While inspections are important, you don’t want to overdo them. When you have a great tenant in place, balance their right to privacy and quiet enjoyment of the property with your need to monitor the property. Don’t alienate them by showing up too often. However, inspections are part of the management process, and they need to be done.
If you discover a serious rental violation, just giving notice and posting that violation notice on the door is not good enough. This is an important time to do an immediate interior and exterior inspection. Often a violation or series of violations are a warning sign that something has changed in the tenant’s life for the worse. You can have a great tenant for years and then something happens. A job loss, divorce, death in the family, return of a substance abuse problem, etc. that can negatively impact your tenant and cause them to become a “bad” tenant very quickly. You should try to assess what is going on with the property within 24 hours.
The Inspection Cycle
The first inspection will be your pre-move in inspection which is done with your tenant. You and the tenant will inspect the property, document its condition and take a lot of photos. That inspection report should be signed by you and the tenant.
The next inspections will be your quarterly or monthly exterior inspections. Look at the care of the landscape, and whether there are any odd cars parked on site, or broken down cars in the driveway. You don’t want to see any evidence of someone rebuilding a motor in front of your property.
Next, conduct a six month interior and exterior inspection. This inspection must be thorough and documented in writing with dated photos. Again, issue violations notices on the spot with dates certain as to when the violations need to be corrected. Also at this point you have the opportunity to decide whether you want to keep the tenant and renew the lease or not. So be thorough and go with your gut so you’ll know whether you want to offer a new lease long before the lease term ends.
Next, will be your exit inspection. This is the inspection that is done after your tenant has moved out and
turned the property back over to you. At this point the property should be clean and in the same general
condition as noted on the entry inspection less normal wear and tear. The inspection should be
thorough and should be done on the same form as the entry inspection so you can compare them side
by side and determine if there are differences that need to be addressed. Dated photos are important
with this one as well. Make sure you are very thorough and very fair with this one as this is the one that
you will use to determine how much of the tenant’s deposit is returned and this is the area where most
disputes will arise. And often these disputes end up in court if not settled to the tenant’s satisfaction.
Only excessive wear and tear, poor or incomplete cleaning or abuse should be charged against the
tenant’s deposit. Be very careful not to include deferred maintenance items on the tenant side, as this
will usually trigger a needless dispute.
Again, remember to strike a balance between regular inspections without overdoing it. These inspections will help you keep better control of your property and expenses and reduce problems with tenants and lease end disputes.