A Landlord’s Guide to Inspecting a Rental Property

As a landlord, there are many things that you need to do to protect your property, and by extension, your livelihood. Ensuring that your rental units are in good condition, are having repairs done promptly, and are being maintained is essential for running a profitable business, and rental property inspections are essential for that.

In this guide, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about rental inspections, how to do them, and how to remain compliant with tenant’s rights.

What Are Rental Property Inspections And How Do You Do Them?

A rental property inspection is done by the landlord or property manager to assess the condition of the property and document any damages. When conducting a rental property inspection on an occupied rental unit, landlords must give the tenant notice before entering their home.

Typically, the inspection is done while the tenant is present. Not only will this provide your tenant with the comfort of knowing you will not be in their unit when they are not there, but with the tenant present they are able to inform you on any issues with the unit. You are also able to warn them as to any potential issues you suspect may arise.

It is mandatory to conduct a rental property inspection before and after a tenant moves in and out of the unit. However, it can also be helpful to regularly conduct inspections on all units, whether or not they are vacant. You must ensure, however, that your tenants are given adequate notice of this inspection, as entering their unit without their knowledge and consent is a violation of tenant privacy rights and therefore against the law.

Conducting regular rental property inspections can help you catch issues in your property early on, preventing major problems that can be costly. If the condition of your property diminishes, the value of your investment will diminish as well, so it’s important to keep up with your property’s maintenance.

There are four types of rental property inspections: move in, move out, drive by, and quarterly or bi-annual. Let’s take a closer look at each type of rental inspection:

1. Move-In Inspections

This is the most common type of rental property inspection. These inspections occur right before a new tenant is going to move into a unit, which is after they have signed and completed their lease. During this inspection, you must record the condition of items such as:

  • Electrical outlets

  • Appliances

  • Paint and flooring

  • HVAC

It can be helpful to create a checklist to go through as you inspect each room. This will help ensure that nothing gets missed or overlooked. A copy of the recorded information should be kept as a record of the condition of the unit before the tenant moves in.

2. Move-Out Inspections

This inspection is done either right before or after a tenant moves out of a unit. However, regardless of when it is conducted, the tenant should be present. This inspection will assess the condition of the unit and record any damages that will need to be repaired and paid for.

You must record the damages in order to claim the cost of repairs from the tenant’s security deposit. This is why it is essential to be thorough and record all damages. If you fail to do so, you may be left having to pay for the repairs yourself.

3. Quarterly Or Bi-Annual Rental Inspections

Most landlords believe that inspecting a unit before and after a tenant moves in or out is enough. However, neglecting to inspect a unit for however long a tenant lives in your unit can easily take a turn for the worse. Inspecting your units 2-4 times a year, depending on what you believe is adequate, is the best way to stay on top of issues and repairs.

While it is expected that tenants communicate any issues or repairs needed in their unit, there is no way of being sure that they will report them to you. This could lead to a minor repair becoming one that costs you thousands of dollars. In order to avoid this, it is recommended that you regularly and thoroughly inspect your units and provide the proper maintenance. While it may take up a lot of your time, it will help improve your business and could potentially save you money down the line.

4. Drive-By Inspections

This is another inspection that landlords tend to forget about. This inspection is an informal quick run down of the unit. These types of inspections are often to check on repairs and issues outside of the unit that wouldn’t be included on an inspection checklist. Because these inspections are quick and informal, they do not typically require an advanced notice as long as you are not entering an occupied unit.

How To Conduct A Rental Property Inspection

Before you show up at your building to inspect its units, make sure you’ve properly prepared for a rental property inspection.

1. Review Tenant Landlord Laws And Lease Agreement

Reviewing these documents will ensure that you are giving your tenants adequate notice when scheduling an inspection. As of now, in New York City you must give your tenants at least 24 hours notice when scheduling an inspection. However, this may change which is why it is important to keep up with updated tenant landlord laws.

Additionally, you should check if your lease specifies how you should go about giving tenants a notice. For example, rather than 24 hours, the lease may state that you are expected to give tenants a 72-hour notice. It is important to ensure you are abiding by the terms stated on your lease agreement as this could lead to the tenant filing a complaint or even a lawsuit against you.

2. Plan For The Tenant To Be Present During The Inspection

In your notice, or in a separate communication to your tenant, you should suggest that they are present during the inspection. While this is not required, it is highly suggested this way they can be aware of the state of the unit and, if they are already occupying the unit, they can update you on any issues they may be having or repairs that need to be done.

Additionally, you should explain to the tenant why you are conducting the inspection. If this is not already clarified in the lease, then you should let your tenants know that you are looking to maintain the condition of the property as best as possible and that you would simply like to ensure there are no problems in their unit.

3. Document Everything During The Inspection

A checklist can be useful during inspections as they help you to keep track of what needs to be looked at in each room, which will ensure you do not forget or look over anything. A checklist will also help you easily document the inspection for your records. A thorough checklist will help you easily get through an inspection, which can be essential if you own a property with a large number of units.

Documentation is the most vital part of any inspection. You must have recorded documentation of the condition of the unit after every inspection. This way, in case there are issues with a tenant, you will have proof of the condition of the unit during different stages of the tenant’s stay.

4. Take Photos

While writing is necessary during documentation, it can also be helpful to take photos. They do not need to be professional photos, but simply clear enough to see the condition of a given space in a unit.

Additionally, it is much harder for a tenant to deny having caused a damage, for example, that is documented through photos rather than just writing. Having these photos can help further protect you in the event that you end up in court with your tenant.

Outerbridge Law Can Help Protect Your Business

Performing regular rental inspections is essential for keeping your buildings in good condition and keeping your business profitable. But even regular inspections won’t be enough to protect you. In some cases, damage will be too severe for inspections to prevent the necessity of major repairs.

If you find that your units have been severely damaged, don’t hesitate to contact Outerbridge Law. As a legal practice focused on landlord-tenant issues, Outerbridge Law has the experience and skill to get you the compensation you need to repair and maintain your property after a tenant damages it.

To learn if you have a case, contact Outerbridge Law today to schedule a consultation.