What to look for during a routine inspection
Routine property inspections are a fact of life for all property managers.
Inspecting a rental property may seem straightforward, but it’s easy to miss small problems which could come back later when they’ve become much larger problems.
As such, the REIQ asked some of its most accomplished property managers to weigh in on how to conduct an inspection with best practice principles in mind.
Here’s what they had to say.
Clint Dowdell-Smith, Bees Nees City Realty
In the first instance, what we’re looking at is the way the tenant is looking after the property in relation to regular cleaning, and noting any damage that may be there, above fair wear and tear.
We’re not looking at how they’re living, like if they’ve made their bed or left clothes on the floor. What we’re actually looking at is physical cleaning. Are they cleaning the kitchen benches? The cook tops? If they allow things to progress and don’t keep up that regular cleaning, it can cause permanent damage.
Then, we’re looking at preventative maintenance. Are we noticing anything that wasn’t the tenant’s doing, like maybe a tap that’s dripping – anything that the tenant hasn’t already reported to us.
On the maintenance side we’re also looking for anything that could be a health and safety issue for the tenant. Keep in mind that we aren’t building inspectors, but things such as balustrades are something that can decay in time. We can point these things out to the owner and maybe suggest we seek third party advice.
The third thing we look for is wear and tear on the property. If we see the carpets are starting to look their age and the paintwork’s looking a little bit worse for wear as well, we give the owners a heads up that maybe for the next changeover, start budgeting to do some upgrades or things new flooring or a paint job – maybe even a new appliance. That way it’s not suddenly a huge expense at the end of the lease.
A lot of property managers are rushed for time and they’re told a routine inspection should only take so many minutes, and then you’ve got to get to your next one, and you’ve only got that two hour window of entry as well. As a result, a lot of the things that managers miss during inspections are related to preventative maintenance.
Looking under the kitchen sink or other wet places, and ensuring that everything is functioning properly is what some property managers miss. They’re looking at the cosmetic look of it all – quickly checking to see if the tenant is taking care of the place and that it’s clean and tidy.
Some property managers also don’t want to ‘rock the boat’ with the tenant. If it’s a cleaning issue, having that conversation with someone can be quite awkward. Telling them that you don’t think they’re cleaning enough might cause offence and sound like a personal attack.
Having an awkward conversation is better than letting problems get worse, however.
Tammy Vitale, Vitale & Co Property Management Services
Are the gardens and lawns mowed and neat?
Are the gates and fences secure?
Is there any damage, holes in gutters, water damage?
Does the house or paving need pressure cleaning?
- Is the property neat and tidy?
- Are there marks or damage on the walls?
- Does the ceiling show signs of mould or water damage?
- Are the fans and air-conditioning units clean?
- Are the floors stained, or do they need vacuuming or mopping?
- Is the kitchen clean, including the oven, hot plates, splashbacks, and sinks?
- In the bathrooms – are the showers, vanities, and sinks clear of soap scum and mould?
- In the bedrooms, do the robe doors slide or open correctly? I like the beds made and the floors clear so I can inspect them
- Check all taps and toilets for leaks – especially if the owner is paying for water consumption
- Finally, I always ask the tenant/s if there is anything they’d like to bring to my attention so I can arrange for the item/s to be repaired.
- I always give them feedback, whether good or bad, and leave my business card with a note to say thank you, and a smiley face.
Once I’ve completed the routine inspection report and advised the owner of the outcome, I also email the tenants a thank-you letter, and list any items that require attention prior to the next visit.
If the property is in a bad way, I generally go back to re-inspect – 100 per cent of the time all items have been attended to and we have it back on track.
Rebecca Fogarty, Director of Blackbird and Finch Property Management Specialists
Look for oddly placed posters; this is a giveaway that there’s a hole in the wall. Extra beds or toothbrushes indicates additional occupants, while pet food bowls, toys, and leads, are cause for concern if no pets were approved.
If you want, you can even check Facebook. We once had a tenant who was adamant that she didn’t have a dog, even though there was a dog bowl present. It wasn’t until I took a screenshot of one of her photos where she and her dog were on her bed in the rental property that she finally agreed to complete a form to ‘request a pet’.
Caroline Duxfield, Solutions Property Management
Our team are trained to enter each room and look up, out, and down, taking in the whole room. We’ll then check for any damage or issues that require the tenant’s attention, as well as the cleanliness of inclusions such as ovens and showers.
Report general wear and deterioration to the landlords for future maintenance, such as carpets and painting, so that they can prepare to tend to them during the next vacancy period.
We will also check for signs of immediate or general maintenance requirements, such as health and safety risks, gutter cleaning, and tree trimming.
I’ve had some horror stories in my time, too…
I attended a routine inspection with the tenant not home. I heard the dog barking and thought ‘okay he is outside’. I opened the front door and went inside, and the dog appeared. The tenants had left the back door open. I managed to lock myself in a room and called our handyman – he attended and distracted the dog while I made my escape.
At another routine inspection, I knocked on the door and had no answer – unlocked the door and called out, still with no answer. As I began to walk through the home, the tenant appeared from the bathroom with a skimpy towel and a glass of Champagne in his hand.
Needless to say, I made a very quick exit.