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How to carry out a property inspection

property inspection

For a landlord, carrying out a property inspection is a crucial aspect of running a profitable enterprise. But how should you go about this?

Put simply, a property inspection should be implemented when a tenancy begins and also when it ends.

It’s also a very good idea to carry out periodic property inspections to ensure that any issues are brought the landlord’s attention as early as possible.

Whilst there will be some landlords who will be reluctant to carry out a property inspection, it needs to be appreciated that these inspections are not just about checking up on the property but building a relationship with your tenant as well.

And there’s no doubt that a periodic inspection also highlights real problems with a rental property such as extensive damage being caused, or even, in a worst-case scenario, drugs being sold or grown there.

property inspections

Why carry out an inspection?

So, why carry out an inspection when the tenancy begins? The main aim is to verify the property’s condition before a tenant moves in.

As part of this inventory process either you or a specialist can inspect every room and take pictures. These will be used as evidence should there be a complaint or an issue over handing the deposit back to the tenant.

Again, it’s important that you carry out a house inspection when the tenant has moved out and see whether there are items that need to be repaired or replaced to bring the property back to its original condition.

It will be a good idea to state within the tenancy agreement how often you intend visiting the property for an inspection because this is a legal agreement that the tenant will sign so they will be aware that you will want to inspect the property every few months.

However, landlords should not be focused on visiting their property too often because this could be deemed as being a nuisance and the tenant has a right to the ‘quiet enjoyment’ of their home.

Landlord must always give notice

A landlord must always give notice before they carry out a property inspection and they cannot simply turn up and demand access to the property.

Most experienced landlords believe that carrying out a housing inspection within the tenant’s first three months of occupation is a good idea.

Not only will you get to know the tenant but there be questions they have that have not been resolved.

A property inspection checklist

property inspection checklist

For any landlord who will be carrying out their first property inspection, then this checklist will help. It’s important that you do not miss important issues and it is a good idea to take a checklist when you visit the rental property.

A property inspection checklist should cover:

  • Entry points: All locks should be in good working order and windows and doors should close and open properly. The windows should not leak.
  • Heat and light: Check that the heating and lighting work. Switch on the shower, along with lights and the heating to check the radiators.
  • Visual: A visual inspection should also take note of the ceilings and walls as well as the floors to ensure there are no signs of damp or mould. The floor coverings should be in good order and you will need to ask questions about any stains that have appeared.
  • Condition of fittings: Always check various fittings such as those in the bathroom and white goods and appliances to make sure they work and are being kept in good condition.
  • Garden: Don’t forget too that the garden is also an important part of your rental property and this should be clear of rubbish and taken care of.

For those landlords who are offering a furnished property, then you need to check the condition of the furniture you have supplied as well as the appliances, curtains and blinds.

The final point for your checklist is to ask the tenants whether they are having any issues with the rental property and if there are any serious problems then they should contact you immediately.

A property inspection safety checklist

While a property inspection will look at the state and condition of appliances and furniture, there are also some safety features that will need to be checked. They include:

  • Smoke alarms: You will need a working smoke alarm on every floor and ensure that they work. If it doesn’t, replace the battery or clean the sensor.
  • Carbon Monoxide alarm: If you have an open fire or solid fuel stoves, then you’ll need a working CO2 alarm.
  • Fire doors: If you are a landlord with a house in multiple occupation (HMO), or whether you own flats, then you need to check that the fire doors are installed and working. They should close smoothly and the seals and hinges should work.

Finally, since this is a check of safety features, you should keep in mind that it’s really a risk assessment so you should be looking for potential hazards that may harm those who live in the rental property and those who visit. Take a record of what you think might be an issue and consider implementing ways to avoid injury.

What a landlord cannot do during an inspection

It’s important to appreciate that though the landlord’s rental property is theirs, it is still their tenant’s home.

This means a landlord cannot choose to rummage through drawers and wardrobes because that would be a breach of privacy and trust. It’s also unlikely that you will find a leak in a chest of drawers, for example.

It’s important that a landlord is reasonable and while you should expect a minimum level of cleanliness, you should not expect tenants to maintain the same level of housekeeping that you may do.

That’s unless their standards are causing issues to the property such as drying clothes that is causing damp, for example.

Keep a record of your property inspection

Finally, it’s important to keep a record of any property inspection that you have carried out.

Landlords tend to keep lots of paperwork and a record of a property inspection could be an important issue to appreciate.

The property inspection record will show that you are a landlord who is concerned about the welfare of their tenants and your property. It also shows that you are prepared to carry out an inspection and then implement any improvements as required.

Again, a property inspection is a great way to build a relationship with tenants because they will be more relaxed in highlighting potential problems and concerns they may have.

Issues that may arise from a property inspection

While a property inspection will highlight potential issues that the landlord needs to remedy, there’s no doubt that this exercise can also flag-up problems with the tenant you have selected to live in your property.

It’s a fact of life for landlords that there will be tenants who will not abide by the tenancy agreement and may, for example, sublet rooms to friends and family.

They may also not appreciate that pets are not allowed or they may be creating upset with neighbours. You should take note of the signs:

  • The tenant has pets

While you may stipulate in your tenancy agreement that pets are not allowed, you need to look for scratched doors as well as skirting boards and signs of pet hair. There may be mess in the garden or locked cupboards hiding pet food.

  • The tenant smokes

Many landlords will stipulate that tenants are not allowed to smoke in the property and if you don’t smoke, then you’ll pick up the tell-tale signs of smokers living in the home. Not only will there be a smell of cigarette smoke on clothing and soft furnishing, you need to be aware of any room fresheners and perfumed odours being used to mask the smell of cigarette smoke. Also check for ceilings and walls for the staining of nicotine.

These issues are important landlords also need to be wary about any rooms that may be locked with the tenant saying that you cannot enter. At this point, you should ask questions because they may be hiding pet in the room, so you should demand access.

  • Illegal activity

As part of a property inspection, you should take note of any drug taking paraphernalia and also the smell of marijuana, which is fairly distinctive. There may be other signs you need to be aware of such as power cables that lead into the loft or cellar as the tenant may be powering a drugs lab or a drugs growing area.

  • Sub-letting a property

Firstly, your property inspection should be carried out with the tenant who has signed your agreement. If you suspect there are others living in the property, then you need to ask whether they are subletting your property. One issue to consider is that while you may have signed a property to a single person, but it appears that a family is living in the home, then you need to ask questions.

  • Damage to property

We mentioned previously that pets will scratch doors and skirting boards and you need to be aware of other damage to the property. As an example, look at furniture that may have been placed in odd places or even a rug that has been moved to hide damage. Look for missing door handles and stains as areas of concern – take photographs of these and give the tenant opportunity to explain what the problem might be.

Property inspections, health and hygiene

It’s worth exploring further an issue that was raised earlier in this article, and that’s the health and hygiene of the property.

Since landlords are responsible to providing a home that is safe under the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act means a landlord could be liable should there be mould, an insect infestation or mildew.

It’s not too difficult to spot a serious damp issue since there will be damp patches, salt on the walls and an unpleasant musty smell and flaking paint.

Be aware of rotting floorboards – these will appear as a spongy area as you walk across a room. Be aware of peeling wallpaper and damp patches on walls.

You will need to act if there is damp because it may lead to a serious and expensive issue for the landlord – in older homes the mortar may have been weakened and needs repairing.

You should also check for mould and mildew in bathrooms and kitchens because this is also a health hazard and unsightly. These tend to appear in poorly ventilated homes and if you do smell something musty, then there’s likely to be mould nearby.

Property inspections should not be seen as a chore

Essentially, property inspections should not be seen as a chore – they are an effective way to ensure that your property is a safe and secure home for tenants and one that will return the profits you are hoping for.

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