Without doubt your investment property is one of the most valuable assets you can ever own. So, it’s important to ensure that it is being looked after and not neglected, whether that be by your tenant or your letting agent.
So why should you inspect your rental property?
> Routine inspections are crucial to ensure both your property and tenants are being cared for to generate the best possible returns on your investment.
> To be a successful property investor, keeping your tenants happy and your property well maintained is crucial.
> A long-lasting tenancy inside a well-maintained property will minimise void periods and generate a consistent cash flow for you.
So now you know the importance of inspecting your property, let me run through everything you need to know about inspecting your rental property.
What is a property inspection?
A property inspection is a visit to your property (whether this is conducted by yourself, your managing agent or other third parties) to assess the overall condition. This includes checking if everything is in good condition and working order, both internally and externally.
It also allows you to check up on your tenants and ensure they are able to look after themselves and your property, living in an orderly manner.
It is important to find the balance between regular inspections, and not being intrusive on your tenants. Quarterly inspections are generally respectable, to begin with, moving to twice a year or even annually depending on the duration of the tenancy and the quality of previous inspections. Too many inspections can be deemed as harassing.
Inspections that require anything more than once a quarter can be deemed acceptable in the event of ongoing maintenance works that need to be quality checked, but these should be communicated and agreed upon with your tenants.
How should I let my tenants know that I want to inspect the property?
As a landlord, you are legally permitted to enter your occupied property to view the condition and state of repair, as set out in the Private Tenancies Act (Northern Ireland) 2022
Whoever is conducting the inspection, be it yourself, the managing agent or another third party, must write to the tenant with no less than 24 hours’ notice. It is best to do this where a paper trail can be created, such as by email in the event you need to refer to it in the future.
It is required that inspections must be carried out within ‘reasonable hours’ of the day, so it is recommended that you reach out to your tenant prior to see if you can find a time that suits them. If they wish to be present for the inspection and work day shifts, they may be happy to accommodate you doing an inspection later in the evening.
Why are property inspections important?
Without a property inspection, it is virtually impossible to get first-hand insight into how your property is being maintained and the well-being of your tenants. The main importance of property inspections include:
Identifying and solving maintenance issues
Spotting prospective maintenance issues and being able to rectify them swiftly before they escalate is key.
Not only does it prevent further damage and potential harm to your tenants, but it can also save you money in the long run; protecting your property, tenants and future income all at the same time.
Tenants are usually only aware of prospective maintenance issues when it is far too late to solve the problem without costly repairs or disruptive works, so it can also help to point out any potential issues to your tenants whilst at the property.
They can help to keep an eye on it for you, and also gain insight into your problem solving which in turn, generates trust and helps to sustain the longevity of a tenancy.
Assess your tenants living conditions and wellbeing
Your tenants are the lifeblood of your income, so it is critical to keep them happy and safe in your property. Ensuring that both your property and your tenants’ living conditions are well maintained should give you the ultimate peace of mind.
Tenants who are living in less than desirable conditions are more likely to leave any potential maintenance issues undetected and cause you a greater headache down the line.
Identify illegal behaviour
Having your investment property turned into a cannabis factory or something similar is far from desirable.
Illegal activity in a property can draw unwanted attention, and long-lasting damage and also potentially land you on the wrong side of the law as well.
Sometimes, tenants may seem a dream whereby they pay their rent on the time and promise to look after maintenance issues themselves. But it can be these tenants however that are the ones keen to deter you away from the property in order to facilitate illegal occurrences. You should always remain vigilant, regardless of how great your tenants seem.
Shape a healthy relationship
Great tenancies are built on trust and communication. We can’t stress enough when we partner with new landlords that the relationship between a tenant and landlord (and managing agent where applicable) is crucial, and an important component not to be undervalued.
Having a great relationship with tenants makes gaining access to your property easier. It means they are more likely to care for your property as if it were their own, and ultimately, is more likely to secure them for the long term and minimise your void periods
What to look for during inspections
During a visit to your property, there are a number of key elements to look for in a property inspection:
Damp and mould
One of the most common issues found in rental properties is dampness and mould, yet perhaps one of the most to be overlooked by landlords.
There are plenty of tenants who treat damp and mould as something to live with, which can further worsen the problem as it begins to spread and cause more damage.
Check around window frames, door frames, the corners of rooms and take extra care in rooms subjected to moisture, such as bathrooms and kitchens. Checking extractor fans aren’t clogged up with dust or dirt is another consideration during an inspection. Preventing mould and dampness not only protects your property in the long run but also the health and wellbeing of your tenants.
Not all tenants have a green thumb, and the condition of the garden won’t overly matter to them. Check for any overgrowth to ensure it isn’t likely to spiral out of control. Ensure there are no rubbish build-ups either that could attract vermin or encourage insects to build nests in and around your property.
Alarms and detectors
Smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors can save your tenants’ lives. It goes without saying the importance of testing these is critical.
Lofts, attics and basements
Where applicable, these spaces in a property generally go unused or unnoticed for long periods of time. An inspection visit is an ideal time to check these out, looking for signs of leaks, dampness, rot and rodent infestations.
If there are no pets written into your tenancy agreement, or you have disallowed pets prior to letting, then your tenants may decide that attempting to hide their pets in your property will cover them on an inspection. Look for any distinguishable shapes such as pet carriers/cages hidden under blankets or stored away. Listen for any sounds of animals, and also look for any bite/chew marks on furnishings and doors.
Cross-reference with inventories
At the start of a tenancy, a check-in report/inventory will allow you to document the condition of the property prior to the tenant moving in.
Whilst many landlords then don’t touch these until the end of the tenancy, it allows you to see how the condition of the property has changed so far, and whether or not it has gotten worse or improved.
At this point, you can highlight any positives or negatives to a tenant, what to improve on, or praise them on the living standards to further build a rapport with them.
What to do if your tenant refuses access
It isn’t uncommon for some tenants to refuse access for landlords to carry out property inspections. It can be tricky and awkward to navigate.
Some tenants aren’t malicious in their intentions if they aren’t forthcoming when it comes to granting access to a property, particularly if they don’t feel comfortable with strangers interacting with them or their possessions.
Tenants are entitled to live in “quiet enjoyment”, which means that landlords (or representatives) must consult with a tenant before entering the premises.
The only way to enter your property without prior consent is in the event of an emergency, such as a gas leak, fire, or a repair that needs immediate attention in order to protect both your tenants and property.
You should be upfront and transparent with your inspections, and allow the tenant a degree of flexibility to arrange access in order to make it as easy as possible for all parties involved.
Should a tenant continuously refuse access, you may find yourself having to serve them notice.
Carrying out an inspection on your rental property isn’t a quick process. It needs to be communicated and arranged with your tenants well in advance, whilst also done respectfully and meticulously. In most cases, tenants will understand the need for you to inspect the property and will accommodate this. In return, you should look to respect their wishes and privacy, whilst also correctly checking your property.
An eye for detail is crucial to properly carrying out a property inspection, and something you may wish to consider liaising with a managing agent to do on your behalf.
In any instant, we would be happy to help, whether this be drafting an inspection notice to your tenants on your behalf, or carrying out the inspection for you and presenting you with a detailed report complete with feedback and any recommendations if necessary, For more information, get in contact with one of our team