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Any property with people living in it will inevitably go through some changes over time. Decor and furnishings may become tired and scuffed, items may become damaged or obsolete and need repairing or replacing and the general condition of the building will age and deteriorate without maintenance. All these things are perfectly normal, but they need to be kept an eye on in order to maintain the property in the long term. This is where the idea of periodic property inspections comes in.
Why are inspections necessary?
Because the property you own is likely to be your most significant material asset, protecting the investment you made is hugely important. The main purpose of inspecting your property is, therefore, to check for any signs that the building and its contents may need maintenance, repair or upkeep in order to protect your investment. By inspecting your property, you can check for signs of deterioration or decay that need to be addressed before they wipe any value off your asset.
The other main reason for inspecting your property is because of the responsibilities you have as a landlord to maintain a decent standard of accommodation for your tenants. If left unchecked, there are some elements that could make your rental property a less than acceptable place to live, including:
- Broken electrical sockets
- Broken fixtures and fittings
Inspecting the property allows you to keep an eye on the quality of living space that you are renting to your tenants and arrange maintenance, repairs or replacements if necessary. Conversely, in the rare circumstance that your tenants might be misusing the home for illegal activities, you will be able to see what damage they may be doing to your property.
How often should you inspect a property?
This is one of the key decisions when it comes to how you wish to operate as a landlord. How often you inspect your property will depend on a number of factors, including:
- The age and condition of your property at the start of a tenancy
- Whether your tenants have children or pets
- Any history of decay such as mould, damp or rot
A sensible minimum frequency of inspections would be once a year, but if you have concerns about any aspect of the upkeep of the property, then you may want to consider inspecting more regularly.
You should be wary of over-inspecting the property, however, as this can cause friction with your tenants and impede on their right to ‘quiet enjoyment’ of their home. This is an important issue that we address below.
Your legal responsibilities
An important mantra to remember when going about your duties as a landlord is that while the house or apartment may be your property, it is the tenants’ home. Entering your tenants’ home should always be done respectfully and entirely legally.
Whether or not it is stipulated in your tenancy agreement, the minimum period of notice you should give tenants ahead of an inspection is 24 hours, though to maintain a good relationship, a good amount of advance notice is recommended.
You should give your tenant this notice in writing, via email or letter, and a text message or phone call will help ensure that they know exactly when you wish to enter the property.
What should you inspect?
As the owner, you have the right to inspect the entire property, but there are some areas that are of greater importance than others. Key things to look out for include:
- Evidence of damp and mould (especially black mould in bathrooms)
- Leaks or plumbing issues such as constantly running toilet cisterns
- Fair wear and tear
- Damage to fixtures and fittings
- Electrical sockets - check that these are working or ask the tenants if they have experienced any issues
- Evidence of illegal activities such as drug cultivation
- Issues such as rot in the loft - this is often overlooked
- The general condition of the garden (if applicable) - including any sheds
Assuming you have a good working relationship with your tenants, it is best to ask in advance of your inspection if they have any issues they wish to discuss regarding the state of the property.
By conducting periodic inspections and maintaining a good dialogue with your tenants, you may come across damage or breakages to the fixtures and fittings, the landlords contents or the building itself. The repair costs involved can often be covered by Superscript's landlord insurance, especially our policy that is specifically designed for private residential landlords.
How intrusive is too intrusive?
As a landlord, you have the right to inspect the entire property, including bedrooms and built-in closets, but you should exercise good judgement in deciding how intrusive to be. If the general condition of the property is good and the tenants have not reported any issues in their personal quarters, then there usually won’t be any need to be overly intrusive.
Respecting your tenants’ privacy
As mentioned above, it is important not to over-inspect your property when you have tenants in residence. Whether it is written explicitly in your tenancy agreement or not, tenants in the UK have an implied right to what is known as ‘quiet enjoyment’ of their home, a covenant that dates back centuries in British law.
This covenant of ‘quiet enjoyment’ means that you should not unduly interrupt or interfere with the property during a tenancy, leaving your tenants to enjoy their home in peace. Inspecting a property more than four times a year, other than in emergencies, may be construed as unreasonable interruption.
Finally, it is worth remembering that your inspection is of the property, not of the tenants themselves. You should only be inspecting issues to do with maintenance and upkeep of the property, as well as any breaches of the contract.
Preparing a property inspection report
There is no legal obligation for landlords to make any formal reports after inspecting a property. However, it is good practice to make notes of the general condition of the property and highlight any specific issues that either need attention or to be kept an eye on. By comparing your notes from one inspection to another, you can better assess the condition of your property over time.
You may wish to prepare a more formal inspection report and share it with your tenants, meaning everyone is kept aware of any issues or concerns. Things to cover in your report include:
- Condition of the carpets, decor and soft furnishings
- Assessment of general wear and tear
- Any damage to fixtures and fittings
- Instances of damp or mould
- Evidence of potential breaches of tenancy agreement (drug use, pets, sub-letting etc.)
- Missing inventory items
- Fixed appliances or white goods potentially in need of replacement
- Condition of the garden (if applicable)
- Confirmation that safety items (carbon monoxide and smoke alarms, fire extinguishers/blankets) are in place
- Confirmation of any concerns of the tenants regarding the property
Landlords’ property inspection checklist
So, we’ve covered the reasons why you should periodically inspect your property, how often you should do so and what your legal responsibilities are, as well as the areas that you should inspect and how to report them. Here, then, is a checklist of actions to take when inspecting your property to make sure your visit is efficient, useful and as unobtrusive as possible.
|Before the inspection||Review the notes or report from the last inspection|
|Give the tenants at least 24-hours notice|
|Ask your tenants if they have any issues to report|
|During the inspection||Check the loft and garden (if applicable)|
|Check for damp and mould|
|Ensure safety appliances are in place|
|Note condition of decor|
|Note condition of soft furnishings|
|Check electrical sockets work|
|Check plumbing for leaks|
|Check for misuse of the property|
|After the inspection||Write up an inspection report (optional)|
|Share report with the tenants|
|Arrange for repairs/maintenance|
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