Aug 12, 2021

The Landlord’s Ultimate Guide to Rental Property Inspections

by 
Obie

Do you regularly inspect your rental property? Sure, you invest in your property upfront. Buying it, updating it, advertising it, and more.

But, do you periodically check on your investment once renters move in? If you’re like many landlords, the answer is no.

However, without regular inspections, you’ll miss small problems until they become costly and difficult to fix. And, you have no idea how well tenants are taking care of your property. So, routine inspections are a must if you want to protect your investment.

How should you conduct regular inspections? That’s what we’ll cover in this post. But, first, let’s take a look at what exactly property inspections are.

What is a rental property inspection?

A rental property inspection is a survey of the condition of your property inside and out. By looking at things such as walls, floors, faucets, landscaping, and more, you can get an idea of how tenants are taking care of your property. 

Why are rental property inspections important?

Rental property inspections help you get in front of issues. For example, your tenants might notice a leaky faucet. But, they don’t think it’s a big deal. So, they don’t mention it to you until water damage signs are obvious. If you had inspected your property, you could have addressed the leaky faucet before it caused expensive water damage. 

And, property inspections also help you reduce your liability. By regularly inspecting your property, you can find any potential injury-causing problems. And, fix them quickly. This minimizes the risk of tenant injury and your liability. 

What types of rental property inspections are there?

There are 4 main types of rental property inspections:

Move-in inspection

A move-in inspection happens when a new tenant moves into your property. You walk through the property with the tenant and record its condition. That way, you know what damage was already there. And, what damage your tenant caused when they move out. 

Drive-by inspection

As the name suggests, you conduct this inspection by driving by your property. This is a quick way to check for exterior issues. And, check for any tenant problems – such as unauthorized roommates or pets. You should do drive-by inspections on different days and times. That way, you can catch a variety of problems. 

Routine inspections

Routine inspections involve going into your property to check for any issues. Generally, you walk through the interior and around the exterior with the tenant. You should check for any issues tenants miss – like leaky faucets that could be causing water damage. And, you should check for tenant damages – so they can fix them before moving out. Tenants can also bring any issues they’ve noticed to your attention during routine inspections.

Move-out inspection

When your tenants move out, you also need to do an inspection. You should compare the current condition of the property with your notes from the move-in inspection. While wear and tear is expected, you should check to make sure tenants haven’t damaged anything. If you do find tenant damages, you can usually pay for the repairs with the security deposit. 

How can I make sure my inspections are legal?

Although you own your property, you don’t have the right to access it whenever after you rent it out. Tenants have the legal right to privacy and quiet enjoyment of their home. So, you can’t spring random inspections on tenants. And, you can’t inspect so frequently that it makes it impossible for tenants to have quiet enjoyment.

To make sure your inspections are legal, you should give tenants at least 24-hour notice before entering the property. Some states require 48-hour notice or more. So, you should check your state laws to make sure you’re notifying tenants early enough.

You should also explain to tenants the purpose of the inspection. That way, tenants don’t feel like you’re arbitrarily showing up just to bug them. 

And, you shouldn’t inspect more than every three months. Otherwise, you could be preventing your tenants from quiet enjoyment of their home. While these tips are a starting point, always be sure to check your state laws before conducting routine inspections.

How often should I inspect my rental property?

There is no one-size-fits-all for how often you should inspect your property. However, a common routine inspection schedule is either quarterly or twice a year. You can also do seasonal inspections twice yearly to make sure your HVAC and other seasonal equipment is in good shape. 

What should I look for during a rental property inspection?

Here are the top areas you should check during your routine inspections:

Overall exterior condition

You should look at all aspects of the outside of your property. From roofing, to gutters, to siding, and more, you should check to make sure everything is in working order. You should also check on any trees and plants. Dead trees can be a hazard to your property. And, a weed-infested and messy yard can lead to neighbor complaints.

Overall interior condition

While you need to check specific aspects of the inside of your property, it’s also a good idea to access the overall condition. You should take notice of any odors, clutter, overflowing trash, and other signs your tenants may not be taking care of your property.

Floors and walls

You should inspect for any holes in the walls or unauthorized paint. For the floors, you should check the condition of any carpet, wood, or other flooring. Any tears in the carpet are easy to fix if you catch them early. The same is true for scruffs or scrapes on wood floors. If you notice any of these issues caused by tenants, you can ask them to change problematic behavior (like dragging furniture) to prevent further issues. 

Doors and windows

For doors and windows, you should check for any cracks, loose seals, or leaks. You should also make sure door and window locks are working properly. And, check to make sure tenants haven’t rekeyed any locks.

Water leaks, damage, and mold

It’s easy for tenants to miss water leaks, especially when they’re in out of the way places (like under the kitchen sink). Water leaks are much easier to fix than damage. So, you want to catch leaks before they lead to damage. 

You should also look for any mold. Even if you don’t find mold, you should make sure your property is as mold-proof as possible. This includes lower humidity, regular bathroom cleanings with mold killers, and even mold-resistant paint. That way, you can prevent the problem – instead of paying for costly mold remediation. 

Appliances

Another area you should inspect is appliances. You want to make sure they’re clean and in working order. This reduces the chance of any appliance fires or other dangerous malfunctions. 

Air filters

Clean air filters are essential to a properly functioning HVAC. Dirty air filters put more strain on your HVAC – shortening its lifespan. So, you might have to replace it sooner if your tenants aren’t changing air filters at least quarterly. During your inspection, you should check the air filters. And, discuss with tenants the importance of routinely changing their air filters.

Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors

Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors save lives. So, it’s important to make sure all smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are working during your inspection. Plus, even though tenants are responsible for changing detector batteries, you could face liability problems if tenants are injured due to detectors not working. 

Pests

Pests like termites, mice, ants, bees, scorpions, and more can all cause issues for your tenants and your property. So, you should regularly inspect your property for any pests. And, you should have your property routinely sprayed to prevent pests.

Unauthorized pets

Whether you allow some pets or none at all, you don’t want unauthorized pets on your property. However, most tenants won’t have unauthorized pets present for routine inspections. So, to catch any unauthorized pets, you should look for signs like pet toys, hair, or even chew marks. 

Smoking

The smell of smoke can be almost impossible to get rid of. You have to strip all paint and completely replace any carpet. So, if your lease prohibits smoking, be sure to check for any signs of smoking during your inspection. That way, you can catch and stop it early – minimizing damage.

Ask tenants

Your tenants live on your property every day. So, they’re a great resource for uncovering problems. During your inspection, be sure to ask tenants if they’ve noticed any problems. If they have, you should fix them promptly. That way, you can reduce any damage and minimize your liability. 

Schedule your inspection and protect your property

Property inspections can help you catch any problems before they become costly to resolve. Whether the issues are tenant caused or not, property inspections help you avoid any unwanted surprises. And, routine inspections can help you minimize the likelihood of tenant injury and your liability.

While property inspections can help you catch problems, there are some issues out of your control. Events like natural disasters, floods, and accidental fires can cause significant damage to your property. And, it’s hard to prepare for these problems. 

So, what can you do to protect your property from these types of events?

The right landlord insurance is your best bet. Landlord insurance can help you pay for repairs. And, some policies can even help replace lost rental income. 

Looking for great landlord insurance? Consider Obie. We take a modern approach to landlord insurance – with a fast, transparent, and online quote. And, you could save an average of 25%.

Get an instant landlord insurance quote online today to fully protect your property.