Self-managing your rental property can be a great way to increase your cash flow and have greater control of your units. That said, some areas of management aren’t black and white. When it comes to inspecting your rental property, you will want to find a good balance. Not inspecting your unit can leave you with a nasty surprise when the tenant moves out, while inspecting too often can make your tenants feel violated.
To make things easier for you, let’s first cover why you should inspect your rental property. Then we can discuss some strategies to determine how often you will want to visit your units.
What do inspections do?
Before renting a property to a tenant, you will want to inspect the unit to assess its condition. This move-in inspection helps the landlord and tenant get a precise understanding of the property. You can take note of any damage and other concerns and add this list to your lease. When the tenant moves out, both parties are protected since the property’s condition was laid out prior to moving into the unit.
You should also inspect rental properties to get an understanding of how your tenants are treating the unit. There may be simple causes for concern such as debris in the yard or overflowing trash cans. On the other hand, you might see lease violations like pets or illegal activity.
In short, you should look for the following during an inspection:
- Exterior and interior damage
- Missing fixtures
- Leaks and mold
- Carpet stains and marks on walls
- Lease violations
How often should you inspect rental properties?
Properties and tenants have unique needs, and you will need to create customized solutions for each need. A small apartment may only need one visit per year, while a 5-bedroom house may need three visits. You must use your judgment to determine what issues may arise at a property before creating an inspection schedule. Look at appliances, fixtures, delicate items, and other aspects of a property. Determine what the worst-case scenario could look like and find out how early you will need to prevent it from occurring.
For example, a backyard pool uses a lot of water and uses expensive pumps to keep it in order. You may need to check a pool often to prevent major leaks or damage to the plumbing. A small issue can turn into a massive cleanup effort that comes with a hefty price tag.
Typically, landlords inspect rental properties three times during a lease. Visits happen during move-in, a few months into the lease, and at move-out. If the tenants renew their lease, the landlord should perform another inspection to ensure all parties are aware of the status of the unit.
If you ever want to check a property without going inside, simply drive by the unit and scope it out. If there are any concerns, inform the tenant and schedule a proper inspection. This strategy mostly helps landlords who self-manage many units. It will help reduce the time needed to visit each unit.
What should you tell your tenants about an inspection?
Most renters understand the need for inspections, so it should not be a surprise to hear that you will be visiting the unit. That said, some people may feel strange about having the landlord in their home, especially on short notice. To alleviate this concern, it might help to spell out the frequency of inspections in your lease clearly. You can use dates or phrases like “the first day of the third month” to explain when an inspection will occur.
If you would like to make a surprise inspection, you might get some pushback from the tenant. The local regulation typically states a required notice period to properly enter the unit. This can lead to an awkward or hostile exchange. Instead, take the advice of Nicole C from BiggerPockets.
She states, “I inspect every 6 months and say it’s for changing the air filter…we also check for hoarding and overall condition of the property.”
This strategy creates a reason for visiting the property and gives you a chance to look around the unit. However, it is not advisable to use this method without performing the filter change or other listed maintenance item.
Landlords should inspect properties before, during, and after each rental period. Tenants should know when and how often inspections will occur. If needed, you can use regular maintenance items as reasons to access a unit to see what is happening inside.
Being a self-managing landlord is a rewarding experience that can come with some great profit. Make sure you inspect your rentals often enough to protect your investment without violating your renters’ privacy and interrupting their lives.