Maintenance, Tenant Management

Rental Property Maintenance Guide: Inspections

rental property inspections advice for landlords

Apartment Inspections – Landlord Help and Advice

As a landlord, we have a variety of property management tasks that need to be completed on a regular basis. Unfortunately, we often treat rental property maintenance and inspections like doctors in an emergency room. We handle most urgent issues first, while the other lower priority matters wait until we have time. I am guilty of this as well.

The result is that we end up with a backlog of tasks on our to-do list. If you are a new or first time landlord, this may feel overwhelming. It can be daunting even for more experienced property owners as well.

I have found that it helps to inspect my apartments for maintenance needs on a regular basis. We have previously discussed exterior inspections as part of a landlord’s rental property maintenance and inspection schedule. These can often be done solely at the landlord’s convenience. Interior inspections, however, require a bit more logistics and scheduling between you and your tenants. It is tempting to simply put off these inspections until your tenant moves out. You might think, “If my tenant has not told me anything is broken, everything must be great!” But this may actually cause more work and expenses down the road.

Ask yourself “what do apartment inspections look for”, and develop your own criteria based on your own property.

Move-in/Move-out inspections

A common and probably the most convenient time to do do rental property maintenance inspections is when you have a tenant moving in or moving out. If you are a new or first time landlord, this may be your first chance to inspect the interior of a unit. This may also be true if you have recently purchased the property. Landlords and property managers should be doing these inspections to assess any damages caused by the previous tenant. You should also note regular wear and tear. In some jurisdictions it is also required that this is documented on specific forms. It is also a good time to take note of anything that requires the attention of the landlord, an on site apartment manager, or a service professional to take care of before a new tenant moves in.

It is common and natural to want to reduce or eliminate vacant time between tenants so you don’t lose any rent, but if you ignore problems when you first spot them, it may lead to larger and more expensive problems in the future, potentially requiring longer periods of vacancies, or even out of pocket costs to reimburse damages to your or your tenants’ property.

Sage Advice: Provide new renters with the essential information they need to start a new tenancy.

Click here to use this customizable move-in letter from Nolo to lay out topics too detailed to be outlined in the lease, such as inspection details and requirements.

Real World Example

As an example, a fellow landlord (I’ll call him Dan) had slow draining shower in his upstairs unit above his own house. He had a tenant moving out that had been an excellent tenant for a couple of years. This tenant also recommended his co-worker as a replacement tenant who could move in the day after the former tenant moved out. As a result, Dan did not hire a plumber to inspect the drains or snake them himself.

One week later, Dan noticed some water damage on his ceiling while his upstairs tenant was away on a business trip. Dan immediately went upstairs and noticed water on the bathroom floor. He was able to turn off the water and call an emergency plumber and got his issue resolved. Though there was some damage to both the upper and lower units, this could have been much worse. If he did not catch the problem when he did, the slow drain may have required extensive cleanup and repairs to the drywall, paint, carpets, and furniture. It might also have resulted in reimbursement of rent if his tenant needed to move out while the repairs are underway.

Learn from Dan: Taking the time to fix something properly now might mean a little bit of lost revenue, but could end up saving you thousands later.

Landlord Tip:

If you need to unclog a drain, Landlord Gurus do not recommend using a chemical drain cleaner like Draino. Instead, try a water powered drain opener, cable snake, or toilet auger for best results.

Annual rental property maintenance inspections

As discussed earlier, it is usually most convenient for landlords and tenants alike to schedule rental property maintenance inspections when tenants move in or move out. But what do you do when you have a great tenant who renews her lease each year and has no intention of moving any time soon? This is obviously a great problem to have, but it is still important to have regular inspections. I recommend performing an inspection once every year. We have all heard the stories of the “great” tenant who moves out years later, only for the landlord to discover myriad problems that the tenant never brought up.

It may be inconvenient to schedule time to do a proper rental property maintenance inspection every year, but it is well worth it, for both the landlord and the tenant.

Remember that in most places, the landlord is legally required to give 24 to 48 hour advance notice before entering an occupied apartment for inspections unless there is an emergency.

Rental Property Maintenance Inspections – What to Look For:

The most important issues landlords should look for during move-in and move-out inspections include:

  • Broken windows, shades, blinds or screens
  • Leaks, drips or blocked drains in the kitchen and bathrooms
  • Discoloration, stains, scuffs, or holes in walls and ceilings
  • Broken light fixtures, flickering lights or bulbs, or cracks or burn marks near outlets
  • Properly working appliances, and the smell of natural gas
  • Water damage such as buckling or uneven areas in floor surfaces
  • Carpet damage or stains
  • Test or replace smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, and fire extinguishers

Buildium offers a mobile app that makes it easy to create and file an inspection report while “in the field”. All you need to perform an inspection is your phone or tablet. Sign up for a free trial.

What to do if you discover maintenance problems

If you identify any of these or other maintenance problems, it may be a sign of larger issues. Definitely consider dealing with them right away. If you are unable to make the repairs yourself as the landlord, enlist the help and advice of your on site resident manager, or if you don’t have one, a trustworthy handyman. There are many who specialize in apartment and rental property maintenance inspections and services and have experience with the many issues that landlords regularly face.

Landlord Gurus Takeaway

Rental property inspections are an indispensable part of operating your investments smoothly and profitably. When attended to routinely and carefully rental property maintenance can make the difference between profitability and painful losses.

Save 30% On Your First Handy Booking! Includes Home Cleaning Plans & Handyman Services. Use Code AFFSAVE30.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links and Landlord Gurus may earn a commission. Our mission remains to provide valuable resources and information that helps landlords manage their rental properties efficiently and profitably. We link to these companies and their products because of their quality, not because of the commission.

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About Chris Lee

Chris Lee, Co-Founder, Landlord Gurus

Chris comes from a family of real estate investors, and remembers well his childhood of helping to clean and paint apartments between renters.

Chris is a licensed real estate broker and now manages a mix of his own property and others for family, consisting of single family homes, multi-family complexes, and the occasional condo unit in and around Seattle. He also has particular insight into the issues around short-term rentals as he has managed those for himself and for other owners on AirBnb, VRBO, and other platforms.

Prior to Landlord Gurus, Chris worked in website development and digital marketing, assisting firms across a wide range of industries. He, along with his wife and two kids, also found themselves living and working overseas for several years.

Upon his return to the US, Chris often turned to Eli for property management advice and help with property maintenance. At this point, the two decided to start Landlord Gurus to help the countless others searching for answers to similar problems.

In his free time, Chris enjoys outdoor sports and activities including baseball, skiing, golf, hiking, and spending time with family and friends.

- BA, Economics - Whitman College
- MA, Pacific International Affairs - University of California, San Diego
- MPA, Public Accounting - Open University of Hong Kong

View all posts by Chris Lee →

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