Landlords Should Inspect Occupied Rental Homes

How important are inspections while your home is tenant-occupied? Extremely. In 2016AD, I took over management of an exceptional number of properties for owners who were firing a property manager. I was flabbergasted by the limited services that other managers were getting by with for the same 10% fee that our office charges for 1st-rate service.

Is your property manager inspecting your rental?  Possibly not.

The most obvious shortcoming that I noted was an absolute failure to inspect. I’m finding more and more often property managers do not inspect occupied homes on a regular basis.  In many cases, if inspections were performed, the owner never received a report or findings from the inspection!

Inspections are so very important and you should be alarmed if your property manager is not addressing this very important task.

Inspection reports with photos

Here is a sample of what our clients get twice a year.  Click: Owner Inspection Report & Photos – Sample.  I’ve spoken with many prospective clients who have never seen their home since they moved out of it – sometimes years earlier.

Request any prospective property manager to send you a few inspection reports from a home that they have managed for a few years.  If they can’t do that, RUN!

At our office, we call them “Periodic Inspections”. The purpose of these inspection meets quite a few needs for owner and property manager, and I am going to list them for you.

5 Reasons to Inspect

#1. It allows us to see if your home has upcoming maintenance needs that you should be saving for. If a tenant stays for a 4-year term, and your property manager is only inspecting at move-in and move-out, you have no way of knowing how your systems and structures are doing in between.

Some tenants are vigilant in reporting things and some are absolutely oblivious. Maybe the first 2 occupied inspections at a home were phenomenal, but there was a marital spat and the spouse who moved out was the one who kept the home immaculate.

#2. It lets us know how your tenant is taking care of your home, its systems, the outside landscaping and how the home looks in general. This is important for several reasons.

  • Lease violations. Maybe they have lease violations that will affect you in a big way. For instance they added a trampoline or have an aggressive pet. This affects your liability should someone get hurt. How can you eliminate liability you don’t know exists in the first place?
  • Identify damage-causing habits.  Habits can be broken.  If your tenants are messy, it may not be a big deal, but if they are failing to clean properly for a long period of time, their slovenly ways could be damage-causing. For instance, if you have a fiberglass tub enclosure, and it’s not cleaned properly, it can become permanently stained. It can be addressed before damage occurs.
  • Budgeting. If a large high-ticket item at your home is nearing the end of its life, I will tell you to start saving for the replacement and I can get you some estimates so you can save. That’s helpful right? Most of us function within a budget. Maybe you want to be proactive or make that purchase on a specific year for tax benefits.
  • Security deposit proof. It helps me determine move-out charges with virtual certainty as to what caused the damage in the area in which I found it. For instance not long ago, I found a peculiar red stain in an on a mantle. When I reviewed my inspections, I saw that the tenant had a potpouri burner with red contents that the matched staining perfectly. There is no arguing the photographic evidence and description that I was able to provide with the bill. You can easily apply deposit money to repairs when pictorial evidence supports the damage. No owner wants to pay for damages caused by a tenant because the property manager failed to prove the case.
  • Meeting the tenant. Relationships can be fostered which is helpful for many reasons.  Also, if your tenants are home during my inspection, they say lots of things that you may find useful in determining what you plan to do with the home. For instance, a tenant may tell me “I’m going to stay here until my daughter graduates from high school” or “I love this house; I wonder if the owner is interested in selling it”. SCORE – built in buyer for your home, no need to worry about marketing the home, or starting expensive updates to get the house ready for the market when your tenant already LOVES it!
  • Curb Appeal/decor’. Seems silly, but when the house goes on the market, we can review the inspection photos to see how the house is going to show when we put it on the market next time. If your tenant is a Pier 1 junkie and the house is flawlessly clean and decorated like a showroom, we might put it on the market at top dollar. By the same token, if your tenant has a collection of stuffed ducks throughout the house and 1970’s plaid couches, we should probably be cognizant that the house is not going to rent as high as we may have achieved in the past and you can plan accordingly.
  • Equipment maintenance. The HVAC system specifically is an expensive item to replace and there are maintenance needs that tenants must be addressing regularly – filters. Our lease requires that our tenants change filters monthly. A good way to tell if this is happening is to review any dust collecting on the vents and around the filter location. If the area is covered in a collection of dust or the vents have a trail of dark matter nearby, we know there is a problem, and we can address it with the tenants, and remind them of their responsibilities. We notate to check it again at a return inspection to ensure the message was received.
  • Setting standards. Even if we went to the home for no other reason than to see if your home was still standing upright, our expected visit keeps tenants on-notice to follow lease standards or we will see. They are less likely to do anything to violate that 20-page lease that they signed if they know I’m popping by regularly.  Our regular presence is a deterrent to behavior that would damage your home and systems. Situations that would cause a problem for you are less likely to be attempted and if they are attempted, they are likely to be eliminated by our visit or in response to our impending arrival.

#3. A comprehensive report for all of us. I can’t speak for all property managers, but our reports are impressive. My owners know what their home looks like and what to plan for. They have photos of their home to review any time they want. Maybe they like being in the loop on things or maybe they just love their home and want to see how it looks.

It’s your home and you need to know how your investment is holding up . Maybe you hired us because you are never coming back to the area. A good report ensures that you are never in the dark on the look and condition of what is likely the biggest investment of your life. Maybe you are serving in the military and can’t be here; you can rest assured that I am all over the care of your home and to prove it, you have my full report and about 30-50 photos.

#4. A great opportunity for end-of-lease planning for tenant changeover. If your tenant has done something to the home that needs to be remedied, we are ready to address it with an advance plan. I like to be proactive and that works in your favor financially.

Example: Your tenant mounted TV’s in every room and when they give notice, I am going to give them instructions on the repair requirement for wall damages (and exactly what they will need to address w/photos even) well in advance so we don’t have to figure it out after they move which could result in vacancy loss while we make repair.

Having an advance game plan saves time.  Time is money as in any other business. Recently a tenant performed a bad patch job on virtually every wall in the home. We were able to match up each patch/mismatched paint touch-up to the same location where his home décor was hung by reviewing photos from the periodic inspection performed 6 months earlier. A picture says a thousand words, so 10 pictures must say 10,000 words.

#5. Marketing planning/,marketing photos. When I’m at your home, I can tell you in what way your home should be updated to ensure the best marketability in your next rental or sale market. You may or may not act on my superb advice, but it’s what you pay for.

Also, if I took over your property in the winter, while I am at your home in the summer inspecting, I will take in-season marketing photos with the flowers blooming and the grass green so that you can be more competitive next time. If your community has features, I’ll get photos of those in the better season too! Maybe your pool was covered and hasn’t been photographed yet – I’m going to photograph it while I’m there so when we market again I can really present the excitement of your amazing pool.

You get more money for features like pools, so want awesome photos of those features. Our dedication to perfecting our personal photo portfolio of community features and local parks and waterways is so vast and extraordinary that I recently had to add our logo watermark to prevent others from using our photo collections in their advertisements! We work hard to ensure our listings blow away the competition by shining brighter than the rest during any season.

#6. Acting on intelligence. Maybe your BFF who still lives next door to your home reported to you that there are new girl roommates and a fuzzy white dog.  I’m going to schedule and inspection to see what’s up. When I arrive, chances are the new roomies and fuzzy white dog are not going to be home. I already know that of course, but I’m going to check the pantry for the dog food or look for white dog hair in the home or in the HVAC filter, doggy nose prints on windows and doors and the odor of pet.

It’s pretty hard to hide all the proof, and I know what to look for. If the only occupant is one male, but two of the bedrooms where the pool table and office were at the last inspection now have full wardrobes of female clothing and toiletries.  This allows me to inquire about the obvious nature of what we have already been informed of by your vigilant bestie.

Most of the time it’s an easy conversation that ends with everyone complying with the lease and getting signatures added along with a deposit for the fluffy dog.

So, what I’m saying is that regular inspections of your home during tenancy has countless benefits. You pay for management of your property every single month, not just before and after a tenant moves in. Make sure you are getting what you pay for and that there is proof of these visits for your records.

Mary – PROperty Manager for Stephanie Clark Property Management

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Posted in Education/Informing, Property Management Blog
Suburban home with front porch

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