Rental Property Inspections: 4 Kinds and Why They Are Important


I am always amused by the responses I receive from real estate investors when I ask them when they had last inspected their properties.  It is obvious from their contorted facial expressions that they most likely have never “formally” inspected their properties.

While preforming “safe and clean inspections” during a tenancy is important, ensuring that “move-in” and “move-out” inspections are performed at the beginning and end of a rental relationship can mean the difference between you as the landlord retaining all or a portion of the security deposit to compensate you for damages or losing it (possibly with triple damages) at the hands of a judge.


I am a huge proponent of inspections.  At the beginning, the end, and the entire time during the rental relationship. 

How did I get that way?  Simple…  I got my head handed to me by a judge and ended up paying triple damages.  OUCH!  Experience is a cruel and exacting teacher.

Regrettably, many landlords and way too many property managers have not assigned the same degree of importance to “inspections” as I have.  And this in my opinion, puts them at the mercy of the tenants, and if they are dealing with savvy tenants it will get painful!

What do you as a landlord do and what should you expect from your property manager regarding inspections?

Lets first start with some general definitions and a brief discussion regarding the four types of inspections I have found to be very useful as a landlord.

The Four Key Kinds of Landlord Inspections

1.  Move-in Inspection – This inspection, of course, is conducted during the move-in process.  It must be conducted by the tenant and it must be documented.  And, if you think you can move a tenant into a property without physically being present you are fooling yourself.  So, as part of your move-in package, you will have a “Move-in” inspection sheet(s). The tenant needs to walk through the property and document issues with the property that could be a deduction from their security deposit when they leave.  This inspection is not intended as a wish list for things they want done to the property. Of course, we are assuming the property was ready for the tenant or you wouldn’t have placed them. 

You want this inspection to be conducted by the tenant so that they can never say that they did not know the condition of the property when they moved in.  Once the inspection is completed, the tenant should sign and date the document and hand it back to you.  If there are issues such as a small stain in the carpet or a ding in the wall you should take a picture of it, print the picture and place it with “Move-in” inspection.

2.  Routine Safe and Clean Inspections – This is exactly what it says — a routine inspection, performed by you to ensure that the property is safe and clean.  This inspection should be conducted every 3 – 6 months; to go any longer and you may loose control of the overall condition of your property.  Realize that when you are conducting this inspection you are looking for issues which the tenant has caused, such as pulling a door off it’s hinges, and those items you are responsible for such as a leaking faucet.  Again, this inspection is documented, supported by pictures, signed by you with a copy provided to the tenant. If there are any issues, a follow-up inspection should be scheduled so you can verify the tenant has corrected the issues they are responsible for.  As for those issues you need to address, get on it!

3.  Drive-by Inspections – This inspection needs no pre-notifications. All you’re doing is driving by and observing.  Again, if there are issues observed on the outside of the property (the biggest one for me is typically pets that aren’t allowed), you should notify the tenant (in writing) and of course, schedule a “safe and clean” inspection.

4.  Move-out Inspections – The “move-out” inspection is your opportunity to determine the overall condition of the property when the tenant moves out.  This inspection should be conducted by you at the time you receive the keys from the tenant.  Realize that if you have the tenant drop the keys off at the office or put them in the mail, they will be able to deny everything you find on the “move-out” inspection because you weren’t there when they last locked-up and they will be able to blame you for all of the issues you claim when retaining their security deposit.  The only way to protect yourself is to conduct that inspection with the tenant in the property.  Ideally you want the tenant to sign the inspection findings, but many times the tenant will decline, believing that if they don’t sign they won’t be responsible.  One last item here — remember that your camera is your best friend; it is very hard for a tenant to deny in front of a judge what is obvious in a picture.

These four inspections can and will help you to keep your properties in good repair, hopefully well-maintained by your tenants, and protect you when you find yourself in front of a judge defending your security deposit decisions.

Best of luck!

About Author

Peter is an active and successful real estate investor in the Baltimore Maryland region for the past 8 years and is one of the founders of The Club Mastermind a real estate investing coaching program focused on local coaches helping investors to perfect their game.


  1. Peter – This is a great guideline for landlords to follow. It never ceases to amaze me that people let tenants move into their property and they never check on it. They only find out after they have moveed out (in the middle of the night), that they have done thousands of dollars in damage to the property. Like you, I believe that if you have periodic, routine inspections, you can find these destroyers much more quickly and deal with them. Plus, it’s just good business to check on your investment.

    My daughter is a professional property manager of over 500 units. They have inspections every 6 months. If any problems are noted, the tenants have a set amount of time to correct them before being evicted. This includes “lack of housekeeping” as this leads to pests, mice and a whole slew of other problems.

  2. We usually visit our homes about every 3 months. We stop by with a new filter for the hvac and a battery for the smoke alarms. It gets our foot inside the door of our rental property.


  3. Why is this simple task so inconvenient and sometimes painful? Or is it just me that feels this way? I’ve only been in this business for a few years, renting homes and making a profit, and the first few properties went like this… Find a tenant, collect rent, hope they pay on time and stay for a long time and never call. Well, come to find out the ones that pay on time and you never hear from is a bad thing, bad things happen when you don’t inspect. I learned the hard way. My goal is to own and manage hundreds of properties. I’ve learn to be successful the key word is “manage”. Take the time, take the inconvenient inspection and learn. Learn how people operate and build your business leading tenants.

  4. Pete,

    One of the 1st hoarders episodes illustrates your point. Food hoarder with dead animals within the house and untold damage. The condition had been that way for over 15 years.


  5. Renata Dumervil on


    I really agree with you because if we neglect our property, we can I have strange surprise. For now, I just have a tenant who leave the apartment without told me. This my fault, because when I investigate her, she was a really bad credit and have criminal file, but I accept her because I have a big heart. For now, I must search another tenant. Like a beginner real estate investor I did a lot mistake and continue to do so but I learn a lot and I have no problem to share my mistakes.

  6. My question regarding this is: If they are responsible for damages, do you make them sign something owning up to the responsibility, or do you simply declare this wasn’t a problem at the initial inspection, so is thus their responsibility?

    Also, once you decide on the actions above (which are complex in themselves), do you add those cost to the rent, and when trying to collect, go with the pay notice or quit?

    I alway feel these type of income discussion need a little more attention paid to them, because we know thats what we should do, but its the how to do this effectively that gets us caught up. Any advice?

    • Lisa,

      It all starts with your lease andd your move-in inspection. If these are clear then the entire process is pre-scripted. If your location will allow you to add repair costs to the rent and then go to court to get that rent then that is a fairly straigh forward action.

      Most locations however won’t allow repairs to be added as rent, but they can be deducted from the security deposit once the tenant moves out… just be sure to do a move-out inspection.

      Good luck!


  7. Two of my friends and I plan on renting a home in CT. Our landlord is in the military and won’t be in the country for awhile. He told my house mates and I that we have to hire a home inspector prior to moving in. I’m really new to this, since I’m only 20 years old and this is my first time ever renting a place from someone. I guess my question is, how does this whole process work?

  8. As a tenant, I understand inspections are important. However, my property management company is inspecting me monthly while Im paying $2,000 a month! EVERY month…this month its smoke detectors, month before that it was quarterly inspection, month before THAT it was to replace the filters in the air conditioner (which were brand new already) but makes NO REPAIRS!….what can I do besides move…I feel like I cant relax or enjoy my property.

    • Michelle, I’m a renter who feels the same way. We’ve rented this house for almost three years. We’re paying over the market rent. We always pay the rent on time, and rarely bother the PM. We fix the small things ourselves.

      I am at the point that if I have to go through one more inspection (the PM only started them last autumn) I’m getting out of here. Every three months this young kid arrives and goes through the place taking pictures and making comments. I ask him, what’s up – all the jobs at the TSA or IRS filled? At the end, he loftily pronounces the place “well taken care of”. I humbly thank my lord and master for the seal of approval and wonder if the pictures are kept well secured.

      Next thing I know the PM office is on the phone scheduling the next one. I’m getting out of here as soon as possible.

      • Michelle and Mary: I completely agree with your comments!

        I understand that rental inspections are important, but there is a fine line between keeping tabs on your investment and being unacceptably intrusive. I always pay rent in full and on time, and I take excellent care of whatever property I’m renting. In fact, my landlord has commented that she’d be thrilled if her other tenants cared half as much for their rental homes as I care for mine. I’m a very responsible, low-stress tenant who has never caused any problems of any kind.

        And yet I am subjected to rental inspections AT LEAST every couple of months. Frankly, I’ve had enough of it. I’m not paying $2200 per month to have my privacy invaded on a regular basis, and I’ve done nothing to warrant these regular intrusions. As soon as my current lease expires, I’m gone. I will not stand for such ridiculousness.

        Landlords should be aware that responsible, upstanding tenants do not want or need to be subjected to inspections every 5 seconds. If you are not conscious of this fact, you will LOSE good tenants who otherwise would’ve stayed, paid regularly and taken impeccable care of your investment properties.

  9. I have a question about selling commercial/Income property. What is the general custom
    regarding who pays for what, i.e., property inspection, closing costs, etc., buyer or seller, or
    is it a split? I know for residential property the buyer usually pays for property inspection, and
    closing costs can be split or negotiated. I will be selling a deceased relative’s small apartment
    building soon & need some answers. I am in the Southern California area.

  10. I have the same problem with inspection, I take good care of the apartment and still the agency does these harassing inspection, Do you know that you can get help from renting advising bureau ? It is illegal and breach of your privacy and harassment , beside deposit is there to handle any damage occurred, I am a Landlord as well and My goal is happy tenants and not how much money I can save, every business has a goal of giving certain service so if you renters are subjected to this get together complain to authorities get yourself heard against this and get yourself treated with respect. In every business sometimes there are bad experiences that does not mean one should subject good renters to this intimidating behaviour , it is just penalising honest people because of few bad apples soon agencies will loose good renters or be fined for doing such illegal actions, no one has right to inspection unless you yourself ask to repair something so get it guys this illegal and should be stopped , renters are real people and have a right to decency. When you rent then that is part of the problem you inherit that you have to sometime handle some damages, I just take my loss and keep my renters happy and they stay and most are leaving the apartment in good condition. But I will never subject them to this humiliation, they have a right to their privacy .

    • Sofie, thank you for your comment and your attitude (as a LL). I’ve had a few interesting experiences as a low maintenance type of renter – always pay on time, take care of the little things myself. I find the inspections border on harassment (quarterly). I also found out that they charge my landlord $55 per (could be more, old info) inspection so there’s motivation on the part of the PM.

      They (the PM) also seem very concerned about no communication between the LL and us. We would speak to each other occasionally. The PM sent me an email commanding me to cease communications with the LL. It could have been prompted by the LL, but interaction has been minimal, and after all, that’s why the LL hired the PM – so they could take care of things. I understand. I called the PM and said now I feel very uncomfortable and may leave. The LL was on the phone in minutes, telling me to calm down (I actually wasn’t excited about it. Offended, yes.)

      Why are they so worried about me speaking to him? At one point he wanted to sell the place to us and that was most of our discussion. He mentioned he keeps getting charges added on to his monthly bill and doesn’t know what they’re for (he’s not a professional LL.) If I were him I wouldn’t trust the property manager and confirm work/inspections have actually been done. Their ratings are poor on Yelp.

      TL:DR Inspections are an invasion of privacy.

  11. I wish my land lord had come down at least once a YEAR!!! I lived there for 6 years and they did not step foot in the house once, ok maybe once to pick up some mail that was it. I thought I was lucky because I had lost my home in 2008 due to lay off and not being able to find a job. These people where the parents of a friend of my son. When they found out that I was looking for an apartment they called and said their tenets where moving out would I be interested, no security deposit, ok if it sounds to good to be true. Before I moved in I asked about a lease we don’t need one we trust you. Well my first clue should have been moving in I noticed the fence gate was busted, I asked the answer I got was the pizza guy hit it, you can call the pizza place to see if you can get them to take care of it. The next thing was the central air, there was a drip in the basement from the unit was told the guy that fixed it screwed up I was more then welcome to call them. The next year the leak/drip was emptying buckets several times a day I finally got the part and a friend fixed it, they never had the furnace serviced, nor after 5 years replace the kitchen floor that was coming apart when this was brought up I was asked if I could wait until September/October you guessed it came and went. The straw that broke the camels back the gutters kept sagging I had my lawn guy look at it he was able to secure it but said that the wood behind the gutters was rotted and would need to be replaced, told land lord well hansens put the gutters in before we moved, I tried to explain it was not the gutter, but the wood behind it needs to be addressed well it was not they never even came down, then it pulled away again and I had critters coming in I had it temperaily secured and told them this really needed to be addressed again nothing, then the fence started falling over into the yard, again they told me they would be down, but 4 months later called and said just have your boys take it down, no way that is happening told them. I was a real rental virgin so to speak, never rented anything on my own especially a home but this was a night mare. I wanted to put the electric in my name but they said no that it was ok the way it was, I told them that I needed to work out a budget plan with the electric company they said no problem just call and say you are me, really. I come to find out that these people needed to register this home with the township which would have required an inspection from them yearly but they did not do this, they also from my understanding where committing mortgage fraud when I told them I was moving they stated well we are not going to do repairs we are just going to turn it over to the mortgage company. They then came back and said we will do repairs, I told them that based on what I had learned I thought it was best we involved the township to put this right, they refused and called me every name in the book, I saved their refusal, stopped paying rent and got out with in 4 weeks, I notified them the date Two days before I moved the electricity was shut off. Now 4 months later they want me to pay water, and electric that are in her name, and something about a hole in the wall. I notified the city before I moved about the situation, and discovered the tenets before me also reported her, she told them 6 years prior her son was living there, but he was not it was me the whole time, they gave me the week end to move out. She cut the power off on me on that Friday, which made it difficult to get any cleaning or work done on the house I just took what I could and left. I would have loved to have someone that came and cared about the house and the people staying in it. She says she is taking me to small claims which is fine I think at this point we need the court to put a stop to her harassing, and do what is right because what she wants out of me I do not think she is entitled to, so we will let the courts decide. I did save all my receipts. I will never get involved in a a situation like this again, I will have a lease that clearly defines everything, and I will be happy to set up inspections with the landlord, I have been through what can happen, also make sure if a rental property is required to registered with the city that it is this could be a real life saver if your land lord fails to ensure the dwelling is safe.

    • I really need help with what the first step I have to take in getting someone who does rental property inspections. When my family and I moved in we signed this “hand written lease” that didn’t allow or offer us a move in check off list…at the time we moved in we were agreed for a month to month, $850 for a 3 bedroom house. Now immediately after we were all moved in, paid for everything we had agreed on, the landlord started renovating the ENTIRE UPSTAIRS, which is where the 3rd bedroom is located. This went on for about the first 4-6 months we lived here. Our landlord hired someone who I’m guessing wasn’t actually certified in the business or work in which he was doing because he had been cutting, sanding, and just openly working with the upstairs door off the hinges so all that drywall dust was floating all throughout the ENTIRE HOUSE for several months. Every one of us got a severe chest cold from exposure to all of his dust and work. I was also pregnant at the time, and had our 5 year old son living here as well.

      After 6-7 months that job was finally done. Then he started tearing up the sidewalk and front and back steps and replacing the concrete that led around the sidewalk into the back and front doors, which was obviously a very unsafe environment for our son let alone the ENTIRE family.

      This house was by no means up to code when we moved in. Even know there are live electrical wires in the garage that his main maintenance man warned us about and said he was going to get to it RIGHT AWAY…It’s been almost 2 years and I was zapped the other day because I flipped the wrong light switch on in the garage.

      How do I go about contacting the right person to come out and do a safety inspection or who do I need to contact to set up a home inspection because the landlord has never been here once since we moved in let alone has had an inspection done. PLEASE PLEASE help me out, anyone….

  12. I’m having trouble collecting rent from a “friend/co-worker”. We have what I thought to be an iron clad lease, but they keep trying to take advantage of my easy going side. This month she showed up late, and casually stated she was “a little short ($140)”. I’ve decided it’s time to sell. I have a stipulation in the lease that I have to give 30 days notice to put it on the market; once it sells, they have to vacate. I want to get a proper home inspection, and want the tenants out of the property when this is conducted (they’ve resisted not being there when I wanted to do the routine and safe inspections). Can I require them to not be home so the inspector can do a thorough job? Thanks.

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