We have reached the fourth leg of our stool – inspection of your rental property. Perhaps the leg was forgotten most easily; an inspection of the property is important to make sure the tenant is adhering to the terms of the lease and that the property is upholding what is necessary for preventative maintenance.
There are really three types of inspections you perform along the way – move-in inspection, move out inspection, and the resident satisfaction inspection.
Keep in mind, the term "resident satisfaction inspection" is worded carefully because we want our residents to feel that we are conducting the inspection on their behalf. While it is to their benefit, it is ultimately to your benefit as the property owner.
So, let's begin with the first two inspection types – move-in and move out inspection. Many landlords are familiar with these terms already.
Move-in inspection is obviously performed at the move-in of residency. The purpose is to note any defects at the time of move-in, so the resident is not held responsible upon move out. The tricky part here is everybody's expectations are different in regards to what a "defect" is considered.
Thus, we must set the expectation with the tenant, prior to the move in the appointment, regarding what condition they will take them home in and how it should be maintained prior to their residency. With my process, I like to have an email template set up that is emailed to the tenant with the lease before signing, explaining what is expected from them during the lease term and what is expected from the landlord.
While having this typed out is great, providing a video with the same message is even more effective.
Then, include a "Pre Move Checklist" in which the resident signs off on a variety of expectations that they are to adhere too. This can be as simple as consenting to the means in which to pay rent or request repairs or an understanding that any "stains" left in the carpet at move out come with a fine of a specific dollar amount. Also, setting expectations for how the rental property is to be left and in what condition (professionally cleaned or not) is an expectation that should also be set at this time.
When it comes to the move out inspection, we are simply holding the resident accountable for the expectations already communicated. Naturally, it makes sense to remind the resident of these expectations 30 days prior to move out. It also makes sense to obtaining written consent that the resident is turning over the keys to the residence to the landlord. What it doesn't mean is that you have to conduct the move out, or even the move in, walkthrough with the resident SO LONG AS YOU HAVE WRITTEN CONSENT ON THIS FACT.
The reason for this is that there are a variety of means to document conditions without having a person there to witness. While this certainly makes clear of any misunderstandings when it comes to condition, photo and video provide an excellent means in which to assess condition.
Now, let's move on to the "resident satisfaction inspection" or an inspection during the tenancy to make sure the tenant is adhering to the lease and the property is taking care of your resident. Again, this is worded carefully because you never want your inspections to sound obtrusive. Focusing on a welcoming entry to their home should always be considered.
With this in mind, a "resident satisfaction inspection" should always be issued with written notice to the resident of the time, date, and expected time duration of the inspection. This can be provided an email template to the resident with at least 24-hour notice – unless it is truly an emergency. This email template should also include a notice that you will be taking photos and/or video footage for the purpose of insuring that the property is taking good care of the resident. If your resident has any hesitancy to the photo or video footage taken, certainly respect this fact, but make sure you take excellent notes in regards to what is seen and what needs to be performed to the property for preventative maintenance purposes.
So, with that in mind, what inspection tools do I recommend so a landlord can build expectations with residents and document their inspection that will provide a foundation over the term of the tenancy?
Keep in mind, inspections can be incredibly time-consuming if you always conduct them in person. While not easy, our goal is to provide the tenant with tools so that these inspections can be conducted with the landlord present. Also, remember that if you don't set expectations prior to the walkthrough and have tenant signoff on these expectations, your walkthroughs will eventually become a nightmare.
So, start by creating your expectations for move in and move out. Then, set expectations for your "resident satisfaction inspection" along the way. While our lesson 7 resources will assist with this, you can also look into software that provides the ability to take video and/or photos for documentation purposes to assess conditions. Even better, if you can set up work orders for deferred maintenance items from there – you are in a great position.
Finally, make sure you have the means to store your inspection files in a secure and hassle-free manner and label these inspection reports based upon property, date completed, and purpose behind the inspection, along with the resident name. This day in age, setting up these photo and video reports in Dropbox or another cloud service will provide you years of worry-free records.
This concludes lesson 7. In our next lesson 8, we will discuss using your property management systems to create a resident experience that will assist in your growth and sustainability.