Periodic inspections for SFR

10 Replies

I want to keep a close eye on my properties, but at the same time, I don't want to annoy my tenants. I'd like to develop a standard checklist that I use quarterly or biannually at each property, but I'm not quite sure where to start.

Here is my current situation. We own 5 rentals, all are single family homes. 

Property 1 has been rented 2 years to someone we know personally. It is located at the end of our driveway, so we go past it twice a day.

Property 2 has been rented since Jan. 1 of this year. We have been to the house almost every month for minor maintenance issues, but no formal inspection.

Property 3 was rented May 25, and there are a few things that we are still finishing on the rehab list, mostly exterior. Should be done with those this week.

Property 4 was purchased last month and is in the middle of rehab. It should be ready to rent around Aug. 1.

Property 5 is a long term rehab that is being worked on as we have time. It is currently down to the studs, and our only time schedule for it is to finish before the end of the year.

We have been working at our properties so often that we really haven't felt the need for periodic inspections, but we know that if we don't get ourselves on a schedule we will neglect this necessary chore. So what do you inspect when conducting an inspection on SFRs? Do you have a checklist?

Does no one have advice for me?

Sylvia,  Sounds like you already have a pretty good handle on it.  The purpose of the inspection is 1) make sure you are satisfied with how things are being handled, 2) let the tenant know you are engaged and care about your property.  

At the time of move-in I always tell the tenants we may do quarterly inspections.  I seldom ever do.  Maintenance times are excellent opportunities to get eyes inside and may remove the necessity of a formal inspection.  However, I always send an annual notice for rent increase that includes an inspection list.  It basically says: We may be contacting you in the next few weeks to review the condition of the property. If you have any maintenance issues,lease let us know.  And then we itemize things like checking under sinks for leaks, exterior corners for mold, bathroom floors, proper storage (no hazardous materials like gas cans near home), clear access to exits, etc... Basically we look for anything related to safety, health and general comfort.

We like to set up our inspections every three mths and when there is a need for a repair we do a surprise inspection. If there is reg issues or animals we will move them to mthly. 

Especially that they are that close to you.

If you every have to go to court, the judge wants a paper trail not your words. Our rental agreements our 12 pages or more now, this is from 20+ years of having rentals. 

I would not worry about your tenants feelings, This is your business and I would assume part of your retirement, so you will want to stay on top of things. Longer something goes unattended,  bigger the bill and less cash flow.

Sylvia, I check my houses monthly when they are not home. I tell them at the time of lease signing that I will come in monthly to change air filters and test the smoke alarms and security systems. My residents reactions are always positive. "Wow, you do that?"

My lease states I must give them 24-hours notice before entering, unless it's an emergency. Obviously, they can take a unauthorized pet to a neighbors house when I come over - but since I'm allergic to animals, I could probably easily discern the animals presence...

If a renter says, "I'll met you to let you in at 10am"... I"ll purposely go over at 9 or anytime before our stated time to let myself in, walk the property in private, and leave a note about "my schedule changing." I've actually arrived before the resident only to find he had changed the locks on MY house. Needless to say, I was furious and demanded a key to the new locks. I did get the key!

I'll set a date (impromptu and never the same date month-to-month) to change the filters & test the systems and I try to insure that "I don't bother them on their day off".

I do a visual in addition to the preventive maintenance. I don't have a check list (as others seem to have), but it sounds like a great idea. I'll create one and make sure the steel wool that I inserted around the sink pipes for the water supply is still in place (to hamper mice from coming into the house).

Hope this helps. If others have a preventive checklist (monthly or otherwise), attach a link to it - if you can.

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I find it interesting everyone spoke of inspections in the light of a tenant doing something 'wrong' or harmful to the property, not as a way to do preventive maintenance on power plants, hvac, and appliances. We have a schedule we keep every season change for cleaning coils, cleaning gutters, caulking windows and the like. In all my years of renting sfrs, I've never had a tenant do something harmful or wrong to one of our properties. I think once a resident knows we care and care a lot, they care too. I don't have this schedule written down anywhere but on my calendar and it just moves from one year to the next. You can get ideas by searching for 'home preventive maintenance'

I do not recommend the course of action John F takes. All it takes is for him to walk in on the tenants 15 yr old daughter or for the renter to say I had $10,000 in cash sitting on my table and now it's gone before John F finds himself in a large legal mess. He may own the property but it is the tenants home. Sylvia, it is recommended that the furnace air filter is changed every 3 months and batteries in your smoke detectors yearly. Let the tenant know (with proper notice) that you are coming in to change those as well as inspect the property for any other maintenance issues. The tenant should have no problem accommodating this and will probably be very happy that you are taking such good care of your property. 

@John F.  Your method of entering the homes of your tenants would be illegal in many states.  To me it is disrespectful to agree with the tenant to a specific date and time for entry and then take it upon yourself to enter their home at another time.  If you feel you need to do it in this manner to catch rule breakers, then perhaps you are renting to the wrong people and should be improving your tenant screening methods.

Thank you, everyone, this is very helpful!

If anyone does have a list they'd like to share, I'd love to see it!

@Sylvia B.  Private message me and I will share with you some property maintenance inspection checklists that I have collected from various resources. You can also google such and perhaps find such on line.

In addition to the property maintenance checklists, there are other things I look for specific to our rental agreement.  This is to make sure tenants are following our property rules.  Some items I look for are evidence of smoking, evidence of unauthorized pets, evidence of unauthorized occupants, evidence of pests, changes to locks, changes to electrical, changes to plumbing, unauthorized structural changes or modifications, maintaining proper egress to window and door exits, not blocking ventilation and HVAC systems, maintaining a basic standard of cleanliness, proper trash disposal, etc.  

We always give our tenants notice to enter in accordance with our state landlord-tenant law.  We let them know when we will be entering and for what purpose.  Most of the time we simply negotiate with our tenants a date and time that works well for both of us.  If there is something that must be done within a specific time frame, such as annual furnace maintenance done by an outside contractor, then we may need to choose the date.  Even so, we still take into account the tenants' preference for entry in the morning or afternoon, and let them know when we will be entering.

We prefer our tenants to be present for all inspections.  This gives us an opportunity to dialogue with our tenants about things that are working or not working for them.  It gives us a chance to talk with them on the spot about any lease violations and remedies for such.  These are often times for relationship building and tenant education.   

We have a policy to never leave a maintenance/repair contractor working alone in a tenant's home without an owner (my husband or me) or a representative of ours present.  This is a protection for the tenant and their property and a protection for us as well for liability purposes.   If we must enter a tenant's home for inspection or repairs when the tenant is not there, we will do so as a team of two.  We will stick to the date and time given in our "notice to enter" and provide them with a follow-up report at to what we did.    

In the case of an emergency, we will enter to secure the safety of persons and the protection of property, and do not need advance notice to do so, in accordance with the laws for our jurisdiction.  We will however notify the tenant of this entry as soon as we can.

Hope this helps!

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