While many people think being a landlord is a stress-free, lucrative job, this is only partially true. Yes, owning rentals allows you to earn an income without losing too much of your free time, but it takes a lot of guts to trust your hard-earned property to complete strangers. With that said, landlords often have a hard time finding that sweet spot between being too curious and not curious enough when it comes to checking their units. This begs the question - how often should you inspect your rental properties? Even though there is no universal answer to this question, there are a few good rules of thumb you should follow. Here's everything you need to know.
Know what to inspect
Before you decide how often is often enough when it comes to inspecting your rentals, you first need to know what to look for when visiting your tenants. Simply skimming the property from the entrance door likely won't allow you to see much. At the same time, opening your tenants' drawers might be a bit much. Here's what you should focus on to be thorough yet not intrusive:
Overall condition and cleanliness of the unit
Windows and doors
Filters, smoke detector batteries
Unauthorized pets and/or tenants
Inspect with respect
Finding and keeping good tenants is not always easy. That's why you need to do your best to be a good landlord first. While it is your property that you will be inspecting, it's still essential to follow a couple of rules to do so respectfully.
First and foremost - always give notice prior to knocking on your tenants' doors. Few people like surprises in their daily routines, so make sure to inform your renters of your visit in advance. Now, whether this will be one, two, or a couple of days in advance will depend on your state's laws and the agreement you have with the tenants.
How often should you inspect your rental properties?
Balancing your peace of mind with your tenants' need for privacy is often very tricky. If you don't visit your properties regularly, you risk walking in on a major disaster once the lease ends. On the other hand, if you pop by every month and ask to have a peek at the unit, your renters will likely feel uneasy, no matter how perfect they are.
So, how often should you inspect your rental properties? You should consider a few factors before you come up with an answer to this question. The length of lease, agreement, type of renters, and unforeseen circumstances all play a role in determining the most suitable frequency of visits. Still, you probably won't go wrong if you choose to abide by the following suggestions.
Inspecting your property thoroughly before giving the keys to new tenants is imperative. After all, how can you know if the renters damaged something if you don't have anything to compare the damage with?
While the unit is still vacant, make sure to walk around and check all the nooks and crannies. Feel free to take pictures and videos, as this will help you remember and allow you to prove your accusations if anything were to happen. The moving experts at Fairfax Transfer and Storage say that floor scratches, wall chips, and other types of damage are not uncommon during moving in and out, which makes this inspection all the more critical.
Once your tenants move in, you will want to visit them from time to time to check whether everything is the way it should be. Typically, it's recommendable to do this every three to six months. The length of the lease should help you determine the most suitable frequency of inspections.
In addition, take into account how responsible your renters are. If you notice, after a while, that they are trustworthy and respectful to your property, you can reward them by visiting less often. If, however, you are not entirely satisfied with what you see, make sure to tell them and pop by more frequently to prevent things from spiraling out of control.
When you notice something suspicious
As a landlord, it's only natural that you'd want your property to remain in good condition. However, you cannot expect every single one of your tenants to want the same as much as you do. Accidents happen to everyone, and, unfortunately, reckless behavior is not that uncommon among renters. So, if you notice something suspicious, it might be a good idea to announce an inspection. Whether you see your tenants with a pet that wasn't agreed upon, smell cigarette smoke, notice damage, etc., you have the right to know more about what is going on.
Equally crucial as a move-in inspection is a move-out inspection. One final examination of the property will allow you to note any wear and tear but also tenant neglect and damage. Again, take lots of pictures and videos so that you can compare them to the property's original condition. This will help you avoid any injustice when the time comes to deduct money from your tenants' security deposit or if things end up in court.
The bottom line
Furnishing and de-furnishing your rental is a physically tasking job, so it makes sense to hire professionals to help you. But maintaining your rental property in a specific condition while occupied is, in a way, even harder, so why not hire a property manager to make things easier on yourself? Knowing your rentals are in excellent hands would allow you to devote your time to something more important or meaningful. However, if you do decide that hiring movers and a property manager is the way to go, be informed about what awaits you to avoid creating unnecessary issues.
That's our answer to "How often should you inspect your rental properties?"! Even if you opt to do everything alone, with a bit of planning, careful observation, and plenty of respect toward your tenants' privacy, it's far less likely you will run into any unpleasant situations.
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