Regularly-scheduled lease compliance inspections are the best way to reduce tenant complaints, keep minor maintenance problems from becoming major, and ensure compliance with state and local regulations governing operation of residential rental properties. Cities and counties are stepping up code enforcement inspections, making on-site visits to single and multi-family properties even when no tenant complaint has been filed. These inspections tend to focus on proper overall maintenance, inoperable systems and overcrowding. Landlords can avoid repeat visits and fines by conducting regular inspections before the government comes calling.
How Often To Inspect: Annual lease compliance inspections are sufficient for most properties, though semi-annual visits should be considered when tenants have a history of property abuse or non-compliance with terms of their lease. Inspections conducted more frequently without just cause could be considered intrusive and might violate the tenant’s right to quiet enjoyment of the property.
What To Inspect: Scheduled inspections should be conducted per the same checklist for all units in a multifamily facility and each item on the checklist should refer to a specific section of the lease. Comments or critiques regarding items not governed by the lease should be avoided, such as tenant interior decorating choices that do not violate the lease by damaging the property or being visible from outside the unit.
Typical checklists should include inspection and/or verification of:
- Current occupants by name as identified in the lease
- Signs of excessive wear or damage throughout the unit, including storage and parking areas
- Unauthorized remodeling, painting or other changes to the structure
- Functionality of all systems (plumbing, electrical, heating, cooling, etc.)
- Functionality of all locks and security devices
- Proper removal of trash and recycled items
- Evidence of illegal activity (consult your attorney about reporting such findings to law enforcement)
- All other requirements specified in the lease
Inspection Reports: Reports should be prepared for each unit and shared with tenants, even when no violations are found.
Corrective Action and Follow Up Inspections: Regardless of whether a corrective action is the responsibility of the landlord or tenant, it should be noted in the inspection report with dates or time frames for completing the correction. Follow up inspections should take place at the time of correction or soon thereafter and inspection reports should be amended to document the status of the corrective action. If a tenant fails to take corrective action within the period of time mutually agreed to with the landlord, that should be noted in a written report, too.
Why Use A Third Party Inspector: Most tenants are happy to cooperate with regular lease compliance inspections and value the landlord’s commitment to maintaining the property in good condition. Others, especially tenants who frequently violate the terms of their lease, may be less cooperative. Some may accuse the landlord of “having it out for them” or making false accusations regarding violations. A third party conducting a professional inspection can reduce the risk of unpleasant encounters with tenants while providing impartial evidence when a violation has occurred.
Cordon Real Estate provides lease compliance inspections and problem tenant interventions throughout Northern California. For a written proposal, contact John using Contact Us or by calling (707) 317-0280.