Rental inspections are an important part of being a landlord and conducting routine inspections has a lot of benefits. For one, it helps ensure that your tenant is taking good care of the unit. Secondly, it makes sure that the unit is in the proper living condition for your tenant.
You see, as a landlord, there are certain basic health and safety codes that the law requires a rental property to meet. Failure to meet these health and safety codes means that the tenant can obtain certain legal rights, such as the right to move out without further obligations to the lease. Make sure to keep your unit in its best condition to avoid any legal trouble.
Thirdly, routine inspections can help you know whether the tenant is keeping up with the terms of the lease or rental agreement. Are they subletting the unit without permission? Have they done illegal property alterations? Are they keeping an unauthorized pet? Dropping by for regular inspections will both discourage these violations and allow you to fix them quickly if they do happen.
How Often Should a Landlord Inspect a Rental Property?
As with many things in life, it depends!
Start by checking your local law for anything having to do with proper notices or what may constitute excessive inspections. In general, performing inspections one to three times a year is acceptable. This should be in addition to the move-in and move-out inspections. So, if the lease is a year long, you should be performing about five inspections in total during that tenant’s stay.
A move-in inspection helps document the condition of the property before the tenant has moved in. A move-out inspection, on the other hand, examines the condition of the property at the end of the tenancy. These inspections help check whether the tenant has left the unit in a suitable condition (after taking into consideration normal wear and tear, of course).
It’s also a good idea to check in on the property midway through the lease. You’ll be able to answer questions such as:
- Is the tenant abiding by the pet policy?
- Is the tenant abiding by the smoking policy?
- Are there ongoing maintenance issues?
- Is the tenant abiding by the occupancy limit?
Such things are usually addressed by a drive-by inspection. This is usually a visual inspection of the property, and you may not need to issue the tenant a prior notice. Check with your local laws to see if notice is needed for a drive-by inspection before performing one!
Another important inspection type is seasonal inspection. This type of inspection goes hand-in-hand with seasonal maintenance. Of course, each season calls for interior and exterior preventative maintenance at your property. For example, weatherizing water pipes during winter and cleaning gutters every fall.
How to Perform a Rental Property Inspection
Renters have certain rights when it comes to rental inspections. As such, you’ll first want to make sure that you are familiar with them to ensure you are acting accordingly. When it comes to North Carolina, the following are the thing you’ll want to keep in mind when performing rental inspections.
1. Serve the Tenant With a Proper Notice
Tenants have a fundamental right to privacy. As a landlord, you have a responsibility to notify your tenant of your intended entry beforehand. North Carolina law, however, doesn’t have a legal provision regarding landlord’s right to entry. That being said, please note that repeated entries can constitute tenant harassment.
As such, always provide your tenant some form of notice before entry. Usually, 24 hours is considered a reasonable amount of notice.
2. Encourage Your Tenant To Be Present
Ideally, have your tenant present during the inspection. Then, have them sign documentation about the property’s condition. This will give you an opportunity to speak with them about any needed repairs or point out damages they might need to fix before their lease ends.
3. Let the Tenant Know About the Importance of the Inspection
Let the tenant know that the inspection can benefit both of you. On your part, the inspection may reveal areas that may need attention before they become serious and potentially impact the unit’s habitability. On their part, let them know that routine inspections can ensure they enjoy high quality living.
4. Take Photos of the Property
Of course, take photos to document the condition of the property. But, when doing so, be cautious not to snap photos of children, pets, or personal items.
5. Avoid Confrontation With the Tenant
As a landlord, it can be easy to let your pride get in the way when certain problems or arguments arise with your tenant. When that happens, it can be hard not to take some things personally—especially of you notice damage or neglect.
If you come across any problems, it’s best to address them in writing rather than verbally. Try to always remain calm and professional, even in the wording of your letter.
6. Have a Clause In Your Lease About Inspections
Issues can come up during a rental inspection. For instance, your tenant may think the number of inspections is excessive or that they infringe on their privacy. By having a clause in your lease or rental agreement that explicitly states the number of inspections and what these inspections will be composed of, you’ll avoid this sort of confrontation with your tenant.
In the clause, let your tenant know that—first and foremost—that you have a right to enter their rented premises. Besides inspecting the unit, let them know that you or your agent can enter:
- To show it to prospective tenants, buyers or lenders.
- Under court orders.
- In cases of emergencies.
- In a case of property abandonment.
Also let them know that you’ll be giving them a notice of at least 24 hours prior to the entry. Of course, an exception to this is in case of an emergency, as should also be mentioned in your lease or rental agreement.
7. Hire a Property Management Company
If you’re self-managing your property, chances are you may find rental inspections daunting. Rental inspections require time, patience and a lot of scheduling. Inspections also require you to have certain skills and experience that will allow you to pinpoint issues as soon as they occur.
A good property management company will probably have inspected a couple dozen homes at the least. They will know what exactly to look for during rental inspections. As a matter of fact, most will have a comprehensive checklist for all types of rental inspections.
Your rental property is your business, so it’s important to inspect it regularly to ensure there are no serious issues. Just make sure to abide by all local laws, as well as serve proper notice prior to entering your tenant’s unit. Contact TE Johnson and Sons and find out how we can help make your rental inspection experience as easy as possible!