For a busy landlord, a quiet, uncomplaining tenant can seem like a gift – a gift that you wouldn’t want to spoil by calling them up and asking about problems. To many landlords, it sounds like looking for trouble. They don’t bother you, so why would you want to bother them? Let sleeping dogs lie, right? We sympathise. However, we also believe that regular inspections are absolutely necessary for any rental property.
Why should I inspect my rental property?
An inspection allows you as the landlord to evaluate the property’s condition in general. You can check to make sure that everything is working properly, and that both the interior and exterior of the property are in a reasonably good state.
Regular inspections allow you to locate minor problems before they become bigger – and more expensive – ones. For example, it will be a lot less costly (in terms of time and money) to fix a leak with a couple twists of the plumber’s wrench, than to repair major water damage once that leak has turned into a flood.
Keep in mind that many tenants find it a hassle to report minor issues. Most will come to you if there are major ones, but they will let the smaller problems slip by. So without regular inspections, you may not hear about a problem until it is far too late.
The inspection gives you a chance to check in on your tenants, to see how they are maintaining the property, and whether they have any problems.
How to go about it
With a new tenancy, it's a good idea to conduct inspections more or less quarterly. However, after the first couple, you can reduce the frequency to twice a year. Be careful not to make your visits too frequent (monthly, for example); this can cause problems for tenant relations, and can be construed as harassment.
For any inspection, appropriate notice needs to be given. The Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 s11 gives you as the landlord the right to enter the premises to view the "condition and state of repair", as long as you choose a "reasonable" time of day, and give 24 hours notice in writing to the tenant.
When the inspection happens, look at the general living conditions, as well as for any possible illegal activity. With regard to potential problems, there are a range of things you can look for including dampness and mould, leaks, the condition of the fittings, the condition of the garden, and whether the smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors are in good working order.
Whatever you find during your inspection, it is important to remember to keep it cordial. Among other things, the inspection is an opportunity for you to build and strengthen your relationship with your tenant.
A solid, friendly rapport with the people renting your property can make things a whole lot easier for you. Tenants often know the value of a good landlord and are more likely to stay if they feel you are a friendly, reasonable person that they can rely on.
If you just don't have time for regular inspections, you should consider having your property professionally managed. This service will normally cost a percentage of the rent charged, but it will give you peace of mind.