How often to perform rental inspections

Property management inspection is one of many tasks to perform in this business. This one, however, could be a bit unpleasant, as performing inspections too often may cause a break in trust between you and the tenant. 

On the other end, not performing inspections could cause unpleasant surprises for you and the owner once the tenant moves out. In case there’s a need, you can do as many external inspections as you want, but you should not enter the rental without notifying the tenant first. 

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Where to start?

If you are new to this, make sure you get familiar with Australian laws and regulations about the landlord’s or property manager’s rights to enter a property. If you’re an experienced property manager, this may still be a must-do as these could often change.  

When forming the lease agreement, you can include your inspection policy to avoid surprising the tenant once inspection time comes. There should also be a pre-inspection notice. The minimum time should be 24h before the arrival, but it can be negotiated with the renter, as they have the right to privacy and might ask for a longer notice. 

When is the right time to perform a rental inspection?

Since this is a tricky aspect of the job, it’s good to stick to recommendations on when it is okay to check the property you manage. There are four basic types of property inspections, so let’s briefly go over each. 

Move-in inspection

This one is done when the tenant is moving in, of course. The tenant(s) should be present, and the property inspection documented so that you can protect both them and yourself. The tenant and yourself should agree on the state of the property and support it with proof (photos) and a report you will both sign.  

You can bring the inspection process up to speed by using a phone camera to document and property management software to leave a digital trail of your report. 

This type of inspection is important in general, but it can be of even greater importance if you’re managing a pet-friendly property. In this case, it can be repeated after a couple of weeks, to check whether everything is going smoothly.  

Routine safety and hygiene inspection

Safety and hygiene property inspections can be performed every three to six months to make sure that the property is safe for the tenant and kept clean. 

This one goes hand-in-hand with preventative maintenance. It includes checking on the electricity, water pipes, or any other part of the property that may endanger the tenant. During this inspection, you can also check whether the tenant is taking care of the property in terms of hygiene and potential damage. Make sure to take pictures and document everything in a report. 

Drive-by inspections

This is the above-mentioned external inspection you can perform anytime you want. Inspecting the property from the outside can’t violate your tenant’s privacy in any way unless you’re standing by the window and staring into their living room. In case you notice anything that disturbs the agreement (e.g. pets if they’re not allowed), consider notifying the tenant and schedule a routine inspection.

Move-out inspection

The move-out property inspection should also be performed when the tenant is still present, in the moment of handing over the keys. If the tenant just drops by your office to leave the keys and you perform the inspection later, they can simply deny that anything was wrong with the property when they left it, and it’s your word against theirs. Once again, check all the areas of the apartment and collect proof for everything good or damaged, sign the documentation, and your move-out inspection will be correctly done. 

What if the tenant doesn’t want to sign the inspection report?

In this scenario, a camera is your best friend. In case of serious damage to the property and moving the case to court, having clear visual and time-stamped evidence can always come handy, so don’t be afraid to use it. Sometimes tenants won’t sign the report thinking they won’t be held responsible that way, but it’s not true. 

Irregular case: checking for an unauthorized tenant 

During the lease agreement, it can happen that the tenant has long-staying guests (family or friends from another state or city), or begins housing a relationship partner. You may notice this during a regular or a drive-by inspection. To avoid any unpleasant moments, it’s fine to ask the tenant to report such cases in advance. This can also be added as a cadence to your contract — just a couple of sentences on potential additional tenants.

The do’s and don’ts of rental inspections

To wrap up everything nicely, we’ve included these bullet points you can use as a checklist for your rental property inspections:

Do’s: 

  • Make sure the tenant is at home: they should sign the documentation following your inspection, and you’ll get a chance to talk to them about the condition of the property 
  • Give prior notice: the tenants have the right to their privacy. Make sure you inform them about your arrival in advance
  • Explain why the inspection is necessary: it’s important that the tenants understand that inspections are as important for them as they are for you and the owner

Don’ts:

  • Don’t take pictures of tenants’ personal items: yes, take photos during the inspection, but do this with care, so that you don’t violate the tenant’s intimacy 
  • Don’t do too many inspections per day: this might overwhelm you which could result with a badly done job
  • Don’t go on a power-trip: don’t be too heavy-handed on the tenant. If the property is a bit messy, that’s fine. There shouldn’t be any wine spills on the carpet or food trays on the sofa though!

Summary

Property condition inspections are a tricky task for property managers, as they have to be scheduled with care so that both the tenant and the manager are protected. The frequency of the inspections can be defined in the contract, while the exterior, drive-by inspections can be performed anytime. 

While performing inspections, don’t be afraid to use a camera and write everything down in a report, as it might happen that the tenants don’t take the responsibility for damaged goods. Pay attention to all apartment areas, and document the overall condition of the property.

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