An Inspection Is Protection—for You and Your Investment!
As a Jacksonville area landlord, you have a lot of competing demands on your time:
- Much-needed maintenance work
- Late rent payments
- Tenant background checks
- Routine administrative work.
There are only so many hours in a day, and it can be all too easy to put less pressing matters on the back burner. Inspections are one such matter; they can be somewhat tedious and time-consuming, but they're an essential part of preventative maintenance and can help you catch small problems before they grow. If you're a new landlord, you may have a couple of questions: How often should you perform inspections, and for what should you be looking?
What Is a Rental Property Inspection?
In broad terms, a rental property inspection is a chance for you to physically inspect the condition of the interior and exterior of your property, and are typically performed:
- In response to some specific event: Pest inspections or inspections performed before a tenant moves in and out are typical examples of this sort of inspection.
- Routinely over the term of a lease: These types of inspections aren't intended to hold anyone liable for anything you find; they're simply a chance to identify issues before they get worse and take corrective action.
Inspections are essential to perform because they allow you to verify the condition of your property yourself rather than relying on the word of others. An inspection will enable you to establish a baseline about the state of the property so that you can compare it against your next inspection. Finally, an inspection will give you the chance to search for hidden issues that neither you or your tenants may have noticed in the past. We'll talk a little bit about a few common types of inspections next.
You should perform move-in inspections during the tenant move-in process—ideally with your tenant participating—before you've handed over the keys. Many landlords will use a move-in checklist to document pre-existing issues and have the tenant sign and date the form, and it's a common practice to take photos of existing damage. This checklist allows you to establish what issues arise after a tenant has moved in and ensures they're protected from inherited problems with the property. Some landlords will hand off the move-in checklist and leave it up to their tenants to document, but this isn't a good idea; inexperienced tenants may not know enough to look deeper than cosmetic damage. Remember, as a Jacksonville area landlord, you're required to abide by Florida law regarding move-in inspections; the law mandates that you "reasonably" inspect the condition of the property before transferring it, so don't neglect this step.
A move-out inspection is similar to a move-in inspection; it's a chance for you to take a look at the condition of the property when a tenant is done with their lease and prepared to move out. You'll want to duplicate the inspection you performed before move-in so that you can get a good comparison of any issues. Be sure to schedule this type of inspection at the right time:
- If you inspect too early, you may miss damage that tenants cause as they move out.
- If you schedule it too late, tenants may be able to claim that they have vacated the property and the damage may have occurred outside of the terms of their lease.
Ideally, you'll perform a move-out inspection on the day your tenants vacate your property (or the day immediately after if you've given something like a midnight deadline).
Pest issues can be a bit of a tricky subject; Florida law has a few things to say about it. Generally, unless you are renting a single-family home or duplex, a landlord is required to deal with certain types of pests unless otherwise agreed in writing. The list is relatively small, but it includes:
- Rats and mice
- Ants and wood-destroying organisms
Generally, this sort of inspection requires some amount of expertise to do effectively, and it's a good idea to outsource it to a pest control professional—especially where the application of any chemicals is concerned.
Routine inspections should be done periodically to make sure that your property is still in good shape. You get a chance to warn tenants about any damage they need to correct before they move out and deal with issues for which you are responsible at the same time. It's an excellent idea to perform this type of inspection routinely—remember, not all inspections need to be equally thorough. You can even do a "drive-by" inspection that allows you to look at the exterior of the property and check for any issues that might warrant a more thorough examination during one of your routine inspections.
Tips for Inspecting Properly
When performing most types of inspections, there are a few best practices that you should follow:
- In the Jacksonville area, you're required to give at least 12 hours notice that you intend to enter a property and your tenants may appreciate a little more time than that.
- Explain why you are performing the inspection. An explanation can help your tenants buy into the process and be more cooperative. Explain that it isn't personal and that it benefits them as much as you.
- Encourage your tenant to be home for the inspection. You won't find a better chance to get some face-to-face time with them and to have a conversation about anything the inspection uncovers as well as any concerns that you or they may have.
Don't use this as a chance to confront tenants about any problems that you may have. Even if you find something that raises concern, stay professional, and address issues in writing—verbal confrontations aren't a helpful way to address tenant issues. Don't be careless with your tenants' privacy during inspections, either: avoid taking pictures of expensive or personally identifying items or information.
An Expert Property Manager Is an Asset
You might be thinking that an in-depth, routine property inspection sounds like an extra burden on top of an already full plate—the good news is that you have someone in your corner. Green River Property Management offers routine interior and exterior inspections as well as move-in and move-out inspections as a part of our Full Service plan—including the associated reports.
Green River can help with other challenges landlords face as well, including rent collection, tenant placement, and maintenance services—day or night. If you're struggling to keep up with the demands of your property, reach out to Green River online or by phone for a FREE consultation. We can help you keep your workload manageable—and help you enjoy your investment to its fullest!