Are property inspections necessary? The short answer? An emphatic YES!
If you have a rental property, how much do you know about what goes on there day by day? You may think you know? Or maybe this question keeps you up at night!
Servicing nearly 3,000 properties, we have come across thousands of landlords that feel just like you, nervous about what the resident is doing to your property. For this reason, we dedicate an entire team to conducting inspections, to give landlords peace of mind.
This article will impart some knowledge, know-how, and how we can help you with this.
Standing in the Doorway
Some property owners are the equivalent of "helicopter parents." However, you cannot stand in the doorway and "police" your renter. It's not feasible, nor is it legal. I remember a case I was at to inspect, and the owners arrived at the same time. They hijacked my time slot. Hopefully, they learned and fast.
These owners were newbies to the role of property owner/landlord.
"Hi, I'm Bill, and this is my wife Evelyn!" said the enthusiastic new owner, greeting the renter outside the front door as if he were a hybrid of a car salesman mixed with the high and mighty King Arthur granting the resident admission into his kingdom. An awkward facepalm moment. The resident was not impressed. But Bill just kept going, not reading the renter's body language.
"Hey! You can call me any time, day or night; if you need anything, anything at all, I'll be right over!" Evelyn paled.
I slunk away. I was there to ensure there were no issues with the dwelling. This situation was not going to go well. At all.
"Hey, I know we just met," Bill continued, "and you had no idea I was coming, so if you just scoot aside, I'm just going to come on in and have a look-see!"
Ah, that is when Bill learned his very first lesson in property management: The Law. The renter read Bill the riot act, with timeless classics like "I know my rights," "where is your 24-hour notice", asking when he posted it, how dare he come here like this, etc. Evelyn slyly smiled. She knew how this would go. There are some things to always remember, such as "The domicile is someone's home."
At Management One, we have in place the tools to keep you up to date and informed about your property. Not only that, but we will always permit the resident to keep their dignity. All of this also provides insulation for you, the owner. After all, no owner wants a call at 2 AM about a clogged toilet.
In this case, Bill set himself up for disaster from the get-go. So, let's get to brass tacks about how we can make life so much easier for you.
First Things First
We do monthly exterior inspections of all our properties for owners who have opted for that coverage. Now and then, I hear from residents that they think the owner drove by and has been scoping out the home. They will describe who they saw, and it usually fits the owner's description. I don't confirm this; I store it in the back of my mind. And that's fine; it is the owner's property, they can swing by whenever, so long as they don't unsettle their resident or enter the property illegally, but it does un-nerve the resident a little. "Are they thinking of selling?" is usually the first question they ask. The resident's security may be at risk.
You see, as I said above, it is home for the renter. And it should be. Many residents are acutely aware of the comings and goings of strangers, as they should be. When we check each property every month, we are in a marked vehicle. You'd be amazed at how often the resident will wave, or the renter or even a neighbor will flag us down. They know we are there and that we are there for a reason, to check conditions and make sure the home complies with our standards, and to yours as well.
The Annual Inspection
This section may surprise you quite a bit. You see, we know you want to know how your property is faring. All properties will have wear and tear. It's generally accepted that rentals usually, but not always, have higher wear and tear than owner-occupied properties. That is a little misleading, however. Rentals that have deferred maintenance have more wear and tear, and that is a fact. However, finding those items that need attention is, well, not magic, not an art, but there is something to be said for having seen a lot of homes and things over the years.
Building it Up
Finding the items that need maintenance is only one purpose we serve. You see, we can also build relationships and trust with residents, which usually translates into a more extended residency. Not long ago, I performed an annual inspection on a property that used to be in my region; the same resident still lives there. It's been years since I had been there. Before we realigned our regions, the property owner had opted to act on my suggestion to replace the falling apart kitchen cabinets. The resident expressed their thanks, and I let her know I'd pass that thanks on to the property owners. You see, I only noted the need. The owner did the lifting and deserved that, thanks. Still, it's great to see a happy customer, on both ends, and know that we had a part in that.
It's Not All Unicorns and Rainbows
Enforcing the rules is another thing property management companies do, whether on a monthly exterior inspection or an annual inspection. You see, we have rules in place, contractually agreed upon between the resident and us. You must have rules, and rules are only useful if you enforce them. Sometimes we have to be perceived as the bad guy. However, in reality, only the resident's not following the rules will create a scenario where we appear to be the mean guy. Nonetheless, we expect compliance with the rules and have the tools to get that accomplished.
Turning Purple Not Allowed
A great example I ran into not long ago: a resident had moved more people into the property than the rental agreement listed. This property could undoubtedly handle the number of people legally. However, the wear on the property was accelerating. I know because I have been there year after year. Now, it's one thing to stomp your feet, turn purple and yell, "get these people out of here!" But that's just going to make you look silly and make everyone uncomfortable.
In this case, we professionally served notice that the resident was in breach of their contract. The covenant stated that they must get all the people living there onto the rental agreement, which means that they, the unknown parties, must also qualify to our standards. That could satisfy the terms of the rental agreement. Simultaneously, the property owner was also made aware of this breach and the accelerated wear. You see, we have a fiduciary responsibility to look after the properties we manage in the same way we would our own. At the same time, we must be up to date on the laws and follow them as they change.
The Whole Package
My recommendation for anyone shopping property management companies is to get the whole package. Are there exterior inspections provided? What about annual inspections? Amazingly, one competitor stated, "We don't do inspections on occupied properties, we feel it is off-putting to the [resident]" (they used the T-word, "Tenant." We don't use that word, by the way).
So, I'm thinking, how is that owner kept up to date and connected to the property? If the management company has no idea what is going on at the property? How is the owner kept in the loop?
You would be amazed at the number of items I had caught and corrected before becoming significant issues. Let me highlight this a little with a quick quiz:
You arrive at a property, and a sprinkler valve is leaking at the top. You note it and send it out for repair. While on-site, you also note that the kitchen sink drips. You have that checked and repaired as needed. A week later, the resident calls; a second sprinkler valve has gone awry. It literally popped like a balloon. What is going on here?
Experience will tell you a few things:
- It just is what it is; it merely happened. It can.
- Maybe the valves are being abused by a kid or animal.
- Possibly the pressure regulator is failing.
With those possibilities in mind, you note no kids, and the valves are behind the house. There are no pets. It is a fair bet the pressure regulator has gone to lunch, allowing 110 pounds per square inch of city water pressure through lines designed for 60 psi nominal pressure. So, you have the pressure checked. Bingo! You just saved the property from a major water event, not to mention an insurance claim. You also avoided having an angry, inconvenienced resident who cannot utilize the home they pay rent to live in.
There is no substitute for experience. I just googled that phrase, and I was surprised by how many articles agree with that sentiment. And you know what? Management One has oodles of experience in the property management field. In a way, it's an embarrassment of riches. Well, you know what? We stand ready to prove what we say. After 10,000 properties over the years, we have learned a thing or five about this business. We put that to use every day for your benefit.
Don't be like Bill. Ask Evelyn. The last thing that renter said to me was, "You know what? That guy is about to experience the wrath of a father, mark my words. He says even a single word to my kids; he's gonna get it." I smiled, nodded, and left. Bill likely learned a few lessons that day. Hopefully, he got himself a good property management company. You know, like Management One.
With nearly a century of experience, we know a thing or two about property inspections. So you can sleep better knowing Management One is on the job.