Thank the tenants for looking after the property (if they have).
Leave the House as You Found It
Again, it is your property, but during the inspection you are a guest in the tenant’s home, so show your respect by making sure all the doors are open or shut as you found them. You certainly do not want to be responsible for leaving the front door unsecured!
If the tenants are not home during the inspection I make a point of leaving a note informing them that I was there.
Make a Report
I like to use the Property Inspector app on my iPhone to complete the routine inspection. Having the rental inspection checklist on my phone is more convenient, I can enter the overall condition of each room and take any photos of any issues for the report.
With the app it is easy to upload the report to my email, so I can keep it on file and forward a copy to the tenants. I much prefer to use an app as it keeps me on track and I know I haven’t left anything out. If you prefer pen and paper that’s fine, as long as you document all your findings.
The report is handy as a reminder to correct any issues that you find, and your insurance company may ask to see a copy of the report if you make a claim.
Do you have any special techniques that make your routine property inspections go better? If so, or if you have any questions about doing a routine inspection, please share them below.