Inspecting your Atlanta rental property will help you keep it well-maintained and guarantee your tenants are following the terms of the lease. There are several particular times when inspections are especially needed. Before a tenant moves in and after a tenant moves out, you’ll want to inspect your investment and document its condition. It’s also essential to get inside the property to take a look around at least one time during a tenancy. Driving by the home every so often without going inside can give you an idea of whether your tenants are taking care of the property the way you assume they will.
Conducting a Move-In Inspection: Tenancy Preparations
Your property ought to be in good shape before a tenant moves in. As we argued in a previous blog, preparing your property for the rental market means making sure everything is fresh, functional, and comfortable for your tenants. Once you have a tenant approved and the move-in funds are received, you need to prepare for the tenancy. The move-in inspection is meant to make sure everything is working and ready. It’s also an opportunity to document the property condition before you deliver it to your new tenants. This is important because you’ll expect to get the property back looking the same, except for general and permitted wear and tear.
Documentation and detail are the most significant parts of your move-in inspection. It’s important to go through every room. It’s important to open every closet and every drawer. Take a look at the ceilings, the floors, the walls, the doors, and the windows. Absolutely everything must be inspected, photographed, and noted. This is the best way to protect yourself from a security deposit dispute 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 suggest an inspection checklist to help you stay organized and cover all the bases. Your checklist should include:
- A list of rooms, amenities, appliances, and other features of the home.
- Checkboxes for things like air conditioning units, water heaters, furnaces, etc.
- Space to note how the space looks. 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.
The pictures must be date and time stamped so you can show when they were taken. Photograph everything. You’ll want to file these pictures with your inspection checklist. Collect photos of the interior and the exterior. These pictures will show the condition of every part of your property.
When your tenant moves in, give him or her a copy of your inspection checklist. Invite your tenant to add anything that you might have missed. Maybe your tenant will 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.
Drive-by Inspections of Your Atlanta Rental Property
Following an outstanding tenant screening process, you have likely placed tenants who are accountable and responsible enough to take care of your property. Even if you’re confident with the tenants you have placed, it is still a good idea to drive by your property once in a while. This lets you check things out without bothering your tenants or invading their privacy.
While you’re in the neighborhood, check out the exterior of the property and note whether the lawn and yard are being maintained. Look for clutter or debris that may be scattered outside the home. See if you notice any evidence of pets. If there’s a dog running around the front yard and your tenants moved in with only a cat, you will want to address this lease violation. Drive by at night when you can, to ensure 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, you’ll need someone to keep an eye on it for you. This is one reason to consider working with a professional Atlanta property management company. Your property manager will be local, and close to the home. A good property manager will drive by and be your eyes and ears whether you’re out of town, out of state, or even out of the country.
Inspecting an Occupied Rental Property
Some property owners wish they could inspect their properties every month. They might expect a property manager to get inside their home as often as possible to check on it and make sure the tenants are taking care of it. We can understand this, but we think you have to balance your routine inspections with your tenant’s expectation of privacy. This may be a property that you own, but it’s someone else’s home. You cannot show up every month demanding to go inside.
Consider conducting a routine inspection of the rental property every year. Give your tenants plenty of written notice and let them know you’ll be inspecting for maintenance issues. A good tenant will not feel threatened by this, and may want to be present while you inspect. This can be 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. 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.
Schedule any work that’s needed right away. Your tenants will appreciate your responsiveness.
This is also a good time to check for lease violations. If your tenant paid a pet fee for one cat and you find two dogs and three cats, 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 Atlanta
At the end of a tenancy, you will need to inspect the property and compare its condition to the condition you documented before the tenant moved in.
Provide your tenants with a move-out checklist. This will ensure they understand your expectations and show them how they can get their security deposit back. Provide them with this checklist as soon as they give you notice that they’re moving 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 should be consistent with your lease and sent in writing.
Once the tenant has vacated the home, you can go inside 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 what you find in each room, with as much detail as you used 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 it’s certainly acceptable for you 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 cannot charge your tenant’s security deposit for things that are considered 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 Atlanta 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.
Feel free to contact us at Specialized Property Management Atlanta if you have any questions about inspections or professional property management.