As an investor, protecting your asset should be one of your top priorities. But far too many investors overlook the easiest aspect of safeguarding their investment against damages: Performing regular inspections of the property.
There are several types of rental inspections investors should perform on a routine basis. Performing these inspections with regularity allows you to catch potential lease violations early, before they represent a significant amount of damage to your property.
Be careful about your inspections
It’s important to approach rental unit inspections with tact and understanding. Inspections often represent an inconvenience for tenants. It’s a property manager’s job to ensure the tenant’s time is respected throughout the inspection process.
If your rental inspections are inconveniencing tenants, or making them feel like their privacy is invaded, they’re unlikely to renew their lease. They may even attempt to find grounds for legal action against you if they feel attacked by frequent inspections.
The laws dictating the ways property owners can conduct inspections are relatively strict. Most provinces and municipalities require a property manager to provide a minimum of 48-hours written notice before an inspection. Some provinces may have even longer restrictions. Failure to observe the law when conducting a rental inspection could force you to pay out a settlement to your tenants.
Inspections help protect your investment
While rental inspections may be an uncomfortable task, they’re ultimately necessary to protect the capital you’ve invested. Without regular inspections, your asset may lose a significant amount of value in a relatively short period of time. A single bad tenant could end up causing thousands of dollars in damages, materially harming your real estate investment business.
It’s important to never look for reasons to kick tenants out. Eviction proceedings are costly and time-consuming, and you won’t receive rental payments during the eviction process. If you find a few small lease compliance rules violated, it’s often better to just look the other way or make small concessions, rather than evict the tenant for trivial issues.
What should you be looking for?
Set a precedent for maintaining the rules of your lease. Work with tenants to identify areas of the lease they’re skirting and try to approach minor issues with tact and understanding. Really, an inspection is a form of asset maintenance, not a penalty for tenants. Here’s what you should be looking for:
· Ensure lease compliance: The most significant benefit of performing regular rental unit inspections is ensuring lease compliance. You can usually determine during an inspection whether a resident has brought an extra pet into the unit, or if their friends have started sleeping over more frequently than not. Once you’ve found a lease violation, you’ll have to determine whether you want to issue a simple warning, or proceed with an eviction.
· Stave off illegal activity: If you’re concerned about your tenants engaging in illegal activity—like drug use or propagation—regularly inspect your residential units. You can keep a sharp eye out for any areas used to grow drugs, or look for paraphernalia. If you ever suspect a tenant is engaged in illegal activity at your residence, consider consulting with the local or provincial police force as soon as possible.
· Identify maintenance needs: If a tenant doesn’t use an appliance on a daily basis, or if they spend a lot of time out of the home, there’s a good chance they won’t be able to identify pressing maintenance needs. Use the occasion of a routine maintenance visit to identify any neglected maintenance needs, whether it’s a leaky toilet or a stove with a broken pilot.
Types of rental inspections
Performing an inspection at least once monthly doesn’t mean you or your property management team actually have to enter the property. The most common and important types of inspections on a monthly, quarterly and annual basis include:
· Move-in inspections: Every time a new tenant moves into a residence, walk through with them and perform a move-in inspection. This will give you and the tenant the opportunity to document the unit’s condition together, denoting any areas already be damaged prior to their arrival at the home.
· Safety and cleanliness inspections: On a quarterly basis, plan to perform a safety and cleanliness inspection. You’ll have to provide your tenant with notice before conducting this type of inspection. You’ll enter the unit, and check the status of the smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, and examine the property for potential lease violations.
· Drive-by inspections: There are a number of benefits associated with executing a drive-by inspection. Plan to conduct them at least once a month. During a drive-by inspection, you’ll simply examine the exterior of the property from your vehicle. You may even want to park and work on some paperwork nearby your unit—this way, you can determine if there are any non-leaseholders entering the building, or engaging in suspicious activity.
· Move-out inspections: During a tenant’s move-out process, perform a move-out inspection with them. During the move-out inspection, you’ll walk through the building together and identify areas requiring repair because of damage caused by their tenancy. You shouldn’t tell them how much the repair will cost at this point—you simply have to demonstrate areas of damage.
While you obviously won’t be performing move-in and move-out inspections more than once during a resident’s tenancy, plan on performing a safety and cleanliness inspection at least once a quarter, and perform drive-by inspections once each month. Because it’s not necessary to provide notice before conducting a drive-by inspection, you can easily perform them more frequently if you suspect a tenant is violating their lease terms or engaging in illegal activity.
Don’t make inspections scary; make them routine
Often, the thought of a regular inspection will help keep tenants on their best behavior. While it’s always necessary to respect a tenant’s privacy and obey the law, keeping the knowledge of an upcoming inspection at the forefront of a resident’s mind can help protect your asset’s value and ensure you don’t take a loss upon move-out.
Stay informed about the status of your property and how your tenant is treating it. The more you know, the fewer surprises you’ll have to deal with when they move out.