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What Can A Landlord Look At During A Rental Inspection? (FAQs)

The successful management of a rental property is rooted in meticulous attention to detail, with rental inspections playing a pivotal role. Not only do they safeguard the integrity and value of your property, but they also reinforce your dedication to providing a safe and welcoming environment for your tenants.

From move-in checklists that establish a property’s readiness to move-out checklists that pinpoint potential damages, each inspection is a proactive step in preserving your investment and setting the stage for the next occupant.

Effective landlords also conduct mid-lease inspections to monitor property upkeep and detect maintenance issues early on. These inspections allow you to address problems promptly while respecting the tenant’s privacy, ensuring a well-maintained property.

In this comprehensive guide for landlords, you’ll discover a detailed inspection checklist and learn how to conduct inspections that comply with regulations and tenant rights. Stay proactive in managing your rental property, ensuring both your property and tenants are well-cared for.

Table Of Contents On Rent Inspection

Ready to look at our landlord’s periodic inspection checklist guide to learn what you should be looking for and doing during inspections?

  • What Are Rent Inspections?

  • Why Do Landlords Do Inspections?

  • What Landlords Should Be Looking For During A Rent Inspection

    • How Long Should A Landlord Inspection Take?

    • What Can A Landlord Look At During An Inspection?

    • What Can Landlords Not Do During A Property Inspection?

  • How To Notify Tenants About Landlord Inspections

  • Landlord Inspection FAQs

    • What happens at a rental inspection?

    • What is the purpose of a rental inspection?

    • How often can a landlord inspect a rental property?

    • How often should a landlord inspect the property?

    • Can a landlord let themselves in?

    • Can landlords take photos or videos during an inspection?

    • Can a tenant refuse a landlord inspection?

    • What are the consequences of violating tenant privacy during an inspection?

    • What should tenants do to prepare for a landlord inspection?

  • Get Your Inspections In Line

What Are Rent Inspections?

A rent inspection, also known as a rental inspection or a property inspection, is done by a landlord or their property manager for a rental unit that is, was, or will be occupied by a tenant. These inspections verify the condition of the unit at key points in the rental cycle.

In addition to doing inspections at move-in and move-out, landlords have the legal right to check out their rental properties while tenants occupy them.

These inspections can be done as long as the proper notification is given and the reasons for the visit conform with state laws. Some states allow regular inspections, while others specify there must be a particular reason for the inspection or length of time between inspections.

Landlords often do regular, or at least annual, rental inspections. Landlords should always do an inspection when a tenant moves out. But what should landlords be looking for during an inspection? We’ve got your answer.

Why Do Landlords Do Inspections?

Landlords inspect the property’s condition before extending a lease or releasing a security deposit to tenants moving out. However, landlords also inspect periodically to ensure their property is appropriately maintained.

Without regular inspection, a rental property may be damaged without the landlord’s knowledge. The longer the damage goes unnoticed and unchecked, the worse things can get.

Regular inspections give landlords peace of mind that the tenant is following through on their end of the deal, and it also gives them a solid reason to extend a lease or otherwise provide some extended service to their tenant.

What Landlords Should Be Looking For During A Rent Inspection

The number one priority for landlords when doing an inspection is to check for damages. If the landlord can discover problems early on, it’s much easier and less expensive to fix them. If landlords find damages after the tenant has moved out, they can deduct from the security deposit to cover the cost of repairs.

Proactive landlords can also identify things, such as appliances or paintwork, that are nearing the end of their lifespan and will soon need to be replaced or redone. These inspections can help with budgeting and preventing problems before they arise, which means happier tenants.

Below is a list of things landlords should pay attention to when inspecting rental properties.

  • Overall Condition: Begin by assessing the condition of the property. Look for signs of wear and tear, damage, or deterioration. This includes checking the exterior and interior of the building, as well as common areas (if applicable).

  • Safety and Security: Ensure the property is safe and secure. Check for any safety hazards, such as loose handrails, faulty locks, or trip hazards. Make sure smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors are in working order.

  • Plumbing and Electrical Systems: Check for leaks, drips, or water damage. Test faucets, toilets, and showers to ensure they function correctly. Inspect electrical outlets, switches, and lighting fixtures for issues like exposed wires or malfunctioning components.

  • Heating and Cooling Systems: Examine heating and cooling systems to make sure they are operational and well-maintained. Replace air filters if necessary and clean ducts. Test thermostats also.

  • Appliances: Test all appliances provided with the rental property, such as the stove, refrigerator, dishwasher, washer, and dryer. Make sure they are clean and in good working order.

  • Structural Integrity: Inspect the walls, ceilings, and floors for cracks, water damage, or other structural issues. Check for signs of pests, such as termites or rodents, which can damage the structure.

  • Paint and Finishes: Look for chipped paint or damage to walls and ceilings. Assess the condition of flooring, including carpet, hardwood, and tile.

  • Windows and Doors: Ensure that windows and doors open and close properly and that locks are functional. Check for drafts or air leaks around windows and doors.

  • Exterior Maintenance: Inspect the property’s exterior, including the roof, siding, gutters, and landscaping. Ensure the property’s curb appeal is well-maintained.

  • Tenant Compliance: Confirm that tenants are complying with the terms of the lease agreement, including any restrictions on pets, smoking, or other specific clauses. Ensure the number of occupants matches the lease agreement.

Keep detailed records of your inspection, including written notes and photographs. This documentation can be helpful if disputes or maintenance issues arise.

How Long Should A Landlord Inspection Take?

The checklist above is thorough, so you can expect it to take some time to complete the inspection. How long it should take will depend mainly on the size of the property but also at what point during the rental cycle you’re making the inspection.

Suppose you are inspecting a property with a tenant who is moving out. In that case, you’ll want to make a thorough inspection as you look to identify anything that needs to be charged against the tenant’s security deposit and anything that needs fixing or upgrading before a new tenant moves in. You should be able to inspect the entire unit easily since the tenant has removed their personal belongings.

If you are inspecting at the start of a lease, you may spend less time if you have recently done an end-of-lease inspection for another tenant. You may focus on areas where you know some issues have since been fixed. However, you’ll still want to be thorough in documenting the property’s condition so you have evidence of the state the property was in before the new tenant entered.

If you are inspecting mid-lease, you may find your inspection is quicker, especially if the property is occupied by an established and trusted tenant. You’ll probably focus on identifying maintenance issues rather than damage and compliance. Inspections for new tenants with whom you are still building a relationship will likely take longer.

When inspecting an occupied property, it’s important that you try to move as quickly as is reasonable to minimize the inconvenience for the tenant within the space they have a right to occupy.

What Can A Landlord Look At During An Inspection?

What, exactly, can a landlord do during an inspection? They shouldn’t do much more than verify the property’s condition or look for signs of specific issues (i.e., pests, mold, etc.).

For a basic inspection, landlords should check under sinks, test the smoke detectors, replace furnace filters, look for obvious signs of damage, and verify that the unit is being used appropriately.

Here’s a video that gives a lot of detail on this type of inspection:

What Can Landlords Not Do During A Property Inspection?

While inspecting your property is your right as a landlord, you also need to ensure you respect the tenant’s rights and privacy. Therefore, there are also things that landlords should not look at or do when inspecting an occupied rental property.

First, the landlord should not inspect or rummage through a tenant’s personal belongings. Tenants have a right to privacy in their living spaces, and invading this privacy can lead to legal issues. This right extends to not trying to access locked areas within the rental property without the tenant’s explicit permission. Their privacy includes locked storage units that are not part of the agreed-upon rental space.

Landlords should not access any of the tenant’s private communications or documentation, including the tenant’s mail or papers, even if they are in open view, or electronic devices that belong to the tenant, again, even if they are unlocked and in open view.

Be careful about any conversations with the tenant during or after their inspection. You may see a new photo on display and make an innocent comment about it, but the tenant may see this as an invasion of privacy.

You should also not change the tenant’s lease or treatment following their inspection based on something you have learned about their lifestyle, employment, or family. This would be considered discrimination under the Fair Housing Act and have legal repercussions.

If you notice any problems with the property, you may mention them to the tenant during the inspection if they are present and you have a good relationship. However, all inspection follow-ups should be done in writing. This includes requesting changes in behavior to limit damages, requesting funds to pay for repairs, scheduling maintenance, and organizing follow-up inspections when required.

Landlords must balance protecting their property investment and respecting the tenant’s rights and privacy. To avoid legal issues and maintain a positive landlord-tenant relationship, landlords should communicate clearly with tenants about the purpose and timing of inspections, provide proper notice, and ensure that inspections are conducted respectfully and lawfully.

How To Notify Tenants About Landlord Inspections

Too many landlords feel as if they are bothering the tenant when they want to do a rental inspection. They often don’t understand that it is their right to do so. Even if tenants don’t want the landlord to enter, the law supports it with proper notice.

Landlords should include wording in the lease agreement stating they will do regular inspections after providing the tenant with a written notice. Send tenants a letter informing them of the upcoming inspection. In most states, there must be at least a 24-hour notice before a landlord can enter a unit for an inspection.

Successful landlords never worry about what the tenant thinks regarding rental inspections. Inspecting a unit is a landlord’s right and a smart move to protect themselves and the property. The landlord needs to be efficient, direct, and get in and out quickly. Also, it’s important to check out the rental to ensure your real estate investment is being well cared for.

If you find the forms—from leases to inspection notifications that landlords need—overwhelming, don’t worry any longer. Check out RentPrep’s starter landlord bundle. This bundle includes free templates that you can use to start and maintain your rental business.

Landlord Inspection FAQs

If you’re looking to inspect a rental property but don’t know where to start, check out these frequently asked questions about property inspections.

What Happens At A Rental Inspection?

At an inspection, a landlord or an approved third party (such as a property manager) will enter the unit and conduct a basic inspection of the property.

Typically, the person will have a rental inspection checklist that can be used to quickly and efficiently work through each area of the unit. The property checklist will include many things, including but not limited to:

  • Checking walls, windows, and floors for excessive wear or damages

  • Ensuring all plumbing, electricity, and appliances are working properly

  • Confirming that the property is being maintained according to the lease terms

  • Verifying that nothing included with the apartment is missing or damaged

Rental inspections can be done with or without the tenant at home as long as both parties are in agreement. Often, the tenant will go around the rental unit with the inspector.

During or after the inspection, the landlord will let the tenant know if there are any issues or concerns they need to be aware of or repair.

What Is The Purpose Of A Rental Inspection?

The primary purpose of a rental inspection is to confirm a unit’s condition at a particular point during the rental term.

When inspections are done before move-in, the purpose is to get an idea of and document the property’s condition before the tenant occupies it.

Mid-lease rental inspections ensure the property is being properly maintained and there have not been any excessive damages.

When inspections are conducted at the end of a lease period, the aim is to verify there are no damages beyond normal wear and tear before the landlord returns the tenant’s security deposit.

The primary goal throughout all of these inspections is to verify the property’s condition and ensure all involved parties follow the lease terms.

How Often Can A Landlord Inspect A Rental Property?

Most states do not have a specific limit on how many inspections can be done by a landlord yearly. Landlords are permitted to do multiple inspections as long as they are not random and do not interfere with the tenant’s fair use of the property.

Most landlords do move-in and move-out inspections as well as one mid-term inspection. Some landlords also do seasonal or quarterly inspections, and specific inspections, such as for fire safety or pests, may be done in addition to these property inspections.

To make things clear with your tenants, it’s a good idea to include in the lease agreement information about how and when inspections are done. Having this information somewhere the tenants will see it upfront is good for preventing any potential issues or confusion down the line. Plus, it keeps things on record, which is always a good idea.

How Often Should A Landlord Inspect The Property?

As a landlord, you’ll need to decide when it makes sense to do rental inspections. Landlords should definitely do both move-in and move-out inspections. This helps verify the property’s before-and-after conditions so you can deduct funds for any excess repairs from the security deposit.

Beyond that, however, knowing how often to do inspections can be difficult. Here are some general guidelines:

  • Do at least one mid-term inspection.

  • For new yearly tenants, try to do an inspection three to four months after move-in.

  • Do safety inspections as often as needed (i.e., if you have a pest problem in one unit, doing pest inspections in them all is a good idea)

Beyond that, it’s up to you to decide if you want to do inspections just once per year or at a higher frequency. Regardless of what you choose, be sure that you communicate that choice to tenants and let them know about the scheduled inspection time in advance.

Can A Landlord Let Themselves In?

The answer to this question is both yes and no.

First, let’s talk about when landlords can let themselves in. As long as the tenant has been given notice and they are OK with it, a landlord can let themselves into the property to do a necessary inspection or repairs.

Also, landlords can let themselves into a unit for emergencies, such as if a fire breaks out.

On the other hand, a landlord cannot let themselves into the property without the tenant’s permission or without the tenant knowing about the visit in advance. While the landlord owns the property, tenants have rights to fair and quiet use of their rental. That prevents the landlord from being able to enter any time they may want to.

To ensure there aren’t any problems surrounding rent inspections, make sure to include clear information in the lease about when you can and cannot enter the property, how you will let the tenant know about inspections or repair visits, and what they can do if they would like to reschedule. Make communicating with tenants about inspections and visits easy to avoid any issues.

Can Landlords Take Photos Or Videos During An Inspection?

While laws vary depending on where you are, as a general rule, landlords can take photos and videos in rental properties to monitor the overall condition.

So, you can take photos of cracks in walls, broken windows, or walls that need repainting. If the tenant is in violation of the lease—for example, they have a pet in a pet-free property—you can take photos as evidence of this violation.

However, any photos or videos you take must have a justifiable reason. Therefore, landlords should usually take photos rather than video, as it is often difficult to justify why video footage was needed and a photo wasn’t enough. You should never take photos that violate of the tenant’s privacy.

If you plan to take photos, you should inform the tenant about this when you notify them of the inspection. This allows them to choose to be present and monitor what is being recorded if they wish.

Can A Tenant Refuse A Landlord Inspection?

While a tenant can request a different date and time than originally scheduled for their rent inspection, they cannot refuse to let you inspect your property.

If a tenant tries to do this for a prolonged period, that violates basic landlord rights and likely their lease terms. To gain access, you may need to send an eviction notice and file it in the court system until the tenant adjusts their stance.

What Are The Consequences Of Violating Tenant Privacy During An Inspection?

Violating a tenant’s right to privacy during an inspection can have legal implications for the landlord. The consequences may vary depending on state laws and the circumstances of the violation. Still, the tenant is within their rights to take legal action against you, in which case they will probably file a lawsuit for invasion of privacy or breach of the lease agreement.

You can find yourself responsible for monetary damages, including compensation for any harm or distress caused by the invasion of privacy. Some states have specific fines and penalties for privacy violations. The tenant may also seek to justifiably terminate the lease on the basis that the agreement has been violated.

In the worst cases, you could face criminal charges for harassment or trespassing.

What Should Tenants Do To Prepare For A Landlord Inspection?

Tenants concerned about a landlord inspection can take several steps to prepare, ensure the process goes smoothly, and maintain a positive relationship with their landlord.

The tenant should first inspect the terms and conditions for inspections outlined in the lease and the letter of notice given by the landlord and ensure all is in order.

It’s a good idea for the tenant to clean and tidy up before the landlord arrives, not only to leave a good impression but also so the landlord or property manager has a better view and can readily identify any maintenance issues. If there are any repairs the tenant is responsible for, it’s best to do them before the inspection.

If the tenant has any issues with the property, such as appliances not working or problems with dripping taps, they should make a list for the landlord. This will ensure the issues are looked at and oblige the landlord to act.

If possible, the tenant should be present during the inspection to ask and answer questions, take their own photos if there are points of contention, and feel certain that their personal space is respected.

Get Your Inspections In Line

If inspections are not already a primary part of your rental responsibilities list, it is time to change that. Make sure you do regular rental checks:

  • Before a tenant moves in

  • While a tenant is living there

  • When any pressing issue or repair needs to be addressed

  • After a tenant moves out

Doing regular inspections will help you manage your properties more profitably, so learning how to make them part of your rental business routine is essential for any successful landlord.

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