A famous comedian once quipped, “I installed a skylight in my apartment…The people who live above me are furious.” Granted, most tenants don’t take it that far—but you never know what happens between your last inspection and a tenant’s last day. Everything from improperly hung pictures to floor damage to some well-meaning—yet destructive—jury-rigging can be an unpleasant surprise during an inspection.
The key to making sure a Richmond property stays fresh and ready for the next tenant is via proper inspections—before and after the tenant lives there. When you investigate your property often, you protect yourself and your investment from surprises and disputes after move-out day.
Here’s what you can do to help make both inspections go smoothly—and prevent those "new skylight installations."
A Thorough Move-In Inspection Protects Your Property
Before a tenant moves in, the landlord needs to do a thorough inspection of the property. This sets a baseline, and it is a crucial step in maintaining your property investment portfolio.
Even if you recently had work done on the property to get it up to snuff, a separate move-in inspection needs to be done to document the existing condition of your rental unit. Here are some things to include in the investigation:
- The state of the walls and paint
- Flooring and carpeting
- Doors and windows
- All kitchen appliances, including tabletop units like microwaves
- Plumbing in the bathroom
- Plumbing in the kitchen and any miscellaneous plumbing like for a wet bar
- Light fixtures and cabinetry
- The refrigerator.
Further, you may have to include things on the exterior of your Richmond investment property, such as a parking space or gardens, landscaping, and accessories.
As a rule, anything that has a significant impact on the value of the home requires investigation. This helps shore up the value of your Richmond real estate portfolio.
Some things, such as water heaters, have a natural shelf life—and failure or malfunction can be expected. Document everything thoroughly ahead of time; this includes taking pictures. These "before" pictures can help you protect your properties if there are any disputes when the tenant moves out.
Discuss What Normal Wear and Tear Covers
Normal wear and tear can cover as much—or as little—as you and the tenant agree to. However, many landlords choose to include the following under the normal wear and tear category in their lease:
- Walls with minor scuffs
- Small scratches on the floor or worn-down carpet
- Small dents in metal appliances
- Rust and natural aging that may affect metal appliances like stoves and furnaces
- Items with continuous use—like fans and AC units
- Hinges on cabinets.
Keep in mind that anything necessary for the tenant to live in the unit safely and securely is the landowner’s responsibility to maintain—but beyond that, your tenants need to take reasonable care of your Richmond investment property.
When you have multiple investment properties, enforcing the lease on these issues can get challenging. Work with an expert property management company in Richmond to ensure that tenants are keeping up with their half of the lease.
Your Move-Out Inspection Is Crucial
While it can be tempting to skip to the chase and prepare for the next tenant, performing a proper move-out inspection could be the difference between a profitable rental—and one that puts you in the hole. Take the following steps:
- Inform the tenant, when the lease is signed, that there will be a move-out inspection.
- Tactfully remind the tenant about the move-out inspection during their residency. A good time would be every time the lease is renewed or during your seasonal inspections—but you don’t have to wait until then.
- When the tenant tells you they plan on moving out, remind them that you will have to do a move-out inspection.
- Arrange for a date to walk through the home with the tenant. If possible, this should be done the day they move out, after the removal of furniture. This way, there won’t be anything broken accidentally after the inspection.
- As you do the inspection, document the condition of everything with both written descriptions and photographs. Compare the present status of items outside of your wear-and-tear policy with their state in the “before” documentation. If necessary, share these with the tenant to clear up any misunderstandings.
What to Do If There Is Damage
If an item that’s not categorized under “normal wear and tear” has suffered damage, make a note of it. You will need to be clear with the tenant as to the impact this will have on how much of their security deposit gets returned—if any.
- If something requires repairs, you should try to have it fixed for a reasonable price.
- If an item needs replacing, you should use a comparable item as a substitute.
- You should avoid upgrading on the tenant’s dime: this could be cause for a legitimate dispute, and you want the process to go as smoothly as possible.
- Keep receipts for absolutely everything involved in replacing or repairing an item: if the tenant chooses to dispute your right to keep their security deposit, this documentation will come in handy.
Keeping your Richmond rental property in great shape is, of course, no joking matter: the health of your real estate investment portfolio depends on it.
Even tenants with good intentions can make mistakes. If you need help, Mission Realty Property Management is here to take over inspections for you as part of our property management services!
We know that investors with multiple properties need time to do what they do best: growing their property portfolio. When you leave the day-to-day operations to us, you'll have the peace of mind that comes with expert property management. We can even help you get started—for free! Download our Make-Ready Checklist, and let's work together to get your investment properties prepared for your next tenant!