What to look for when inspecting a rental property
I was inspired to write this post by an incident that happened the other day. I had to gain access to an apartment to check a ventilation system. When I entered the unit, I noticed the smoke detector was missing from the living room, I then discovered that the smoke detector in the hall (which is hard wired) was not working. When you see problems, even if you are there for a different reason, it is important to take action. It is impossible to unsee something. What I did in this case, was go to a local building supply centre and picked up a new smoke detector. I installed it and got in touch with the tenant about the missing smoke detector.
It is important to do a walk through at least once per year to look for maintenance items. We have some tenants that will call us for minor problems, and other tenants that never contact us, and of course everything in between. If you are in a unit between your annual checks (as I was the other day) it is important to take a quick glance around. Look for things like dripping taps, water heaters, washing machines, check around windows and doors for signs of leaks and just the overall condition of the unit. We have been able to solve several maintenance issues just by looking around, whenever we are in a unit.
Property management is a physical activity, you need to stay involved.
I am not sure if I over do it, but I do a weekly drive by on all our local properties. I do not go inside them, but I take a look at the exterior for anything unusual.
Some of the things I have been able to find and take action on are as follows:
Loose siding flapping in the wind, I was able to reattach it, before it got damaged.
Paint peeling – It is amazing how easily you can increase curb appeal with a bit of paint. I have noticed paint peeling around windows, foundations, and rust spots on doors.
Facia board – after windstorms, I have lost a few pieces of facia. I have been able to reattach it, sometimes I have been able to find the piece that blew off. I once discovered that all the wood under the aluminum facia on a particular house was rotten , so I was able to address that problem.
Leaning oil tank – I once noticed an oil tank that was leaning due to the ground shifting under it, I was able to contact a tank installer and get it levelled up.
Over grown bushes – I have seen small trees and bushes start to take over the front of a house. That can be easily be brought under control.
Garbage and recyclables placed at the curb on the correct day – I once had a by-law enforcement officer contact me to say I would get a fine if I did not remove the recyclables from in front of one of our houses right away. I got in touch with the tenant and they had gone to there cottage for a couple of weeks, so they figured they would place the recyclables out a week early. I went by and picked up the bag in question.
I also do a yard walk about every four months. It is important to take a quick look at the back of the house, here are some of the things I have found:
Check decks – I noticed a deck starting to pull away from a house, I immediately contacted my general contractor and had joist hangers and proper bolts to support the deck properly installed.
Items placed on oil lines – make sure to check oil tank lines, it is amazing what you might find piled on oil lines, I have seen, rakes, rocks, bikes, and garden hoses tangled in oil lines.
Excessive dog poop – We allow dogs at some properties based on strict guidelines. One thing we require is that the yard does not get full of dog poop, also we check to make sure dogs do not dig holes. Dogs can do a lot of damage to a yard.
Garbage stacked up – we have been able to correct the bad habit of tenants stacking garbage bags on back steps or decks.
Neglected lawns – Some of our lawns are mowed by lawn mowing companies and some are cut by the tenants. Either way, we do not want our lawns over grown. I can remember doing a drive by on a property and I noticed the grass was getting really long. When I went by on week number two, I called the company that was taking care of the lawn. They gave me an excuse about rain (that is a common excuse I have heard from smaller lawn care companies). The good new is, that they came right away and mowed it, then I never had a problem after that.
I will save the annual inspection list for another post, I just wanted to share my story on the importance of being an active property manager.
Michael P Currie