Routine inspections are used to avoid problems before they become problems or at least head them off before they get too big. Being proactive and completing routine inspections regularly can save big problems down the track.
I talked about routine inspections not too long ago in this space, but we have received several requests for greater detail. Today, I’m going to give you a complete guide for the entire inspection process from scheduling all the way through follow-up.
The actual inspection is not a very difficult task, it’s quick and easy if you follow this guide. To make it more effective I’ve listed 10 vital things that you must check on during the inspection. More about this in a minute.
Most good tenants will be understanding and cooperative in helping you to get the inspections done. It can be a great opportunity for them to show you what needs to be fixed and for you to remind them that you care about them and their home. Of course, it goes without saying that you will make sure they’re looking after the property!
1. Inspect Every 6 Months at a Minimum
I’ve always found that it’s important to do inspections as often as you can in the early part of a tenancy so that you can stamp out any issues nice and early. If any problems are going to crop up, they are most likely to occur when you are getting to know the new tenants and they are getting to know their new home.
It is a good idea to inspect the property every three months during the first year of tenancy, if you are allowed. Every state has their own rules on how often you’re allowed to conduct routine inspections. Queensland and NSW will allow them every three months, while others, like VIC, only allow them every 6 months (VIC does make a provision for an inspection 3 months after new tenants move in).
Take a look at the infographic below to see how often you are allowed to do a routine inspection in your state. Don’t try to get away with only doing an annual inspection. We’ll see after that it only takes a few minutes to do a very thorough and complete inspection, and it will show your tenants that you care about more than just collecting their rent.
2. Give NOTICE to your Tenants
Ensure that your tenants are well and truly aware of when you are coming through to inspect. If you don’t not only will you have grumpy tenants, you’ll be breaking the law!
Imagine visiting anyone’s house, it would be considered rude to drop in unannounced and not give them a chance to clean the place a little first. This is no different, except that the tenants can’t just stuff their mess in the closed off room- you’ll be looking in there during your inspection!
Again, each state has their own regulations on the number of days notice you are required to give before the inspection, but the average is 7 days. Look at the infographic below to see the minimum notice in your area:
I have found that 7 days notice is reasonable, regardless if you’re legally allowed to give less. Any shorter does not give the tenant enough notice to ensure that everything is cleaned and ready for you to look around.
Your notice must be in writing. Typically speaking that means via post. The law is not 100% clear if you can send it via email (what’s new) but if the tenant has advised that email is the preferred way to send notices then an email ‘should’ be fine. A follow up call regardless is a good idea to ensure they got the message.
Here’s a letter I’ve written that you could fill in the gaps and send to your tenants. Get letter. Also, I mentioned in the letter about attaching a maintenance request form. This is a brilliant way to get them thinking before you show up, and speed up the process of any maintenance issues when you’re at the house. It helps to keep you both focused on the priorities (beware that some tenants can get a little too excited but it’s better to know everything than nothing).
3. ALWAYS Knock Before Using Your Key
I always call or send a text message to the tenants the day before I arrive for the inspection as a way to remind them that ‘Hey, I am going to be there tomorrow, please fill out the maintenance request form if there are any issues that need my attention’.
Over the years, I have learned that it is very important to knock, loudly, a couple of times before letting myself in with my own key. For one thing, this shows respect for the tenant’s home and privacy. For another… well, let’s just say there have been a couple occasions when I REALLY wish I would have knocked. Enough said about that.
Just a quick note: If the tenants are not home while you do the inspection, be sure to leave the property as you found it and lock the doors. You do not want to be blamed for a break in after an inspection.
4. Your Rental Inspection Checklist – 10 things to Look for at the Inspection
If the tenants are home, before I even go inside I will ask ‘Is there anything that I need to know about before I start?’ This gives the tenant a chance to come clean, and very often they point out an issue that I probably would have never found on my own.
Overall, you are looking to make sure the house is clean and tidy, and that no obvious damage has occurred. This is not the time to compare intricate details of the condition of the property with how it was at the beginning of the tenancy. There will be time for that when they move out.
You should be in and out within about 15 minutes. Use your time at the house to check on any repairs that you will need to take care of. Some tenants don’t like to report needed repairs because they are worried that you will raise the rent (to cover the repair) or that you’ll hold them responsible.
Here is what you have been waiting for… your Rental Inspection Checklist, 10 things to lookout for during the inspection. Instead of writing them all out here I’ve put them into a nice PDF checklist that you can download and print out.Click here to download the checklist.
Hot tip: Something that I didn’t mention on the checklist is to check EVERY room. Even if it’s just peeping in there while the child is sleeping at least you can see nothing is being hidden from you.
5. Put all your findings into a report
With the checklist printed out to guide you, the whole inspection process really only takes a few minutes, but to be honest I take advantage of technology to make the job even easier and faster.
There are several inspection apps available for iphones and ipads. I like an app that lets me take notes and photos, as well as marking each room as either Good, Fair or Poor.
The app I have used a lot in the past is Agent Inspect. I have no affiliation with the makers of Agent Inspect, it is just an app that works for me. It keeps me on track as I am touring the house and also really easy to make any notes about each room. Just as I walk out the door, I email myself a copy of the report. Done!
Here’s an image of the app in action to give you an idea of what it looks like on the ipad.
You can try it for free. If you have multiple properties, it may be worthwhile to pay for the monthly subscription.
Another app that I have used is HappyCo. This app is very user friendly and creates very useful, detailed and good looking reports. My only complaint is that the app is a little too detailed than I would like for just a routine inspection (but great for full ingoing condition reports).
Taking Photos: I usually only take photos of the repairs or things I’ve taken notes about in the report. Most tenants will not appreciate you taking photos of their personal belongings.
6. What to do After the Inspection
As far as the tenants are concerned, the inspection can go just one of two ways: good or bad. Your first priority should be to ensure that any necessary maintenance issues are organised as soon as possible. You cannot expect your tenants to take the inspections seriously if the next time you show up the bathroom sink is still dripping!
After the Good Inspection
It is a good inspection if it’s clean and tidy and well presented for inspection. If you took the time to find great tenants in the first place, then a good inspection is no real surprise, but it is still a good idea to take a few minutes to let your tenants know that you appreciate their efforts.
At the very minimum, send a thank you in the form of an email or text message. However, they will have a much better remembrance of your appreciation if you take the time to draft a letter or certificate of appreciation. This does not have to be fancy, “it’s the thought that counts”:
Certificate of Appreciation
Thank You for keeping the house Clean and Tidy
for the Routine Inspection.
Andrew and Britney Smith
3 Sample Street, Melbourne
With Great Appreciation,
A Bad Inspection
Unfortunately, things are not always perfect. Or even OK.
A bad inspection is usually a matter of degree. Usually, the problem is simply that the tenants are not keeping the property clean enough. If there are just one or two small issues that need to be addressed, you can probably deal with them with a phone call and an email, or speak to the tenants about it at the inspection.
If you feel that conditions are bad enough that you need to do a follow up inspection, you will need to take a few semi-formal steps. Send the tenants a letter which outlines exactly the things that you feel need to be corrected, that is the things that they need to have fixed or cleaned before your next visit. List the things in bullet point format so it’s a simple checklist to follow for both of you. In the same letter, include the date and time of the follow up inspection. Two weeks is usually enough time to get their act into gear.
If the follow up inspection is still not satisfactory, this is when I decide to take more formal steps. This step usually involves sending a Breach of Duty notice, as they have breached a term of the lease. This form may be called something different in each state, so check with your local government body for further details. Hopefully, things will never get bad enough that you need to take these steps.
7. File Your Report for Safe Keeping
I never send a copy of the actual report to tenants because that can open a can of worms but I’ll always keep an electronic copy for my own records. This may be an important document if you ever wind up in front of the tenancy tribunal or something worse happens.
One thing I’m sure you can agree about routine inspections is that actually doing them will probably take less time than it took you to read this guide. The preparation is mostly a matter of a sending notification to the tenants and printing the rental Inspection checklist so you know what to check. The actual inspection only takes a few minutes and the follow up is just as easy.
Bing Bang Boom, you’re done with the inspection and you will feel good knowing that your investment is in good hands.
Now, if all this sounds a little full on check out the Cubbi landlord service. Cubbi reminds you when the next inspection is due. You can notify your tenant in Cubbi and report on the inspection for good records.