Landlording Basics - Routine Inspections

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For most of my adult life, I was a renter and I noticed sometimes landlords would do some sort of "maintenance inspection" once a year, sometimes multiple times a year and sometimes, never.  

As a new landlord in Cleveland, I completely forgot the importance of a routine inspection and decided to do one annually.  Keep in mind before the tenants moved in, the apartment was completely remodeled with brand new carpet, refinished floors and paint.  Here are my observations:

Tenant appliances installed inadequately

It's common here in Cleveland for tenants to bring their own appliances (window AC units, Washer, Dryer etc). I noticed the dryer vent was installed incorrectly because the space is tight and hard to get access to. Without going into the potential hazard of dryer air venting back into the house (mold, health issue), if tenants would be bringing and installing their own appliances, I think it is very important to immediately inspect the installation.  Also I'd check if during the summers, the window AC units are secured properly as well.  Window units are very common in Cleveland and having installed some myself, it can get quite extensive with the older colonial windows + aluminum storm windows and I always worry that it may somehow fall and knock someone out!  Also which window they choose to install the unit may be important as well.  

Smoke alarms can sometimes be removed or relocated

Make sure to check all the smoke alarm locations to see if they are functional and intact!  If the tenants removed it near the kitchen, it may be due to nuisance alarms during cooking which you can adjust accordingly.  If it's tampered with in the bedrooms, perhaps there may be smoking involved (check your lease agreement for non-smoking clause).  Make sure to follow your local ordinances on smoke alarms.  As a rule of thumb home depot 

The spaces that I had created are used in a completely different manner by the tenants than I intended.  

One room intended to be a dining room can be an office for them.  That little closet that you thought would be neglected is being used to the max, literally overflowing.  The basement that you thought would remain clean and empty becomes the storage space for any miscellaneous items.  Just keep this in mind for the next tenant as well.  

Wear and tear, scratches and some marks on the wall

I'm a little bit OCD when it comes to aesthetics, especially walls, you start noticing all the little dents (maybe from moving furniture in) etc.  These are easy fixes but makes you realize that rentals are a different beast and durability should be priority.  I went with a dark stain for the hardwood floors to even out the color imperfections of the hardwood floors but I think next time, I'd just stick with natural wood + poly.  Any nick exposes the light bare wood and screams.  Also that fresh new carpet smell and look will likely not last over a year.  This also speaks to my other post on Regional Tenant Culture.  A lot of BP-ers seemed to have liked that discussion.  


I was thinking about how often a landlord should do an inspection.  I think an inspection shortly after move the tenants are settled into the apartment and everything is set up correctly increases the likelihood for a safe clean tenancy.  It's also a great time to answer any questions or concerns that the new tenant may have (regarding common areas, lease agreement, wrapping up loose ends).   After that I think every 6 months to a year depending on how you feel about the tenants would suffice should no other issues arise.   I think inspections actually keep a healthy relationship showing your concern for keeping the property in good condition and hopefully the tenants would have incentive to maintain the property in good condition as well, knowing how much you care and the periodic vigilance.  

I share my experiences during these crucial nascent stages here because sharing during the process in the trenches is more valuable and relatable to people in the same boat or a few steps behind me.  I can't relate to Grant Cardone at this stage.  So  I encourage you to share your thoughts on Landlording Inspections too!  How often do you conduct routine maintenance inspections?

I do inspections quarterly. Change HVAC filters, check batteries in smoke alarms, check for loose hinges, water leaks, miscellaneous damage, etc. 

The reality is that the vast majority of tenants are quite irresponsible in regards to routine maintenance issues. A leaking drain or water line under a sink can very quickly do serious damage.

Most landlords are either lazy or uncomfortable intruding on their tenants to "check" up on them. The reality is you are checking your property, not your tenants, and are proactively protecting your property. If you do find tenant damage you have it immediately repaired and bill the tenant for the cost.

If you would not neglect your own home for  year why would you neglect your investment property for that long.

A landlord not doing quarterly inspections is not on top of their responsibilities and usually posts on here asking what to do when they do discover extensive damage to their property.

The maintenance and condition of my investment is far more important to me than being concerned about my tenants opinions regarding my inspections. However most understand my proactive approach is to their advantage and for their protection. My tennats never cause extensive damage and those that would don't rent from me knowing I inspect quarterly.

@Thomas S.

Thanks so much for sharing your system and mentality.  I agree we need to do these to protect our asset/property.  The tenants may actually like the routine inspections because it shows that we care about the condition of their living space and safety.

The primary issue and reason why most landlords are not on top of their property inspections is because it takes time and effort. That is the reason most armchair investor/landlords neglect their's work.

Solid idea for a thread. Well done.

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