Property Walkthroughs.... Waste of time?

9 Replies

I want to bring up a question that may seem to be blasphemy to a lot of landlords.... Are rental property walkthroughs/inspections really worth it?

The reason I ask is because I have been landlording for several years and do not make it a point to do walkthroughs. The logic is simple. As much as it pains me to admit it, once a tenant signs a lease and moves in, my hands are very much tied. What power do I really have to rectify a tenant who paints walls without my authorization, or even allows an unauthorized tenant to move in with them?

I understand the argument that perhaps me checking in every couple months might give them the feeling that i am keeping an eye on things and therefore maybe they treat the house better. But in large, you don't really have the power to change anything through walkthroughs, so why do them? It is a much more effective use of my time to drive the things I can change versus those I can't.

Can someone weigh in?

As a long distance landlord I don't have time to do walk throughs or police the house. On the other hand I have higher level house with small margins. So I do walk throughs and if there is damage I charge them than! So yes I do the best I can to document everything so I can take it out of their security deposit.

This allows me to take the money out of the security deposit and stem tenants "complaining" when this happens with facts.

I don't understand what you mean that you can't do anything when a tenant violates the lease. If a tenant paints the walls without authorization then you can have them pay to paint it back or write up the job correctly. If they have an unauthorized guest get it corrected. Issue a 5 day cure or quit. 

The biggest thing is to check things that the tenant might not do. Check under the sinks for leaks, check that the furnace filter has been changed, change the smoke detector and carbon monoxide detectors. You need to check out all the things out that will cost you money. You can catch an issue that can be fixed now for $100 that might be $2,000 a year from now. That is a good return for a half hour of your time once or twice year in my experience.

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Originally posted by @Kyle Hipp :

I don't understand what you mean that you can't do anything when a tenant violates the lease. If a tenant paints the walls without authorization then you can have them pay to paint it back or write up the job correctly. If they have an unauthorized guest get it corrected. Issue a 5 day cure or quit. 

The biggest thing is to check things that the tenant might not do. Check under the sinks for leaks, check that the furnace filter has been changed, change the smoke detector and carbon monoxide detectors. You need to check out all the things out that will cost you money. You can catch an issue that can be fixed now for $100 that might be $2,000 a year from now. That is a good return for a half hour of your time once or twice year in my experience.

 Couldn't have written this better myself. You're not so much looking for violations (though you may notice those too) as you are looking to protect the asset. A dripping trap under a sink long enough usually means replacement of at least that board, if not the entire cabinet. Don't change your air filter frequently enough and you reduce the life of the unit, not to mention its efficiency. 15 min here or there could make the difference between hundreds or thousands down the road.

@Kyle Hipp  is correct, walk throughs are not meant (for me) to nail the tenant for violations, but to save yourself money in the future by possible stopping large problems, and not spending unnecessary cash is the name of this game. 

Tenants by nature can either be lazy or ignorant.  Lazy in the fact that they know the bottom line is that the landlord WILL eventually have to fix any problem weather or not they caused it even if it far exceeds the amount of security deposit.  That's the renters mindset, they are just used to having their stuff fixed by the landlord.  They are ignorant in the respect that they just do not know certain things because many of them have not owned a house before.  They cannot foresee something becoming a big problem, so they do not say anything about it.

I have a problem with walk through's anymore because I am managing all of my own properties and things are slipping through the cracks because there is too many for me I feel now.  I need to bite the bullet and hire someone, or things will start causing me money.

Understood. I guess the thing I wrestle with, is yes, I inspect a home and there is a leaky trap, that 30 minutes could save me a couple hundred bucks for a new cabinet. The truth though, is that I will have to probably do 15 walkthroughs to find each one of those issues. $200 repair < value of 15 hours of my time. Even if it is only a 15 minute walkthrough, I have take the time to go over there and do it.

Its just a simple equation of what is my time worth.... Even the arguement of having someone else do it comes up short because lets say that $200 saved repair is still < $15 worker x 15 hours.

The unauthorized tenant, leaking faucets, non-functional smoke detectors, leaking traps, and ac filters are a big deal.  Plus a few minutes with some of the residents does not hurt either.

You don't need to do this inspection if it is not important to you.  I feel that the time payback is worthwhile though.

We have a maintenance person change AC filters every quarter or month depending on the property, and use this as an opportunity to look for any unreported issues.  This is especially important for student housing, as some kids are inclined to turn a blind eye to small problems that can transform into big issues.   Paint and some of the other items you mentioned can be resolved at turn with the security deposit and legal action if nessesary.   

If you do a M2M lease and you don't like what you see, you can be free of the problem in as little as 30 days.

I do agree it's a useful tool to catch little problems before they turn into big ones - maintenance, reliability, safety, etc.