Question regarding property inspection

8 Replies

Hi.  I have a question regarding city inspection.  Where I live, the city must approve a certificate of occupancy in order for an investor to rent their property.   My question is, if I'm looking to purchase a property that is in generally good shape, what is the best way to know which items the city will require to be fixed?   

These inspections by the city can be over $400 and I'm not even sure the city will allow their inspectors to come into the house while it's under contract (vs me already owning it).  But i need this information to be able to make any modifications to the purchase price based on inspection clause.  

I know of landlords who had to invest many thousands of dollars to bring it to a level the city would approve - in some cases they force modern upgrades on homes that met inspection 20 or 30 years ago but not now.   Do private inspectors have enough knowledge to point out which are required by the city and which are more for general improvement?   Anyone have experience with this?  Thanks in advance.     

Don't know your area, but in Annapolis, I just researched online and found exact requirements for rental inspections; for instance, lead free cert or lead-safe test, certain amount of window space and access requirements for each room, required smoke detectors and all had to operate on same network, even the downstairs (not required for owner occupied, so I had to fix that one), GFI requirements, etc.  I also found out that there was required language in Annapolis leases -- a lot of it -- so the online research was key as I was doing it myself.  I called the department listed whenever I had questions about the online info, and they were very helpful in guiding me to make sure I passed the required inspection as they charge more for subsequent inspections if there are problems during the first one.    And it appears in Annapolis change of ownership would trigger compliance with current codes/rules even if grandfathered for the last owner (actually, I believe change of tenant now would trigger it as well).  

@Lynn M thank you for the tip!    I will for sure give that a try.  

Hello Jon,

The best thing to do would be to get the city's requirements, they should have a booklet or handout of some sort.  The inspector we hired was familiar with quite a lot, but did not know the requirements for our city specifically.

Things that are probably on the list-

working windows and window locks,

working fire extinguishers and smoke alarms (may need to be hard wired)

Common exterior doors close and lock on their own,

GFI plugs at counter height in kitchen and bathrooms

Flooring in good shape- no trip hazards

Exterior in good repair

At least one grounded (3 prong) outlet per room, wired correctly

Stair rails secure and graspable

They may require an HVAC inspection- ours does inspections every 2 years and requires an HVAC cert every 4

Everything else in place must be functioning

You would be able to note a lot of these things while your inspector is working, that way you know what needs to be fixed prior to inspection.  

Hope that helps


@Kelly N.   Thank you.  You are in SE Mich, have you worked in Livonia or Redford?

No, sorry.  Just Ypsi so far.

i have livonia build dept on speed dial.

it sounds like you have never done this. you or the bank need to call livonia and they do a formal report ($400). then you close. then you fix those items. then they have to approve before you can rent it.

noone else can "inspect" the property and know what they will call out. I can since i have done it so many times. . but no other inspectors can.

@George P.  thank you.  So it sounds like if needed, the building dept will do an inspection on a property that is under contract - good to know.   Do you know if they have a list of the keymost items either online or hardcopy?   Also once you have this information back, have you gone back and re-negotiated the price due to the needed fixes?   

i have had houses that were 5 pages long. so it can be anything. you just have to plan on changing anything that does not work. if the bath light is with the outlet, they will call it. if there is a storm door screen ripped, they will call it. if the sink drips,  they will call it. drier pipe has screws? they will call it.

find a bank owned home and get the address. call them up and give them the address. you will get a list, no questions asked.

Free eBook from BiggerPockets!

Ultimate Beginner's Guide Book Cover

Join BiggerPockets and get The Ultimate Beginner's Guide to Real Estate Investing for FREE - read by more than 100,000 people - AND get exclusive real estate investing tips, tricks and techniques delivered straight to your inbox twice weekly!

  • Actionable advice for getting started,
  • Discover the 10 Most Lucrative Real Estate Niches,
  • Learn how to get started with or without money,
  • Explore Real-Life Strategies for Building Wealth,
  • And a LOT more.

Lock We hate spam just as much as you

Create Lasting Wealth Through Real Estate

Join the millions of people achieving financial freedom through the power of real estate investing

Start here