Regular inspections of a rental property help to ensure the home is in good condition and that the tenant is taken care of. They’re important because happy tenants can lead to lower tenant turnover and more reliable rental income.
Completing a rental property inspection checklist makes it easier to identify items that need to be repaired or replaced, and to keep track of normal wear and tear versus damage caused by the tenant.
- Landlords perform rental property inspections to make sure that the home and tenant are being well maintained.
- Rental property inspection checklists may be completed when a tenant moves in and out, and during the time the tenant occupies the home.
- Routine interior inspections of a home may be done every 6 to 12 months, while drive-by inspections are performed on different days of the week, including evenings and weekends.
- Most state landlord-tenant laws require the landlord to give the tenant proper notice before entering the property for a non-emergency reason.
What is a rental property inspection?
A rental property inspection is periodically performed by a landlord or property manager before a tenant moves in, during the time the tenant is occupying the property, and when the tenant moves out.
By using a rental property inspection checklist, the landlord can record the condition of the property, make note of normal wear and tear, identify items in need of repair, and also check the general cleanliness of the property.
Rental property inspections are often performed in the presence of the tenant. Having the tenant present when inspections are done gives the tenant the opportunity to point out items in need of repair, and for the landlord to set the right expectations with the tenant.
Why landlords perform rental property inspections
There are several benefits to performing rental property inspections.
Issues can be identified and corrected before the tenant takes possession, creating a better move in experience for the new tenant. Regular routine property inspections may also help to catch small problems before they become big and expensive, helping operating expenses to stay within budget.
In addition, conducting regular property inspections can make it easier to plan for needed updating, such as replacing an appliance that’s about to go out or making a repair to the roof to prevent interior water damage and harm to the tenant’s personal property.
Lastly, rental property inspections can be used to ensure the tenant is taking care of the property, and to document any damage being caused by the tenant above and beyond normal wear and tear.
What to include on a rental property inspection checklist
A rental property inspection checklist is a key tool landlords use when doing property inspections. At a bare minimum, an inspection checklist should include a review of:
- Presence of bugs or pests, such as rodents or termites.
- HVAC (heating, ventilation, air conditioning) system, along with air and furnace filters.
- Proper operation of safety devices such as smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
- Active water leaks in sinks, running toilets, dripping faucets, window and door seals, or roof.
- Signs of previous water damage along the walls, windows, ceilings, attic, bathrooms, and basement.
- Condition of appliances, including cleanliness of the stove and oven, and cleaning of refrigerator coils to help avoid overheating.
If repairs need to be made, most states have laws requiring a landlord to give proper notice to a tenant before entering the property. The amount of notice required in non-emergency situations varies from state to state, with many states requiring a notice of 24 to 48 hours.
The legal resource website Nolo.com publishes a chart of state statutes regarding notice periods and landlords’ access to occupied rental property.
How often should a rental property inspection be performed?
Rental property inspection checklists may be completed during different stages of the tenant’s occupancy, along with seasonal property inspections before winter and summer begin.
Move in checklist
A move in checklist is used to inspect and document the condition of the rental property when the tenant first moves in. Some landlords ask the tenant to complete the checklist themselves and return it within a few days of moving in, while other landlords fill out the move in checklist in the presence of the tenant.
As a general business practice, landlords may take photos or videos of the property during the move in, to help keep track of normal wear and tear versus excessive damage caused by the tenant.
Landlords or their property managers normally conduct routine inspections of the rental property every 6-12 months to identify and make any needed repairs, and to help ensure the tenant is taking care of the property.
State landlord-tenant laws require the landlord to give the tenant proper notice before entering the property, usually 24 to 48 hours. Many landlords perform routine inspections in the presence of the tenant, to help identify items needing repair and to review property maintenance procedures with the tenant.
Drive-by inspections are periodic exterior inspections of the property performed during different days of the week, including nights and weekends. Because the landlord does not enter the property and simply “driving by,” no advance notice is required.
By observing the home from the outside, they may be able to spot any unusual activity on the property and determine whether or not an interior inspection should be scheduled.
Winter inspection checklist
Freezing sub-zero temperatures can take their toll on property. Landlords use a winter inspection checklist to make sure that windows and doors are airtight and pipes are well insulated.
Typical items on a winter checklist include cleaning furnace filters, checking door and window seals to prevent drafts, removing any window air conditioning units, cleaning gutters, and making sure the tenant has an adequate supply of sidewalk salt and a snow shovel or two.
Summer inspection checklist
Landlords with rental property located in the Sunbelt States also have their work cut out for them before humidity rises and temperatures hit the triple digits. To help keep the home in good condition and the tenant cool, calm, and collected, the property is inspected to assess and repair any winter damage and get the home ready for warmer weather.
Typical items on a summer inspection checklist include cleaning or replacing air conditioning filters, checking seals around the doors and windows, making sure the landscape watering system is in good order, and checking for water leaks caused by melting ice and snow from the previous winter.
Move out inspection
Landlords perform a move out inspection immediately after the tenant moves out. As a general rule, the move out checklist is performed in the presence of the tenant and compared to the checklist completed when the tenant moved in.
By comparing the before-and-after condition of the property, a landlord may be better able to assess any damage caused by the tenant beyond normal wear and tear. Depending on the state’s landlord-tenant laws, a landlord may be able to withhold part or all of the tenant’s security deposit to pay for excessive damage.
Tips for conducting a rental property inspection
Many landlords view a rental property inspection as a win-win for both the landlord and the tenant. The landlord learns how well the property is being taken care of, can fix any little inexpensive issues before they become big and costly, and set the right expectations with the tenant.
From the tenant’s point of view, a landlord willing to take the time and effort to perform periodic inspections means the landlord cares about the property, and the health and safety of the tenant.
Some tips and best practices for conducting a rental property inspection include:
- Explain to a new tenant why rental property inspections are necessary, and how and when they will be performed.
- Provide the tenant with proper notice before entering the property to avoid violating the tenant’s rights.
- Encourage the tenant to be present for all rental property inspections, so that they can point out items in need of repair or ask questions about how to maintain things.
- Complete the rental property inspection checklist in the presence of the tenant, and provide the tenant with a copy of the checklist signed by both the landlord and the tenant.
- Use videos and photographs to document the property condition at each inspection, taking care to exclude photos of the tenant’s children, pets, or personal items.
- Minimize confrontation with the tenant by staying cool, calm, and professional by recording any unusual damage caused by the tenant in writing.
Where to find a rental property inspection checklist
A good property management company in the market the rental property is located in is one good source for finding a rental property inspection checklist.
Online sources to find and download an inspection checklist include websites like: