Securing a quality tenant is the single most crucial aspect of having a successful rental experience. Performing detailed and thorough inspections is a close second. Each inspection is an opportunity for the Property Manager to demonstrate expertise and provide service which benefits both the Tenants and the Landlords. The Inspector should consider themselves as an Ambassador of the Landlord, as well as Representative of the Property Management Company. Once the inspection has been performed, we need to inform the Landlords and share a summary of the inspection, ideally within a day of the inspection. There are typically four types of inspections we perform, and each has a different intent. Whichever type of inspection performed requires the Inspector to consider “what am I trying to accomplish here?”, and what needs to be communicated. The four types of property management inspections are;
Baseline Inspection– When we take on a property with tenants already in place. The baseline inspection is intended to establish a relationship with the tenant, ensure the tenants are respecting and maintaining the home, as well as identify any outstanding issues or concerns which may need immediate attention as well as items which may need to be addressed in future. The summary should include a brief overall description of conditions, items which need immediate attention (repairs obligated per lease, repairs intended to protect the integrity of the home, safety/security concerns), and items which the Landlord may want to consider addressing in future. The summary should include a link with photos capturing any items which require attention.
Annual Inspection– The annual inspection is typically performed within the first 3-6 months of lease start date. These inspections often provide the Landlords some peace of mind, which is so important in this business. The intent of the annual inspection is to ensure tenants are respecting and maintaining the property to standards, as well as meeting their obligations per lease (changing furnace filters, winterization of exterior hose cut-offs, etc.), identify any outstanding issues or concerns, note any items which may need attention in future, and also certify all smoke detectors are functional. The summary should include a general overview, bullet point items noted which require immediate attention, and include a link with photos (limit to 15-25, including any items needing action).
Move-in inspection– Now we are getting into the inspections which really need to be tight, as these inspection will be used to determine security deposit charges, and delineate responsibility for costs to maintain the property to standards. Whenever money is involved, we need to be able to justify who is responsible with confidence. This is also the opportunity to demonstrate the functionality of the property with tenants, so they know where the filters, cut-offs, breaker panels, disposal resets, etc. are located. The move-in inspection has to capture detailed conditions as of date tenants assume possession. This property condition report should be broken down by rooms and areas, so it can be easily compared and contrasted when tenants vacate. By providing detailed information on the condition report the Inspector who performs the move-out can confidently determine damages attributable to tenant use or abuse. The move-in inspection should also have a link with photos, capturing all areas of the home, including exterior, roof, all flooring, walls, windows and screens, appliances (inside and out), and fixtures. A thorough inspection can take up to 2+ hours. We prefer to perform a “pre-move-in” inspection whenever possible. and prepare the condition report prior to meeting tenants at the home, as it is much easier and efficient to document conditions without a tenant (or their Agent) following the Inspector around pointing out every blemish. This pre-move-in inspection is ideally performed the day before lease start date, and ensures the property is move-in ready or allows us the ability to rectify issues pro-actively and have a plan in place when meeting the tenants. When the Inspector meets the tenants at the home, to hand over keys, they should go over the condition report with tenants, demonstrate functionality, show them anything of note or issues which will be addressed, and remind the tenants to take some time to go through the home and document conditions themselves, as they will have up to ten days to add or amend the condition report, so they are comfortable all existing conditions are noted.
Move-out inspection– These inspections are typically the main source for disputes over security deposit charges, as tenants all claim “this place is in better shape than when we moved in”, and Landlords often want outgoing tenants to assume costs involved to prepare the property for next tenancy. The move-out inspection should be performed once tenants have fully moved out, completed their requirements and are ready to turn over keys and relinquish possession. The Inspector needs to have a clear understanding of what is considered “normal wear and tear”, as well as depreciable life spans of carpets, paint, appliances, etc. in rental property. If we have a solid, detailed move-in Condition Report, the Inspector should be able to identify issues which may be considered as tenant abuse or damage, and charge their security deposit with confidence. Tenants should provide receipts for cleaning, carpet cleaning and chimney cleaning, if applicable. Photos should document general conditions, and capture any issues which may be considered as security deposit charge. Any issues considered as security deposit items need to be clearly identified, and billed separately. We have limited time to reconcile the security deposit, so these items need to shared with Landlord, as well as tenants, in timely fashion.
Summary– We do not treat inspections as an afterthought, as most Property Management Companies do. We prefer to meet tenants in person, whenever possible. We want them to feel comfortable, and know we care about their experience. We do not give them a condition report to complete on their own, as many companies do. We believe each inspection is an opportunity to provide exceptional service and we are committed to doing things “the right way”, the first time. While our procedures may be more time consuming and require more effort up front than our competitors, it actually reduces disputes and unrealistic expectations, which creates the most “noise” in this business. There is rarely anything positive that comes from resolving disputes and dealing with noise. Inspectors need to understand the difference between a Home Inspection report, which focuses on general functionality, ages of roof, appliances, HVAC, electric, and a Property Management inspection, which focuses on items which may impact costs to restore. For example, Landlords typically do not care if the water heater is more than ten years old, as long as it is currenting working, but they do care if their refrigerator door has dents on it from tenants. So many things in this business can be argued depending on where you sit (Landlord, Tenant, Property Manager), so preparing thorough, well detailed inspections allows us to navigate the grey area with some confidence.