Updated November 2021
New landlords often underestimate the importance of doing regular rental property inspections, but experienced landlords will tell you just how helpful they can be to boost your profit margins.
Why are rent inspections so necessary, and why should you make sure that you work these into your regular management routine?
Without regular inspections, you’ll have no way of monitoring the condition of your rental units and holding the appropriate tenants responsible for excessive damages. That will cut your profits and waste a lot of your time.
Today, learn about rent inspections, what you should be looking for, and how to add them to your business plan.
A Table Of Contents On Rent Inspection
Ready to take a look at our landlord’s periodic inspection checklist guide to learn what you should be doing during inspections?
- What Are Rent Inspections?
- Why Do Landlords Do Inspections?
- What Landlords Should Be Looking For During A Rent Inspection
- How To Notify Tenants About Landlord Inspections
- Landlord Inspection FAQs
- Get Your Inspections In Line
A rent inspection, also known as a rental inspection or a property inspection, is an inspection done by a landlord or their property manager of a rental unit that is, was, or will be occupied by a tenant. These inspections are done to verify the condition of the unit at key points in the rental cycle.
In addition to doing inspections at move-in and move-out, landlords have the legal right to check out their rental property while they are occupied by tenants.
These inspections can be done as long as the proper notification is given and the reasons for the visit conform with state laws. Some states allow regular inspections while others specify that there must be a certain reason for the inspection or amount of time between inspections.
Landlords often do regular or at least annual rental inspections. Landlords should always do an inspection when the tenant moves out. But what should landlords be looking for during an inspection? We’ve got your answer.
If you’re a new landlord or unfamiliar with how the rental industry typically works, you might wonder why landlords do inspections at all.
Landlords do inspections to verify the property’s condition, particularly before extending a lease or releasing a security deposit to tenants who are moving out. However, landlords also do inspections periodically to ensure their property is being properly maintained.
Without regular inspection, extreme damages may be done to the unit without the landlord having any idea. The longer damage goes unnoticed and unchecked, the worse things will get.
Regular inspections give landlords peace of mind that the tenant is following through on their end of the deal, and it also gives them a solid reason to extend a lease or otherwise provide some extended service to their tenant.
The number one priority for landlords when doing an inspection is to check for damages. However, a hasty inspection can mean landlords will miss needed repairs.
If the landlord can find problems early on, it’s much easier and less expensive to fix them. If landlords discover damages after the tenant has moved out, they have the option to deduct from the security deposit to cover the cost of repairs.
What, exactly, can a landlord do during an inspection? They shouldn’t be doing much more than inspecting the property’s condition or looking for signs of specific issues (i.e., pests, mold, etc.).
For a basic inspection, landlords need to check under sinks, check the smoke detectors, replace furnace filters, look for obvious signs of damage, and verify that the unit is being used appropriately.
Here’s a video that gives a lot of detail on this type of inspection:
Apart from looking at the condition of the unit and how the property is being maintained, landlords cannot look through the tenant’s belongings or touch their personal property without the tenant’s permission. Doing so would be a violation of the tenant’s rights.
Too many landlords feel as if they are bothering the tenant when they want to do a rental inspection. They often don’t understand that it is their right to do so. Even if tenants don’t want the landlord to enter, the law supports it with proper notice.
Experienced landlords include wording in the lease agreement that states that they will do regular inspections after providing the tenant with a written notice. Other landlords make sure to send tenants a letter informing them of the upcoming inspection. There must be at least a 24-hour notice before a landlord can enter a unit for an inspection in most states.
Successful landlords never worry about what the tenant thinks when it comes to rental inspections. Inspecting a unit is a landlord’s right and a smart move to protect themselves and the rental. It’s important for the landlord to be efficient, direct, and out quickly. Also, it’s important for landlords to check out their rental properties to ensure their real estate investment is being well cared for.
If you find the forms—from leases to inspection notifications that landlords need to have handy—to be overwhelming, don’t worry any longer. Check out RentPrep’s starter landlord bundle. This bundle includes free templates that you can use to start and maintain your rental business.
If you’re looking to inspect a rental property, but don’t know where to start, check out these frequently asked questions about property inspections.
At an inspection, a landlord or an approved third-party individual (such as a property manager) will enter the rental until and do a basic inspection of the property.
Typically, the person will have a rental inspection checklist that can be used to quickly and efficiently work through each area of the rental unit. The property checklist will include many things, including but not limited to:
- Checking walls, windows, and floors for excessive wear or damages
- Ensuring all plumbing, electricity, and appliances are working properly
- Confirming that the property is being maintained according to the lease terms
- Verifying that nothing included with the apartment is missing or damaged
Rental inspections can be done with or without the tenant at home as long as both parties are in agreement about this choice. Often, the tenant will go around the rental unit with the inspector. During or after the inspection, the landlord will let the tenant know if there are any issues or concerning factors they need to be aware of or repair.
The primary purpose of a rental inspection is to confirm the condition of a rental unit at a particular point during the rental process.
When inspections are done before move-in, the rental inspection is done to get an idea of what condition the property is in before the tenant occupies it.
When inspections are done mid-lease, the rental inspection is done to ensure that the property is being properly maintained and there have not been any excessive damages done to it.
When inspections are done at the end of a lease period, the rental inspection is done to verify that there are no damages beyond normal wear and tear, before the security deposit is returned.
The primary goal throughout all of these inspections is to verify the property’s condition and to ensure that the lease terms are being followed by all involved parties.
Most states do not have a specific limit on how many inspections can be done by a landlord yearly. Landlords are permitted to do multiple inspections per year as long as they are not done randomly and these inspections are not interfering with the tenant’s fair use of the property.
Most landlords do move-in and move-out inspections as well as one mid-term inspection. Some landlords also do seasonal or quarterly inspections, and specific inspections such as fire safety or pest safety inspections may be done in addition to these property inspections.
To make things clear with your tenants, it’s a good idea to include in the lease agreement information about how and when inspections are done. Having this information somewhere the tenants will see it up front is good for preventing any potential issues or confusion down the line. Plus, it keeps things on record, which is always a good idea.
As a landlord, you’ll need to decide when it makes sense to do rental inspections for your property. Landlords should definitely do both move-in and move-out inspections. This helps to verify the before-and-after conditions of the property so that you can deduct funds for any excess repairs needed from the security deposit.
Beyond that, however, it can be hard to know how often to do inspections. Here are some general guidelines to follow:
- Do at least one mid-term inspection
- For new yearly tenants, try to do an inspection three to four months after move-in
- Do necessary safety inspections as frequently as needed (i.e., if you have a pest problem in one unit, doing pest inspections in them all is a good idea)
Beyond that, it is up to you to decide if you want to do inspections just once per year or at a higher frequency. Regardless of what you choose to do, be sure that you clearly communicate that choice to tenants, and let them know about the scheduled inspection time in advance.
The answer to this question is both “yes” and “no.”
First, let’s talk about when landlords can let themselves in. As long as the tenant has been given notice and they are OK with it, a landlord can let themselves into the property to do a necessary inspection or repairs.
Additionally, landlords can let themselves into a unit in emergency conditions, such as if a fire breaks out.
On the other hand, a landlord cannot let themselves into the property without the tenant’s permission or without the tenant knowing about the visit in advance. While the landlord owns the property, tenants have rights to fair and quiet use of the property. That prevents the landlord from being able to enter at any time they want to.
To ensure there aren’t any problems surrounding this, make sure to include clear information in the lease about when you can and cannot enter the property, how you will let the tenant know about inspections or repair visits, and what they can do if they would like to reschedule. Make it easy to communicate with tenants about inspections and visits to avoid any issues.
While a tenant is allowed to request a different date and time than what was originally scheduled for their rent inspection, they cannot outright refuse to let you inspect your rental unit.
If a tenant tries to do this for a prolonged period, that is a violation of basic landlord rights and likely their lease terms. To gain access, you may need to send out an eviction notice and file it in the court system until the tenant adjusts their stance.
If you don’t already have inspections as a primary part of your rental responsibilities, it is time to change that. Make sure that you do regular rental checks:
- Before a tenant moves in
- While a tenant is living there
- When any pressing issue or repair needs to be addressed
- After a tenant moves out
Doing regular inspections will help you manage your properties more profitably, so learning how to make them part of your rental routine is key for any successful landlord.