Regular inspections of your San Antonio rental property will allow you to keep it well-maintained. It also ensures your tenants are taking care of it and following your lease terms. There are two instances in which inspections are absolutely necessary. These times are right before a tenant moves in and immediately after a tenant moves out. You should also go inside the property and take a look around annually. Drive-by inspections can also give you an idea of whether your tenants are taking care of the property the way you expect them to.
Preparing for Tenants with a Move-In Inspection
A good San Antonio landlord will make sure the property is in good shape before a tenant moves in. As we discussed in a previous blog, preparing your property for the rental market means making sure everything is clean, functional, and habitable for your new tenants. Once a tenant is approved and ready to move in, you need to prepare for the tenancy. The move-in inspection will make sure everything is working and ready. It’s also your opportunity to document the condition of the property before you hand it over to your tenants. This is an important part of the move-in process, because you’ll expect to get the property back looking the same, except for general and permitted wear and tear.
Documentation and detail are critical. Take the time to visit every room. Open every closet and every drawer. Check the ceilings, the floors, the walls, the doors, and the windows. Absolutely everything should be inspected, photographed, and noted in writing. This is the only way to protect yourself after a tenant moves out. If damage is left behind and you want to charge the tenant’s security deposit, you’ll need to demonstrate that the property looked much different before the tenant moved in. This inspection helps you do that.
We recommend a good landlord inspection checklist, which will help you stay organized. Your checklist should include:
- A list of every room in the house, as well as a page for amenities, appliances, and other features of the home.
- A checklist where you can note the condition of air conditioning units, water heaters, furnaces, etc.
- Space to make notes about anything you find. You might want to note a chip in the countertops or some worn carpet right at the entryway, for example.
- Notes about pictures and videos you’ll take.
- Space for notes on the move-out inspection, which will come later.
Be sure to date and time stamp the photos so you can be definitive about when they were taken. File these pictures with your inspection checklist.
When your tenant moves in, give that tenant a copy of your inspection checklist. Invite your tenants to add anything that you might not have noticed during your inspection. Maybe they’ll report that a light isn’t working in a closet or there’s a hole in a window screen. Both of you need to sign the inspection report, agreeing to the condition of the property at move-in.
Inspecting Your San Antonio Rental Property from the Street
After your thorough tenant screening, you have surely placed residents who are responsible and understand how to take care of your property. Even if you’re confident with the tenants you have placed, it makes sense to drive by your property every month or so. This allows you to check things out without disturbing your tenants or invading their privacy.
As you’re driving by, visually inspect the exterior of the property and note whether the lawn and yard are being maintained. Look for clutter or debris outside the home. See if you notice evidence of pets. If there’s a German Shepherd running around the front yard and you have a no-pets policy, you will want to address this immediately with your renters. Drive by at night when you can, so you’ll know if there’s enough exterior lighting and to see if the home looks quiet. If you’re getting complaints about noise from neighbors, this is a good way to see what your tenants are up to.
If you don’t live close to your rental property, this will be a challenge. It’s a good reason to hire a professional San Antonio property management company. Your property manager will be local, and close to the home. This will enable him or her to drive by and be your eyes and ears whether you’re out of town, out of state, or even out of the country.
Inspecting a Rental Property During a Tenancy
We know there are property owners who want to get inside their home frequently to check on it and make sure the tenants are taking care of it. We can understand this anxiety, but you need to balance regular inspections with your tenant’s privacy and right to enjoy the home. This may be a property that you own, but it’s someone else’s home. You cannot show up without notice, demanding to go inside.
We recommend an annual routine inspection of the rental property. Give your tenants plenty of notice and let them know you’ll be looking for maintenance issues and to check the systems and functions of the home. A good tenant will not feel threatened by this inspection, especially if you mention it in your lease agreement. It’s a good opportunity to improve your relationship. You can talk to your tenants about their experience and whether there’s anything you can do to make them more comfortable. This will do a lot for tenant retention.
During this inspection, check for deferred or unreported maintenance. There may be things your tenants did not notice or didn’t feel were important enough to report. Look under sinks and make sure there are no leaks. Check the home’s insulation and look at the landscaping. Make sure the heating and air conditioning units are working, and ask the tenants if they’ve been changing the filters regularly. Make a note of the condition of the paint and the floors.
This is also the time to check for possible lease violations. If your tenant paid a pet fee for one dog, and you find two cats and a dog, you’ll want to address that and bring your tenant into compliance. If there are extra adults living there, you’ll need to get them screened and added to the lease, otherwise they need to leave. Look for evidence of smoking or criminal activity.
Conducting a Move-Out Inspection in San Antonio
At the end of a tenancy, it’s important to inspect the property and compare its condition to the condition you documented at move-in.
To ensure you and your tenants are on the same page and aware of expectations, provide your tenant with a move-out checklist. This will let them know exactly what you need to see at the property in order for them to have their security deposit returned. Provide them with this checklist as soon as they give you notice that they’re moving out. This will give them enough time to prepare for their move-out.
Your move-out checklist for tenants should include:
- Detailed cleaning requirements. Let them know if you’ll be satisfied with a home that’s broom-clean or if you want the carpets professionally steam cleaned before they leave.
- Instructions on how to return the keys, garage door openers, pool passes, or other items.
- A statement of any outstanding fees or dues, such as late fees, overdue rent, or utility payments.
- A copy of the move-in inspection report so they can be sure everything has been repaired, cleaned, and if necessary, replaced.
- A request for their forwarding address so you can send the security deposit or an accounting of how it was spent.
This move-out checklist must be consistent with your lease. Send it to your tenants in writing, either through email, regular mail, or hand-delivered.
Once the tenant has left your property, you can go into the home and conduct your inspection. Take a copy of your move-in inspection report, and use the same document to conduct your move-out inspection. Make notes on each room. Provide as much detail as you did with the first inspection; open every closet door, turn on each faucet, and make sure all the lights and locks are working. Some of the damage may be obvious; there could be a hole in a wall or a door that’s off its hinges. Other damage might be more subtle, like a child’s toy that’s jamming the garbage disposal or a yard that was completely dug up by a pet.
Remember that you are entitled to note wear and tear for purposes of what you’ll need to do to get the property ready for the next tenant, but you will not be able to charge your outgoing tenant’s security deposit for normal wear and tear. This includes small nail holes in the walls, scuff marks on the walls from furniture, and things of that nature.
If you inspect your San Antonio rental property routinely, you’ll be able to maintain its condition and preserve its value. You’ll also be able to enforce your lease and show your tenants that you’re committed to providing a well-maintained home.
Please contact us at Specialized Property Management San Antonio if you have any questions or need any help with rental property inspections.