Inspect Property Upon Move-in
A move-in inspection is standard. You should go through with every new tenant. Even if it's a new tenant joining pre-existing tenants, you should still perform the move-in inspection.
These days, it's best to go through with a smartphone. You can record images and voice your notes. Any modern property management software is built to take information this way, so it's easy to backup and save. It's also better for accountability than handwritten notes, should there ever be a disagreement in the future.
Inspect Property Upon Move-out
The move-out inspection keeps you safe. If a tenant knows the property won't be looked at upon move-out, then they won't always take care of it. Knowing an inspection is coming, and that deposits are tied to it, they'll take better care of the property. That means less work for you before the next tenant moves in.
If there is any damage, it holds the tenant who's leaving accountable for it in a prompt way. It also helps you ready the property more quickly for the next tenant.
Property Maintenance Checks
A maintenance check is very routine. If something breaks, it's already an expensive problem. A maintenance check ensures that you're getting ahead of any such situation. It's always less expensive to repair a scratch before it becomes a gouge or replace an air filter instead of wearing down the furnace.
Most tenants will be glad you're taking care of these small problems before they become large ones. It improves their standard of living and makes them feel like you're invested in their satisfaction. Tenants who feel cared for will stay around longer.
If tenants have damaged something, it's best to be matter-of-fact about the situation instead of accusatory. Who pays for what is already written out in the lease agreement, so there's not a whole lot of use worsening a relationship in other ways, and often this kind of damage is unintentional.
If tenants don't know how to use a particular appliance correctly, show them the best way to use it. Often, this is their first time as tenants, so there may be things they don't know. A maintenance check can involve checking security, heating, appliance condition, safety elements, cleanliness, and mold and mildew. Remember seasonal concerns, such as turning off and draining outside water fixtures before winter.
This one is less fun and can sometimes create conflict. Anyone living in a rented space without being a legal tenant is unauthorized. This is a matter of misunderstanding more often than not. A tenant might be taking care of a family member whose mobility has declined. Or their partner may be living with them. Many tenants will remember to check off all the boxes when someone new starts staying there, and make sure they sign on as a tenant themselves. Some won't know how it works or will forget.
An inspection like this doesn't have to be confrontational. Many tenants will apologize and sign whatever paperwork is needed to make the occupancy legal. However, some tenants will attempt to intentionally hide a new occupant, and this can make it a little more difficult. In this circumstance, remember to handle it matter-of-factly, and that you're in the legal right if the problem becomes worse.
Inspection Policy in the Lease Agreement
All of this should be spelled out in the lease agreement. If there is ever any conflict, this allows you to simply point to the agreement and take the next steps accordingly. Most tenants will work with you in a common-sense way, but not all will, and you can't always depend on that.
You can inspect a property's exterior at any time you like, but you can't just barge inside without warning in most circumstances. This can expose you legally, especially if it's repeated.
In most cases, it's required that you give a tenant warning that you'll be performing an inspection. A warning period of 24 hours is usual. This helps them plan, gives them time to think about any specific concerns they'd like you to look at, and most everyone likes to clean up a little, too. This isn't a bad thing. You may even find perfectionist tenants who use this time to fix little scratches so that you don't have to.
You'll also have to notify them why you'll be entering the rental unit. You'll always need a reason – it can't just be because you want to. Tenants have an expectation of privacy. The more elements like this are spelled out and communicated about, the less conflict there will be. A precise and reasonable lease agreement that spells out inspection policy is one of the best tools you can have as a property manager.
When it comes to inspecting your rental property, a Goldilocks approach is a must. Not too frequently, not too rarely. Find the “just right” and you’ll maintain a great property and tenant base. For more questions and help with managing properties, give Asheville Phoenix Properties a call.