Inspections are one of the biggest parts of a landlord’s job. They can also be one of the most important parts of renting. Not only do they help ensure that you and the tenant are on the same page about the condition of the property, but they can save you thousands of dollars in repairs, provide backup in the event of legal trouble, and even help you catch tenants who are up to no good.
The Three Major Types of Inspections
Typically, when you rent a home, condo, apartment, or any type of residential space, you’ll have to conduct at least three types of inspections each time you bring in a new tenant. They are:
1. Move-In Inspections:
These are conducted before the tenant begins to move his or her belongings into your rental property. Generally, the landlord and tenant will walk through the space together, documenting — both in writing and with photos — any damage or wear and tear. If both parties are on the same page about the condition of the space, the tenant will then sign the lease and can go ahead and move into the rental.
2. Move-Out Inspections:
These are similar to move-in inspections, but, as the name suggests, they happen when the tenant moves out of the rental. Again, the landlord and tenant walk through the home, comparing notes with their move-in rental inspection checklist. Any major damage that wasn’t there before the tenant moved in may come up at this time. The results usually help determine what to do with the security deposit.
3. Intermittent Routine Inspections:
These may be performed throughout the duration of the lease, depending on the landlord’s preference and how long the tenant remains in the rental property. Some landlords prefer to do this annually, while others do it every three to six months or seasonally. This is just the landlord’s way to glance over the property and get an idea as to whether or not the tenant is damaging it, whether any repairs are needed, or what kind of routine upkeep may be required at that time.
All three, especially the move-in and move-out inspections, are pretty thorough. On almost every landlord inspection checklist, you’ll find each room in the house listed, as well as a miscellaneous section for decks, hallways, porches, and other spaces that are not included in the main rooms. No matter the type of space you rent, these are things you will always want to include on your list:
1. Flooring, carpeting, and rugs
Flooring and carpeting are some of the items most often damaged by renters. From cigarette burns on a rug to deep scratches on hardwood floors, many landlords find that the flooring and carpeting is also the item they have to replace more often than not when a tenant moves out of the property. Expect normal wear and tear in time, but be sure to check the floors for signs of abuse during routine and move-out inspections.
2. Walls and ceilings
After the floors, the walls are the next part of the house to see the most damage. Expect some damage from nails and pushpins used to hang artwork and posters, but larger holes should be repaired and documented as soon as they are spotted. Consider a fresh coat of paint between tenants to deter wall damage.
3. Doors, windows, and locks
Be sure all doors and windows open and close properly. Ensure your tenant’s safety by making sure they lock and if applicable, provide the tenant with a key to each one. Document the number of keys given and what they are for on your rental inspection checklist. Don’t forget to go over the condition of any curtains, blinds, or shades on the windows. During intermittent and move-out inspections, test the locks again to ensure the tenant has not changed them.
4. Lighting fixtures
Test all lighting in the house, including outdoor fixtures. Make sure each one is working properly. You may also want to ensure the tenant knows whose responsibility it is to replace the bulbs when they blow.
5. Appliances and furniture
Most rentals provide tenants with basic kitchen appliances, such as a stove, oven, and dishwasher. If you also provide any other appliances, like a refrigerator, microwave, washer, or dryer, make sure they are all clean and working properly. The same goes for furniture if you are renting a place that is furnished. Keep an inventory of all items provided on your annual rental property inspection checklist so you can make sure none are missing during the inspection.
6. Heating and cooling
Ensure the heating and cooling systems in the housework properly in each room. This includes changing filters, cleaning vents, and having regular professional inspections performed.
7. Cabinets, countertops, and built-in shelving
Inspect the cabinets and countertops in your kitchen and bathrooms for scratches and properly working doors. Don’t forget the hardware on the cabinet doors. If your rental has built-in shelving, make sure it’s secure and shows no major signs of damage.
8. Plumbing and electrical fixtures
Ensure all sinks, toilets, and bathtubs are working properly and there are no signs of leaks from any of your bathroom or kitchen pipes. Have your electrical wiring inspected regularly, and ensure any electrical fixtures and outlets are working properly and not presenting a fire hazard.
9. Outdoor Spaces
Don’t forget about outdoor spaces. Parking areas, driveways, decks, porches, patios, outdoor buildings, gardens, and landscaping should all be a part of your landlord annual inspection checklist, as well as your move-in and move-out inspections.
10. Fire safety
It’s important to comply with any California laws regarding fire safety. You will also want to ensure you have working fire extinguishers and detectors in the house. When you perform intermittent inspections, you can test to see if they are working and replace the batteries if necessary.
Other Tips for a Thorough Inspection:
1. Document everything: Write it down on the checklist, take pictures of any damage, and make sure your tenant signs your documentation. Be sure to take a picture of each room from as many angles as possible. All of this proof can also be used as part of a legal case, either against your tenant or in your favor, later on, if necessary.
2. Be on the lookout: During routine seasonal or annual inspections, be on the lookout for signs of illegal activity. Windows that are boarded up, disinterest in garbage services, and general uneasiness when you are in the home may be clues that something is going on that could lead to damage. You can also look for signs that your tenants are breaking the lease by smoking, bringing in pets, allowing unauthorized people to live on the property or anything else you didn’t approve that could lead to damage.
3. Perform inspections regularly: Perform drive-by inspections regularly. As the name suggests, you drive by the property once a week or once a month and take a glance. Again, look for unusual activity or any major neglect or abuse that might be noticeable from the outside (broken windows, overgrown yards, trash in the yard, etc.).
4. Stay on top of things: If you discover something that will eventually need a repair during the movie-in or routine inspection, go ahead and have it fixed. Waiting can lead to more costly repairs in the long run.
5. Hire a property management company: Consider hiring a property management company in Oakland California. A professional property manager can conduct the inspections for you so you don’t miss a thing. They have years of experience and know how to spot even the smallest bit of damage or sign of a problem. They can also help ensure your rental is safe, healthy, and compliant with all local laws before the tenant moves into it.
6. Conduct your own inspection: You may want to conduct your own inspection before the move-in inspection. Try seeing the place through your tenant’s eyes. Is the carpet clean? Are the walls freshly painted? Does the door stick? The better condition the space is in before he or she moves in, the more likely the tenant is to keep it that way.