Whether you’re a landlord or a tenant, it’s a good idea to conduct periodic property inspections.  While move-in and move-out inspections are standard expectations, conducting periodic property inspections can protect you both.

Long gone are the days of clipboards and pens.  Thanks to the RentCheck, you can inspect your property with a few taps on your phone.  What’s best too is that property owners and tenants can conduct the inspection themselves, when it’s convenient for them.

While it makes perfect sense to conduct an inspection before and after a move-in, conducting periodic inspections throughout a rental agreement can also open the communication between landlord and tenant by addressing any concerns either may have and righting whatever wrongs may appear.

But how often should you inspect?

That depends on the type of unit. An older building  with older appliances and an older heating system might require more frequent visits, perhaps every three months. A new unit, with new appliances and updated heating and cooling, could probably get away with every 6 months.  However, you want to be sure an inspection schedule is written into the lease agreement so there are no surprises. 

By using a digital inspection app, you standardize every aspect of the inspection. There is no second guessing when a landlord asks “how’s it going?” or a tenant mentions something in passing. Using an app takes the guesswork out of inspections as everything is covered.

So what should be included in periodic inspections?

The weather is a good indicator. If you live where there are four seasons, the calendar provides a perfect schedule as you inspect property as seasons change.

Let’s start with fall.  This is the time to prepare for winter weather.  Check for drafts from windows and doors. Do you have storm windows that need installation?  Now is the time to switch out screens for storm windows, check caulking of all plumbing fixtures and keep the outside free of leaves.  Is the heating system up to date with maintenance? These questions should be on the top of your list. Next check all plumbing fixtures and pipes to be sure everything is ready for colder temperatures.

 Winter is a good time to remind tenants about the building’s regulations regarding holiday decorations. Be sure also the fire extinguisher is installed and working properly. If there’s a fire place, be sure the tenant understands how to open and close the flue or damper and make a safe fire.  Be sure it’s clear who is responsible for snow and ice removal and that shovels are available.

By spring, you’ll need to check for any damages caused by winter weather. You want to make sure there are screens on the windows to prevent insects from entering the unit, and that all storm debris is cleared.  If the unit has hard wood floors, check for dryness due to water and salt brought in from winter boots. Providing a floor buffer or commercial waxing could protect the floors from further damage. If there’s outdoor space, you can start planting flowers to make the unit more attractive.

In summer, inspect the air conditioning. If there are window units, be sure they are properly installed and working well. If there’s central air conditioning, be sure the tenant has filters on hand to change them monthly. This keeps the air conditioning working more efficiently.  You want to check for pest and rodent infestation and look for solutions to these issues.

However be mindful of extreme weather situations. If you’re in an area prone to hurricanes, tornadoes, excessive flooding, or forest fires, you need to take extra precautions in protecting your property. Inspecting and preparing before a disaster occurs can save money in extensive repairs after the weather subsides. After an extreme weather event, be sure to check the property for any damages. If there was a power outage, the unit’s electronic clocks may need resetting. Showing your tenants you care about their safety, makes tenants more responsible about taking care of your property.

Periodic, routine inspections ensure the safety of tenants and the security of your investment. You can inspect for overall cleanliness of the property, for any appearance of mold, if all appliances are working, the condition of floors, windows and doors, and all plumbing.  Relying on tenants to report an issue isn’t enough as many may not know what to look for or can get accustomed to conditions that could lead to larger problems – and more expensive repairs– if not addressed.

Furthermore, periodic inspections give landlords an opportunity to check for illegal activities such as growing illegal substances, pets or extra people residing in the unit. And while a landlord can’t tell a tenant how to live or to clean an apartment, an inspection can reveal hoarding or other possible mental health issues that may require outside attention.

Conducting periodic inspections is a great way to keep tenants satisfied. And when tenants are satisfied and happy, they tend to stay. This helps keep tenant turnover low, leading to better care for the property in the long term.

The inspection policy and schedule should be included in the lease agreement. A landlord can conduct a drive-by inspection at any time; however to enter a tenant’s home requires advance notice. Always check with your local or state regulations regarding landlord and tenant rights.

Overall,  periodic inspections are an important aspect of property management.  A five-minute inspection could help avert significant expenses down the road, and with modern tools, it’s easier and quicker than ever to keep track of the condition of your properties. Keeping the lines of communication open between tenant and landlord helps keep tabs on the property.