Inspecting your rental property before, during, and after a lease term is part of protecting its condition and preserving its value. You don’t want to be surprised by damage that you didn’t know was there, and you want to take care of small maintenance issues before they become more serious and expensive.
Establish a policy of inspecting your property at least three times: before a tenant moves in, after a tenant moves out, and at least once during the tenancy. You should also inspect your home before you put it on the market, and during times that you happen to be at the property.
When you’re working with a Dallas property manager, make sure you understand how frequently your home will be inspected. A good property manager will provide a detailed property inspection report with photographs and even videos.
Property Inspections before Your Home is Marketed
Check all the safety features and maintenance functions of the property. Make a list of any issues that need to be addressed or repairs that need to be made. You don’t want to market a home that still needs work. Tenants will have a hard time imagining themselves moving in.
Inspect the exterior as well as the interior. It should have neat landscaping and the doors and windows should all open, close, and lock properly. Inside the home, check that everything works properly. You can also inspect for cosmetic repairs or upgrades that might be needed. When you want to attract the best possible tenant, charge the highest rent, and get someone in place quickly, small cosmetic repairs can make a big difference. They’re affordable, and you can look for these opportunities while you’re inspecting the home prior to putting it on the market.
Conducting a Move-in Inspection
The move-in inspection may be the most important inspection you conduct as a landlord. This is your best opportunity to avoid disputes over the security deposit after a tenant moves out. The move-in inspection should be done right before your tenant takes possession of the property. It will be detailed and well-documented.
Go through the house with a camera and take pictures of everything. You’ll want to get photos of the floors, the walls, the ceilings, the appliances, inside the closets, the windows, and the exterior. The goal is to show exactly what the home looks like at the time a tenant moves in. Have a checklist which allows you to note the condition of each room. You’ll use this during the move-out inspection as well.
Make notes about the condition of everything and whether things are worn or older. Be honest. You don’t want to try and hide any wear and tear that may already exist. If there’s a chip in the stovetop or a small spot on the carpet, be sure to make a note and take a picture. The tenants will appreciate you’re being up front about these imperfections, and they won’t have to worry about being charged for them later.
The goal is to accurately reflect the property that you’re handing over to your tenants. You can either do the move-in inspection with your new tenants, or allow them to add anything they’d like to include to the inspection report after they’ve already moved in. Just make sure you have those pictures and notes before they bring in their furniture and all their belongings.
Date and time-stamp this inspection report, and keep it in your files until the end of the lease.
The Purpose of a Mid-Tenancy Inspection
Your tenants are entitled to privacy and the quiet enjoyment of their home. While you might be the party who owns the home, they are the ones living there. This means you cannot just show up and take a look around any time you want to. You have to leave your tenants alone to live in the property, which they can do in any manner they see fit as long as it doesn’t violate the lease agreement.
It isn’t invasive or unreasonable to want to inspect the property once during the tenancy. Good tenants will understand this, and probably even welcome it. It’s an opportunity to do two things:
- Ensure there aren’t any maintenance needs that have not been reported or noticed by the tenants.
- Ensure the tenants are maintaining the home and following the terms of the lease.
Take a look at the inside and outside of the property during this inspection to make sure everything is working and safe. You want to know the yard looks good, the appliances and systems are working, and your tenants are happy with the condition of the home. Check under sinks for potential leaks and take a look at any areas that have caused problems in the past. Inspect the air conditioning system and make sure the tenants are changing the filters regularly. Look at the furnace and make sure there aren’t any tree branches covering the roof or gathering in the gutters.
If you notice any maintenance items that are needed, make an immediate work order and try to coordinate a good time for service with the tenants. Ask your residents if there have been any problems with the way things work.
The lease enforcement piece should be easy. You know who should be living in the property, and if you notice signs of extra people, talk about this with your tenant. Make sure the only people living there are those who were screened and approved on the lease. Look for evidence of pets, especially if your tenants are not supposed to have pets. If they do have authorized pets, make sure there aren’t any signs of pet damage.
Any lease violations should be addressed right away. Give the tenants a chance to rectify them, and if necessary, come back in a couple of weeks to make sure the right actions were taken.
Property Inspections during Maintenance Visits
Another opportunity for inspections is when your tenant requests maintenance or repair work. When they request that something be fixed, you can go into the property with your repair person and have a look around. Your tenant can choose to be there or not be there, but they will know that you’re in the property to address the repair.
This inspection does not have to be incredibly thorough. You should be focused on the repair that’s needed. However, it is a good opportunity to take a look around and make sure the property is being well-maintained. It’s also another chance at making sure there are no unauthorized animals or people at the home. You can put your mind at ease that the tenant is being responsible and acting in accordance with the lease agreement.
If you’ve established good relationships with your vendors, you can even ask them to take a look around for you. In that case, you won’t have to be there for the repair. Your vendors will know to share any information that they think should concern you. If there’s an alligator in the bathroom, for example, or a small meth lab being run out of the second bedroom, your plumber or air conditioning tech can sound the alarm and tell you what was found.
Conducting a Move-out Inspection
The move-out inspection will occur when your tenant has moved out of the property and turned in the keys. To avoid any misunderstanding or conflict, let the tenants know what you’ll expect during this inspection. When they provide their notice to vacate, send them a checklist of what they need to do. You can include these requirements in your lease as well. Some of the things you should address are:
- Cleaning. You can expect the tenants to return a clean property, especially since they received a clean property.
- All personal property removed. Anything that’s left behind will be removed by you, at their expense.
- Return all keys, remotes, and other property belonging to the home or the community.
During the move-out inspection, you’ll use the same checklist that you used during the move-in inspection. The idea is to do the same thing – inspect every detail of the home and take pictures. It will be easy to see what’s different.
As the property owner, you’re responsible for all wear and tear. Small scuff marks on the walls and wear on the carpet are expected. Nail holes in the walls are your responsibility as well. But, any damage beyond wear and tear is the tenant’s responsibility, and you can withhold funds from their security deposit to pay for that damage. Your move-out inspection report and photos, together with the documentation from the move-in inspection, will justify those charges.
Inspections are a crucial part of renting out property. If you have any questions about how to conduct them or you’re not sure what to look for, contact us at Specialized Property Management. We’d be happy to tell you more about our process and all the other Dallas property management services we provide.