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Property inspections are the only way for a landlord to ensure that their properties are kept in a safe and habitable condition throughout the tenancy and to catch unreported maintenance issues early. Landlords should have a standard process and property inspection checklist that they use for all of their property inspections.
Periodic inspections should be carried out throughout the tenancy as well as a comprehensive inspection and inventory at the beginning of the tenancy. Failing to carry out regular property inspections could cause a whole host of issues and problems down the line.
Your property inspection and inventory at the beginning of the tenancy verifies the condition that the property is in before the tenant moves in. If property damage then occurs during the tenancy, both parties can refer to this initial inventory and settle any disputes that might arise.
Routine property inspections throughout the tenancy should be carried out to ensure that the tenant is not causing damage or breaking any of the lease clauses. Additionally, it is an incredibly helpful way to check for regular maintenance concerns. If at the end of the tenancy there is any damage that goes beyond general wear and tear you can rectify this damage by claiming the cost of repairs against the tenant’s security deposit.
Related: New Landlord Checklist: 15 Steps To Successfully Let Your Property
Conducting an inventory before the tenant moves in is something that all self-managing landlords and letting agents need to do. This inventory should be a very detailed report that records the condition of the rental, including the condition of carpets, appliances, windows, fire alarms, etc.
The primary purpose of this inventory is for reference purposes and is to help both the tenant and landlord ensure the rental is returned at the end of the tenancy in the same condition as when it was initially let.
The routine inspection on the other hand is to make sure that the property remains in good working order throughout and that the tenants are abiding by the lease.
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How often you inspect your property is, to a degree, up to you. The frequency of inspections should be stated in the tenancy agreement. It is common for landlords and letting agents to inspect their properties once every six months. In the first year, you might conduct more regular inspections, even as frequently as quarterly until you are confident that more frequent inspections are not needed. Conducting inspections more frequently than that, however, is likely to be seen as a nuisance and could cause issues between you and your tenant.
In the long term, the frequency of the property inspections that you carry out will be determined by the behaviour and trustworthiness of your tenant. Once your tenants have shown they are keeping your property in good condition you might only carry out annual inspections, for example.
Tenants have a right to privacy. As such, landlords can’t just turn up uninvited. Adequate notice must be given before a property inspection is carried out. Tenants landlords are required by law to give at least 24 hours notice. This notice should be given in writing via email or in a letter delivered by mail or by hand. 24 hours is the minimum, but more notice is generally preferable.
Ideally, you should give your tenants a weeks notice along with a reminder 24 hours beforehand. This means the tenants can make any arrangements, such as taking time off work to let you in if necessary.
Tenants have the right to refuse you access for a property inspection. If they do so, you need to find out why. If this occurs you should be flexible and willing to adjust your schedule to fit in with theirs. If you are having difficulty contacting your tenant to arrange an inspection, you can send letters via recorded delivery to ensure that they are getting the notices in writing and to prove that you made an adequate effort to contact them.
There are various things you can do if a tenant does refuse you access.
The checks in the checks listed in this section of the property inspection checklist are required by law for health and safety. You should carry out these checks regularly.
Make sure that all appliances are in good working order
In addition to ensuring you have an up to date electrical safety certificate, you should check the properties electrics during your routine property inspection. Check sockets and light fittings, etc. If there are signs of damage, or there are any obvious issues take remedial action immediately. Faulty electrics are a major hazard.
Fire escapes must be clear of debris and other impediments. fire doors need to be able to close properly and should never be blocked.
During your property inspection, verify that the hot water and heating work. You can carry out visual checks of the boiler and other hot water appliances. Double-check your records to see when they were last checked. If you do spot any issues, remedy them immediately by calling in a qualified engineer.
Test all the smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms replacing batteries if necessary. Your property must have working smoke alarms and when necessary carbon monoxide alarms.
The majority of tenants will look after your property. However, there will be some that in one way or another breach the tenancy agreement. You should look for signs of any of these kinds of breaches during your inspection so that you can effectively mitigate any damages.
If you don’t allow pets in your rental properties, then you need to look out for signs during your property inspections. This could include things like scratches to doors, torn up carpets, pet hair, or mess left by pets in the garden.
One of the key things to look out for during an inspection is any signs of the property has been damaged. Generally, a tenant will report any damage that occurs during their tenancy but it’s a good idea to look out for any discrepancies.
If you do notice any damage make sure to take photographs and arrange for repair as soon as possible.
On rare occasions, you might find signs that your tenants are conducting illegal activity from your property.
Generally, when a property is used for illicit purposes, it is fairly easy to spot, for example, look for drug paraphernalia. In worst-case scenarios, you might find the property is blocked off to you, or that there is significant property damage.
If you have included a no-smoking clause in your tenancy agreement, you want to look out for evidence that smoking has taken place this might be ash, cigarette butts, or even just the smell of cigarette smoke in the property. Another indication of smoking within a property, nicotine stains on the walls and ceilings which tend to leave a yellowy-orange tinge. The damage caused by smoking can be time-consuming and costly to remediate.
Whether or not you allow subletting it is always important that you, as the owner of the property know who is living in the property. If your tenant is subletting then they should have informed you.
Additionally, there have in recent years been subletting scams whereby a renter sublets and overcrowds a property. Look for indications such as extra bedding and be alert to possible signs that the property is being sublet. If you do find any of these indications, talk to your tenant about them.
Landlords have a duty of care to their tenants and must provide a habitable property according to The Home’s (fitness for human habitation) Act. Mould, mildew, insect infestations, pests and worse needs to be avoided or remedied.
Generally, you can spot a blocked drain through the smell. If you do find a blocked drain have it cleared and find out what is causing the blockage. If it is the tenant’s habits that have caused a blockage, inform them of the changes they need to make.
Damp and mould are not difficult to spot. Flaking paint, peeling wallpaper, dark patches, salt on the walls, unpleasant musty smells. Spongy areas underfoot may also indicate rotten floorboards.
Watch out for penetrating dampness and rising damp, where liquid seeps through the mortar, as it can evolve into a serious problem and as a structural issue are the landlord’s responsibility to remedy.
Damp and mould can be a serious health hazard. There are various causes of mould, the most common though are caused by tenant behaviour such as poor ventilation, tenants not using the heating, and drying clothes inside. If you do find mould this needs to be cleaned off with bleach and guidance given to the tenants to help prevent it.
Water Damage can escalate and become an incredibly expensive problem, leading to potential health and safety issues. Check taps and plumbing for leaks and drips. Gutters should also be checked for signs of wear and tear and blockage. Additionally, look for roof damage such as missing tiles.
Pests include cockroaches, mice, rats, fleas, and bedbugs. Once these pests get into a property, it can be hard to get rid of them and they pose a major health and safety risk to your tenants.
Additionally, look for wasp nests outside the property which can cause problems in the late summer.
Most tenants will look after their homes, keep them clean and tidy, and make them pleasant places to live. However, occasionally tenants do not look after the property and you may need to ask your tenant to keep the property in a cleaner state and educate them on how to do this.
As a landlord, you should expect a level of wear and tear to the property. This is simply par for the course. Fixtures, fittings, carpets, and soft furnishings such as curtains. All of these will need to be replaced sooner or later. Be alert to this general wear and tear during your property inspections. Make a record of the condition as well as how long these elements have been part of the property.
Related: A Landlords Guide to Fair Wear and Tear and Replacement of Domestic Item Relief
Using a standardised process will help you ensure that you don’t miss anything. Work through each of the rooms in order, checking everything off your property inspection checklist as you go and making a note of their current condition. You should compare the condition of each of the items to the condition on the previous visit.
Take plenty of photos to act as a visual aid in the case of future disputes. Once you’ve completed the property inspection, discuss the outcome with the tenant. In most cases, no action will need to be taken. However, some repairs or replacements might be needed, or you might need to ask your tenant to adjust their habits and behaviours. Finally, make sure to sign and date your property inspection checklist for future reference.
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