The Importance of Regular Property Inspections: Identifying and Preventing Issues
Renters Warehouse Blog
Rental property inspections are one of those things. They’re easy to overlook in favor of more pressing issues, but nonetheless, they’re an important part of owning a rental property.
Regular property inspections offer a world of benefits for landlords. They can help you to spot certain issues before they escalate into costly, time-consuming repairs. They also give you an opportunity to inspect the property and ensure that it’s being maintained in a way that’s in compliance with the rental agreement. Routine inspections and regular maintenance can help you to make sure your unit is in top shape—one way to help keep your renters happy.
There are a number of reasons why property inspections are a good idea. Let’s dive into some of these now and take a look at some tips on how to identify and help prevent issues that you may encounter during inspections.
What Are the Advantages of Regular Property Inspections?
Whether you’re an out-of-state landlord or live just down the street from your property, it’s a good idea to make regular rental inspections a priority. Here are the top reasons why every landlord should conduct routine property inspections:
To Identify Maintenance Needs
Over time, wear and tear, weather conditions, and other factors can start to take a toll on a property. This includes the foundation, roof, plumbing, electrical systems, and more. Inspections can help you to spot some of these issues early on, allowing you to take steps to resolve them before they escalate and end up requiring more extensive repairs.
To Help Keep Your Tenants Happy
Regular inspections are an important part of tenant satisfaction. Since inspections allow you to spot and address many issues early on, this can help to stave off bigger issues, things that could cause a tenant a great deal of stress and inconvenience. Checking on the property and on your tenants’ well-being also shows that you’re committed to providing a safe and comfortable living environment.
To Preserve the Property Value
Significant issues such as structural damage, leaks, or severe pest infestations are problems that can potentially devalue a property and cost a lot of money to repair or address. With regular inspections, you can spot and address many of these concerns right away. Regular inspections preserve the functionality, aesthetics, and overall appeal of a property. A well-maintained property will have an easier time attracting potential tenants as well.
To Help With Long-Term Planning
For property investors, regular property inspections give you insightful data that help with long-term planning. By documenting the property’s condition during each inspection, owners can track trends, identify recurring issues, and plan future maintenance or updates. This lets you allocate resources effectively and set a budget in advance for upcoming repairs or renovations. Routine property inspections are especially vital for older properties, as they could help to pinpoint areas that need attention or may require an upgrade.
To Ensure Tenant Compliance
Although you’ve carefully interviewed and screened your tenants, it’s a good idea to check in on them from time to time. This can help to ensure accountability and gives you a chance to see for yourself how they are looking after the property. We’ve all heard of unfortunate cases where tenants break the terms of their rental agreement and allow trash to pile up, neglect to treat pest infestations, or fail to clean up after themselves. When left unchecked, these types of issues can degrade your property. Inspections give you a chance to step in and mitigate many of these issues before they escalate.
To Mitigate Potential Risks
Inspections can also give you a chance to mitigate potential safety threats. It’s a good chance to check to see that all fire alarms and carbon monoxide detectors are working. If you have supplied a security system, you will want to check that it’s still working as well. All entry points should be inspected to ensure locks are still functioning as well. Spotting and addressing safety issues in advance can help to protect the occupants, and your property as well.
Most Common Home Inspection Issues and How to Help Mitigate Them
Performing regular property inspections can help prevent major issues from arising. Here are just a few of the areas where inspections can help prevent certain issues from becoming worse.
Inspections can reveal any sign of structural damage in walls, ceilings, roof, crawlspace, attic, basement, or foundations. Timely detection and repairs help maintain the property’s stability and prevent further deterioration. Sometimes, these can already have some instabilities due to poor construction from the beginning. Natural disasters, poor drainage, or simple wear and tear may also cause damage.
When conducting your inspections, look for cracks along the foundation outside the building or in a crawlspace or basement. Check for signs of damp on ceilings or walls. Discoloration could indicate a leak in the roof.
Plumbing and Leaks
Plumbing issues can vary in severity from a simple faucet leak to a system replacement. Leaks, whether visible or concealed, are problems that can lead to water damage, mold growth, and increased utility costs. Prompt repair or replacement of faulty pipes, fixtures, or water supply systems can prevent certain types of damage from escalating. Check for leaks under the sinks, look for signs of damp in the bathroom, and ensure that all showers, baths, and sinks are sealed with silicone or grout to prevent water from running behind the wall and causing damage.
Inspections can reveal malfunctioning or exposed outlets, flickering lights, open junction boxes, faulty wiring, and a host of other electrical issues. When it comes to electrical issues, it’s best not to take any chances. Older homes may also have outdated electrical systems that pose fire hazards or safety risks. Always have electrical issues addressed promptly, and for more serious problems like damaged wiring, circuit breaker problems, or sparking outlets, contact a licensed electrician. When conducting an inspection, turn the lights on and off as you go into each room. Flickering could indicate a problem.
Not all pests are created equal. Some can wreak more havoc than others on your property and on your budget as well. Termites are notorious for causing extensive damage to homes, costing an estimated $5 billion in property damage in the U.S. annually.
Other pests to look out for during inspections are ants and cockroaches. These pests can sometimes be found in the kitchen. Also look for signs of rodents like mice and rats. When conducting your inspection, check for signs of chewing on electrical wiring, bad smells, and mouse droppings—signs of a rodent infestation. If you’re in a region that has termites, look for signs of a termite infestation as well. Early detection enables the implementation of necessary pest control measures.
HVAC System Maintenance
It is important to inspect HVAC systems, including filters, ducts, and equipment, to ensure they are free from any problems. Improperly sealed ducts can suck in dust and debris in attics or crawlspaces and can lead to sediment in filters, energy loss, and cause allergies. It’s a good idea to have the HVAC system professionally inspected and serviced annually.
Safety and Security
Staying on top of safety hazards prevents accidents and ensures compliance with safety regulations. During inspections, check for accident risks like loose handrails, uneven steps, and inadequate lighting. Ensure that smoke detectors and carbon monoxide systems are in proper working order and have a full charge. To protect your tenants and rental property, make sure that all the doors, windows, and locks are secure. Another simple trick to ward off potential break-ins is to invest in external lighting.
When doing a walk-through of the property’s exterior, check for the condition of the roof (visual inspection from the ground), siding, and landscaping. Likewise, make sure all gutters and downspouts are secure, and draining away from the building. Other safety hazards to look out for are tree branches that need to be pruned, exposed electrical wirings, or flooding from water leaks or drainage issues.
Tips on Implementing Regular Property Inspections
A successful maintenance inspection can help to keep your rental property in great condition, protects your tenants from hazards, and helps to prevent costs from escalating as well.
Here are some tips on getting the most out of your inspections:
Ensure Clear Communication With Tenants
Good relationships and communication with your tenants will make regular inspections easier to accomplish. Set clear expectations and explain how a regular inspection benefits them as well. Remember to respect tenants’ right to privacy and don’t just show up at their doorstep unannounced (unless it’s for emergencies like a severe water leak or a fire). Landlords are required to give advance notice before a visit. Usually, it’s 24 hours’ notice, but this can vary according to state laws. However, informing tenants as early as you can is good practice so that they can plan ahead for your visit.
Not sure what’s the best way to communicate with your tenants? See Different Communication Options for Landlords and Tenants
Set an Agreement and Schedule
Some landlords may feel uncomfortable about coming in to visit tenants on a regular basis, so it’s best to come to an agreement with your tenant about how often and when you can do inspections. Setting a consistent schedule for property inspections is a good way to make it into a routine that both parties are amenable to. For example, you could plan on inspections twice a year or annually. See what works for you or your property manager and your tenant.
Use a Checklist
Develop a comprehensive inspection checklist that covers all critical areas of the property, including structural elements, utilities, safety features, and general maintenance. A standardized checklist ensures thoroughness and consistency in each inspection.
Document and Record Inspections
Keep detailed records of each inspection. When doing an inspection, take down notes and photographs too. This documentation serves as a reference for tracking progress and identifying recurring problems. It may also provide documentation that the rental complies with certain regulations.
Proactive property maintenance means taking action on minor issues before they become bigger. It’s the opposite of reactive maintenance, where you solve problems as they happen. Of course, we all know that some problems cannot be prevented, but many can and it’s important to do what you can to keep all systems functioning as they should at your rental. A proactive approach can help to prevent certain costly repairs and minimizes disruptions for landlords and tenants.
Educating tenants about their role in maintaining the property can go a long way. Provide them with guidelines on how to address certain basic maintenance tasks (as outlined in their rental agreement). Tell them that concerns should be reported promptly to prevent problems from escalating, and give them an emergency contact number (either for you or your property manager) so they can get in touch as needed with any emergencies that arise.
Follow-Up and Accountability
Once issues are identified during an inspection, establish a system for follow-up, repairs, and accountability. Clearly communicate the required actions, set deadlines for repairs, and document completed tasks accurately. Stay informed about relevant regulations and best practices to ensure your inspections are effective and compliant.
Call on Professional Experts
Doing regular property inspections may not be feasible for a property owner. You might already have a lot on your plate or have properties outside the city you live in. If this sounds like you, hiring a reputable property manager could help. A good property manager will be more than happy to take on any routine inspections that you require. Just let them know what type of inspections you would like, and discuss the details with them to make sure everyone is on the same page. Hiring a property manager means you’ll be able to outsource inspections, not to mention all of the additional tasks that are involved with property management as well, saving you a great deal of time and reducing your stress as a landlord.
Regular property inspections benefit both the landlord and the tenant. Your tenants get to enjoy a clean and safe home to live and relax in, and you can sleep better at night knowing that your investment property is in good shape—and good hands.
A rental property is a significant investment, and you’ll want to make sure you’re taking steps to set yourself up for success.
Looking for more advice on how to make the most of your investment property? Check out our Education Center: Investor Tips for more resources. And if you need help managing your rental properties, we can help. Get started today with your FREE rental price analysis, and see how much your property could be renting for.
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