10 Things to Know About Conducting Rental Inspections

By Victoria Robertson on October 23, 2020

Rental inspections are essential to well-maintained rental properties. That being said, conducting rental inspections too often can fatigue your residents and result in negative reviews. Basically, regardless of your residents’ feelings towards them, rental inspections need to be conducted throughout the year, it’s simply a matter of determining the cadence.

So, in the interest of not only helping you to find the balance between the two extremes but to also ensure your property is at peak levels for you and your residents year-round, here are 10 things you should know about conducting rental inspections.

Photo Via Pixabay

1. Key Times to Conduct Inspections

When it comes to conducting inspections, there are several key times in which you can conduct them. For instance, you will want to have scheduled options throughout the year, rather than conducting inspections at random, as that will only result in issues between you and your tenants.

For that reason, scheduling inspections is split between incoming and outgoing residents, as well as current residents.

For residents that are moving into your complex, you’ll want to conduct an inspection prior to move-in. Conducting an inspection at this point ensures you can catch any potential issues prior to a new resident’s move-in.

That being said, you should be transparent with residents that are moving in, just in case there are any potential issues that arise.

For residents that are moving out of your complex, you’ll want to conduct an inspection after they move out. This ensures you can catch any issues right away before leasing the apartment to new residents again. Again, this will help to prevent issues that escalate from one resident to the next.

2. How to Schedule Inspections for Current Residents

When it comes to current residents, you should be tackling the inspection process a bit differently. Current residents, or long-term residents, will be a part of the inspection process, as you are essentially walking into their home.

For this reason, you should have a regular cadence of inspections, though they don’t necessarily need to be on the same day, just the same, general time every few months or once every year, set up so that the current residents know exactly when to expect you, and there are no surprises.

Whether this means setting up an annual or bi-annual inspection is up to you and what you believe your complex needs, but make sure that, whatever you decide, you are communicating that information back to the residents so they are aware of what to expect.

3. Always Give Notice

As previously mentioned, it’s extremely important to always give notice to residents prior to conducting any inspection. And this notice shouldn’t be the day of but rather well in advance of any inspection. At least a month prior to inspection, your resident should be notified that it’s coming. However, you can even go beyond that and ensure your residents are aware of pending inspections through scheduled events throughout the year.

For instance, with current residents, you can schedule one or two times per year that you know you will be conducting inspections so they know right off the bat when to expect you. In addition, you should send reminder emails, texts, or phone calls to the residents as a reminder of the upcoming inspection.

These same steps should be taken for any incoming or outgoing residents, as they are still essentially moving into their own place. It would bode better for you in terms of your relationship with your tenants to always give plenty of notice, several reminders, and to be transparent with them.

Many residence complexes also send out calendar invites to their residents to let them know when upcoming inspections are and to ensure they have plenty of notification.

You can also send snail mail to the apartment to let them know they should be expecting an inspection in the near future. Basically, whatever method you’re able to take to notify residents, you should be taking it.

4. Be Clear with Why You’re Conducting the Inspection

They may not be interested in the information, but regardless, you should always let your residents know why you are conducting an inspection.

First of all, you can let them know these inspections are for their own health and safety. You are essentially checking the building to ensure there are no health concerns that could be harmful to your residents.

In addition, you should let them know that this is a method for you to check in on the property and ensure no lease terms are being broken, that your tenants are happy with their living situation and have no concerns, and that everything is overall as it should be.

When it comes down to it, this is a great way to build a relationship with your residents, so don’t be afraid to have that conversation and be transparent with them.

Infographic Via Canva

5. Write Everything Down

More for your own benefit than anyone else’s, you should write everything down that you find during the inspection. This is a great way to document everything you find without taking pictures (more to come on that later).

Some inspectors utilize notepads with predefined blanks to fill in, so you can essentially go down the checklist of items to ensure nothing is missed during your inspection, or you can simply bring a notepad to take notes at will as you find issues or things to watch.

Basically, this means that you’ll have documentation to protect yourself and your complex and will also have documentation to go back to when you need to have additional tradesmen come into the complex to fix any issues that you’ve found.

When in doubt, make sure to document, with a pen and paper, and you can even have a resident, if present, sign off that everything looks accurate to them. Mitigating risk is always in your best interest, so better to be safe than sorry!

6. Allow Residents to be Present

You should always make it clear that your residents are allowed to be present during an inspection, or if they are not, for any reason (i.e. if you don’t want residents present due to Covid-19 social distancing measures, though you should define the reason for such methods prior to conducting the inspection so the resident is fully aware of the reasons for these precautions).

More often than not, residents will vacate the premises during an inspection, simply because they aren’t familiar with the process and aren’t sure what to expect. Your residents may not know that they are allowed to be present during an inspection, and without notifying them of this fact, they could feel uncomfortable in having a stranger in their home when they aren’t there

If you’re looking to build a solid relationship with your tenants, being transparent about this fact with them will help to build that relationship and give them an opportunity to feel like it’s their home and they have control over what’s going on within it.

7. Be Up Front About What the Inspection Entails

As with everything, it’s better to provide your tenants with more information, whenever possible. Even if you send an email that they don’t fully read, giving them all the information upfront helps them to feel secure in their living situation and therefore results in good reviews and referrals for you and your complex.

You should always include this information in your lease, at least as it relates to the number of inspections residents should expect throughout the year, as well as any information regarding whether or not they are mandatory.

You should let your residents know what the inspection process will look like. How long is it going to take? What types of things are you and the inspector looking for? Is there anything that your residents need to do to prepare? If they aren’t going to be home, what do they need to prepare? How many people will be present during the inspection? What should they do with their pets (if they have any) during the inspection? Etc.

As you’ve probably deduced, there are countless questions that they will have, so you should also offer to discuss further if your residents have any additional questions or concerns they would like to address prior to the inspection.

8. Be Transparent with the Results

Just as you need to be as transparent as possible with the inspection process, you will also need to be as transparent as possible with the results of the inspection. In other words, what are the next steps that residents should expect?

Whether good or bad, all results should be shared with the residents of the apartments that you’ve visited. Were there any concerns? Is there anything the residents need to do to meet the terms of their lease that they aren’t currently doing? Is there another inspection scheduled for the future?

In addition, you should outline any potential follow-up work. Will there be additional service requests that are conducted? If so, what does that timeline look like? How long will these requests take? Can residents be present or do they need to be vacant during that window?

Again, there are a large number of questions that can arise following an inspection, especially if a resident was present for the first time. They may have questions regarding their own safety or even questions about the process itself.

When in doubt, provide details. Better to give more information than none at all!

9. No Pictures Without Consent

During inspections, there are many inspectors that will take pictures without consent to document potential problems. While yes, this is your complex, you are also intruding in someone else’s home. You should always treat your residents’ homes as if you are a guest, regardless of whether or not you own them.

For this reason, if any pictures or other such documentation is needed throughout the inspection, you should ask for your residents’ consent prior to taking them. While this is more a courtesy than anything else, it’s only going to work to benefit you in terms of your relationship with your residents, in the long run.

10. Use Proper Precautions

Last, but certainly not least, you should be using proper precautions in any inspection, especially now that we are experiencing a pandemic as a society.

More than ever before, residents are concerned about germs and their overall safety, not just from potential risk factors in their own apartments, but now also from outside factors such as Covid-19.

If you are conducting inspections during this time, you should always be wearing the proper PPE required for social distancing. It’s not only a matter of keeping your residents calm and feeling safe in their own homes, but also ensuring you and your staff are safe as well, and that everyone can do their jobs without risk of contracting the deadly disease.

Even after the pandemic is over, whenever that may be, you should always be sure to make your residents feel at ease by your presence and follow all necessary precautions to ensure everyone is as safe as possible, regardless of the time we are living in.

Photo Via Pixabay

When it comes down to it, inspections are extremely important at your rental properties. They not only ensure you are running the facilities at their best, but they also help to catch potential issues before they become large problems.

Conducting inspections is an inconvenience to residents, but that doesn’t have to mean that you shouldn’t do it, or that you should do it at the risk of building a negative relationship with your residents.

Finding the balance between when to inspect and when not to can be a challenge, and there are many factors to consider in this process, but the above ten tips should help you to narrow down your decisions and streamline your processes throughout the year. Basically, your calendar should fully outline the year ahead and you should have inspections planned and ready to go in order to avoid any potential issues with your residents.

By Victoria Robertson

Uloop Writer
University of Illinois
Victoria is a dedicated writer who graduated from the University of Illinois with a Bachelor of Arts in English. She currently writes freelance pieces for various sites and works in Marketing for Myndbee Inc., promoting their current mobile app, Picpal.

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