By: Wojciech Kic
For a landlord, the periodic inspection of a rental property is one of the many essential ownership responsibilities.The technical aspect of a physical property inspection will vary from property to property and from landlord to landlord.The age of a property and the type of construction will impact the focus of a rental property inspection.
The landlord’s ownership experience with other properties will also impact the landlord’s inspection priorities.While the benefit of property inspections to the property upkeep cannot be overstated, the impact of property inspections on the tenant is often overlooked.
The beginning of any discussion about the impact of property inspection on the tenants, and thus the stability of the lease, starts with the purchase of a property by the landlord.Typically, before the acquisition of a rental property, the property undergoes
a lengthy inspection process. At first, the prospective landlord conducts the property inspection. The inspection is cursory. It simply involves a build up of the landlord’s self-assurance that the property will meet acceptance by potential tenants. After the buyer and the seller agree on the purchase agreement, a licensed real estate inspector inspects the property.This time the property inspection is very detailed.The real estate inspector will look at everything under the roof of a property, including the roof itself, and will issue an inspection report.
The prospective landlord will usually use the written property inspection report to ensure additional repairs at the property. On occasion, due to the discovery of hidden and expensive repairs, the prospective landlord may use the inspection report to withdraw from the proposed purchase transaction altogether.
After acquisition of a rental property, the landlord will immediately market the property for rent to obtain a lease agreement with a new tenant. A typical lease agreement will contain clauses that allow new landlord’s access to the property for many purposes including a property inspection.With a signed lease agreement on hand the new landlord rests easy. A periodic property inspection clause assures the landlord that the condition the landlord purchased the property in will never happen again. Sometime later, the landlord schedules the proper ty inspection with the tenants. Tenants not only patiently cooperate, but also provide the landlord with suggestions of future potential maintenance problems in the property.Within weeks, the landlord completes the newly discovered deferred maintenance. But within the next couple of months of property inspection, the tenants suddenly move out. What happened?
From the tenant’s perspective, it is the tenants who are responsible for observing the physical breakdowns in the proper ty. After all, it is only the tenants who, by living in the property, can observe daily property breakdowns and report them to the landlord’s attention.The tenants fulfill that responsibility if for no other reason so that they are not held responsible for causing repairs in the first place. Thus, tenants wonder what the periodic property inspections by the landlord are all about. Further, property inspection by the landlord communicates to the tenants the landlord’s lack of confidence in his residents. Conversely, tenants’ confidence in their own common sense and ability to be good tenants quickly disappears.Tenants withdraw from the maintenance reporting process.The landlord is suddenly without eyes in his own property. But property breakdowns happen on their own and not on the landlord’s annual inspection schedule. Unattended repairs like bad germs quickly infect other parts of the property. To discover an old maintenance problem at the annual property inspection is a “day late and a dollar short.” Why couldn’t the tenants tell me earlier?
The luckier landlord quickly loses his tenant after conducting property inspections. Those tenants suddenly move out without regard to the lease agreement because the inspection itself is viewed as the landlord?s invitation to move out. Why?
The tenant well knows that the landlord is not capable of a detailed and expert inspection.The tenant knows that the job is best left to professional property inspectors.The tenant also knows that the daily reporting of maintenance problems is the tenant’s job. Thus, the tenant views the proper ty inspection process as the landlord’s interference in the tenant’s personal lifestyle, the proverbial “tax man’s” impulsive abuse of power.The tenant also knows that the landlord always wants a better tenant; the property inspection becomes personal to the tenant. Moving out is a strike against the landlord; the strike is successful because the landlord’s ability to retaliate against the tenant is not there.
At best, the property inspection causes an interrupted cash flow to the landlord.
At worst, the property suffers from the lack of necessary maintenance exactly whenneeded. What the landlord does not know is that the pattern will continue. How then does the landlord effectively handle inspection of the property?
To a degree, the landlord must develop confidence in his tenants by appreciating the tenant’s reporting of all maintenance problems at the property as quickly as they develop.Thus, the tenants will continue the daily “self” inspections of the property. For
a periodic inspection, the landlord must develop confidence in property inspection by others, just as he did when purchasing the property in the first place. Hiring a licensed property inspector must become a necessary part of the landlord?s budget.The professional inspector’s indifference to the tenants will guarantee the tenants’ continued fulfillment of the responsibility to report property problems daily. But still, wouldn’t a personal property inspection by the landlord be better? Not until the landlord is prepared to accept the tenants’ reports about the necessary maintenance at the property as . . . good news!
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