Tips For Conducting An Annual Rental Property Inspection

Apr 12, 2024

The annual rental property inspection is a landlord responsibility that benefits both the property owner and the tenant. These inspections are general in nature, but important to ensure lease compliance and proper care of the property. Let’s look at a general approach to conducting an annual inspection, items to focus on during the inspection, plus a few general tips. We’ll also look at why a landlord might want to outsource inspections.

Basic Steps To Prepare

Every property is different, but whether you have a single family rental or a two hundred unit multi-family complex, following these five simple steps will make the inspection process efficient and effective.

Step 1: Draft a detailed inspection checklist for the specific property.

Step 2: Schedule the inspection and provide tenants with proper notice of entry. Explain the nature of the inspection and what they need to do to prepare, if anything.

Step 3: Conduct the inspection, create a list of corrective actions, and share the results of the inspection with tenants. Provide specific due dates for corrections or repairs.

Step 4: Implement corrective actions as necessary.

Step 5: Inspect corrective actions, whether completed by the tenant or a contractor (e.g. a repair).

Inspection Checklist

Inspection checklists should focus on items that are important to the health and welfare of the tenants and that protect the owner’s investment. General areas of inspection should include:

Occupants: Confirm that all who reside in the property are either tenants or occupants identified in the lease. Look for unauthorized sublets and instances of overcrowding.

Vehicles: Cars regularly garaged/parked on the property should be listed in the tenant’s rental application and/or lease and should have current registrations. Verify that vehicles are not causing damage, such as oil dripping on the garage floor, driveway or parking space and damage to walls or posts due to careless parking.

Exterior: Inspect for damage to structure exteriors, the presence of trash on the ground and open trash and recycling containers. Grounds should be properly maintained, whether by the landlord or the tenant per the lease, including clipping of greens (grass, shrubs, trees) and clearing of gutters and drain pipes.

Property Inventory: Visually inspect all personal property items provided by the landlord and identified in the lease, such as appliances (clothes washer, dryer, counter top microwave oven), garage door openers, and fire extinguishers. 

Interior: Inspect general condition of walls, floors, windows and window coverings, light switches, power outlets, doors and locks. If the tenant has replaced any locking door knobs or dead bolts or has added a locking door knob to a door that previously didn’t have a lock, make sure they provide a key. Landlords should have keys to every door on their property.

Systems: Test systems to confirm proper operation: heating, air conditioning, water heater, smoke alarms, lawn sprinklers, etc. Check consumable items that should be replaced periodically, such as water filters in refrigerators with ice makers, furnace filters, smoke alarms, and CO2 alarms.

Inspections are mostly visual with function tests of basic systems. If more specific inspections are needed, consider having a licensed plumber, electrician, or other tradesman with expertise in the system.

General Inspection Tips

  • Be firm with inspection dates and give proper notice of entry – don’t allow tenants to avoid inspection by denying lawful entry.
  • Complete any previously-identified repair actions before the inspection.
  • Complete the checklist during the inspection and have the tenant sign it if they are present.
  • Take pictures of everything – not just problems. When possible, bring someone to take pictures as you inspect.
  • Prepare a report for the tenant/property file that includes the completed checklist and photos.
  • If there is a question regarding condition or proper operation of any surface, feature or system, call in a specialist for a more complete inspection (plumber, electrician, etc.).
  • If tenants are in violation of any section of their lease, provide written notice of the violaton and follow up in accordance with terms of the lease and all applicable laws.
  • If the inspection identifies a need for repairs, schedule repairs as soon as possible and re-inspect when complete.

Outsourcing The Inspection

Using a third party to conduct the inspection can be a convenience for out-of-town owners and busy landlords. Bringing in a third party also adds a heightened level of importance to the inspection and verifies the need to correct problems or make repairs. An outside inspector can also reduce friction between tenants and landlords when lease compliance issues are confirmed.

In Conclusion

Have questions or need help conducting an annual rental property inspection? Use the form below to contact us. Inspection services provided in the San Francisco Bay Area’s North Bay/Wine Country region (Napa, Solano, Sonoma, Marin, and Contra Costa Counties).


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