When I first started my property management company, Olson Property Services (OPS), I included in our terms of service that we would inspect our clients’ properties quarterly, or four times a year. Over my decades of owning rental properties myself, I have determined that four is the “magic number” for property inspections in nearly all cases. However, many rental owners never inspect their properties between the time the tenant signs the lease and the time the tenant moves out. Here is why I believe that is not frequent enough to maintain your properties’ performance at optimal levels:
- Not inspecting a property during occupancy prevents you from taking preventative maintenance steps.
- Tenants who are unwilling to let you inspect a property are more likely to try to “live with” unlivable conditions, which is a liability for you.
- A lack of inspections often leads to huge repair bills when the tenant moves out.
- Fewer than four inspections a year increases the odds you will have a fight on your hands over the security deposit.
- Fewer than four inspections a year decreases your chances of spotting seasonal damage.
Of course, there are many tenants who are not interested in having a property manager look around their home four times a year. For this reason, we always put the requirement in the lease and explain the reasoning behind it to the tenant when they sign. It is very important the tenant does not feel as if the quarterly inspections target them unfairly, which is one reason we put it in every lease. Additionally, we present the inspections as a service (which they are) rather than as “checking up” on the tenant.
For example, one of the things we do when we perform our quarterly inspections is look for minor leaks. Every rental owner knows that minor leaks can lead to major problems because they often go undetected for extended periods of time. During the time a small drip is hiding under a sink, for example, mold can grow (threatening the health of the residents), rot can spread (threatening the health of the property), and water is wasted. Over time, the costs will affect both the property owner and the resident. Quarterly inspections by property management seeking just this kind of “drain” on your finances and the health of your property protects everyone.
Quarterly inspections also help property managers combat two types of tenants who can create serious maintenance and repair issues for rental owners: the “it’s too much trouble” tenant and the “it’s not my fault” tenant. Both types of tenant are prone to hiding maintenance issues or opting to “live with” them instead of asking for a repair. We have even seen these types of tenants close off a bathroom (clog and all) in order to avoid “bothering” the maintenance staff or being blamed for the clog (which usually isn’t part of the discussion anyway). As you probably already know, leaving a maintenance issue like a clogged toilet to fester unchecked is bad for the tenant’s health and the property. A quarterly check prevents this behavior from getting out of hand.
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