March 29

A room-by-room guide to buy-to-let property inspections

The system that professional property inspectors use

After reading a previous article, “Buy-to-let 101: Property inventories, inspections, and deposit disputes”, we received an email from a buy-to-let landlord asking if we could explain how to carry out a property inspection. Here are our top tips to ensure everything is covered room-by-room.

Why should you inspect your buy-to-let properties regularly?

Buy-to-let property investors should inspect their properties regularly. Doing so will ensure that you spot maintenance issues before they become expensive repairs. You’ll learn a lot about how your tenants are treating your properties. You’ll spot any illegal activities that are taking place. And you’ll continue to build your relationships with your tenants.
However, conducting an effective property inspection is not simply a question of entering the property and having a quick look around. You must approach the task in a systematic way to ensure that you discover everything you need to.

What to look for when you inspect your buy-to-let property

Walk through the property one room at a time, making sure that the tenant is with you. Tell them what you are looking for – things like damp and mould, the condition of fixtures and fittings, leaks, wear and tear, and damage.
Ensure your tenant understands that the primary reason you are inspecting the property is to ensure that it is in good condition and remains safe for them to live in. You’re not trying to catch them out. Rather, you want to ensure that their home is the best it can be.

Inspect for damp and mould in every room

Mould can be very dangerous to your tenants’ health. Look for signs of dampness, especially around windows and doors. Check pipes in hidden spaces (under the kitchen sink, for example). Make sure that extractor fans work. If there is mould present, have it dealt with straight away and tell your tenants how to make sure that mould doesn’t return. (Here’s a great article describing how to check for mould and remove it.)

Fixtures and fittings

Check all the fixtures and fittings that you have provided to the tenant. Make sure they aren’t broken, and that they are in working order.

Check for leaks

Turn on the taps and look for leaks. Check for drips from pipework and the taps.

Is it wear and tear or damage?

As you walk around the property, you should be checking walls, doors, skirting boards, cupboard doors, window frames, and furniture for signs of damage or wear and tear – it’s often difficult to tell the difference. You should consider the condition at the last inspection and compare to the current inspection, allowing for ‘reasonable wear and tear’ – and on the exit inspection, understand how much of the tenancy deposit a buy-to-let landlord can withhold.
If you think an item of furniture has been damaged rather than suffered reasonable wear and tear (for example, the covering on a settee has been ripped off, or there are holes in the walls), you should speak to the tenant about it immediately. Not doing so will only cause you grief later.
Now let’s turn out attention to specific rooms:

·      In the kitchen

Check all white goods that you have supplied. Make sure they are in working order and are being kept clean. Look for signs of dampness and leaks. Open and close cupboard doors to make sure they work properly. Make sure that tiles are not loose, on walls and flooring. If the floor covering is linoleum, ensure that it is not ripped and flapping.

·      In the lounge

Ensure that carpets are fitted properly and that radiators work.

·      Stairs, landing, hallway

You should ensure that carpets are fitted properly and that bannisters and railings are not loose.

·      In the bathroom

Look under the bath and in the cupboard under the sink for signs of mould, dampness, and leaks. Make sure that the toilet and bath are not cracked, and that they are fixed in position correctly. Ensure the toilet flushes.

·      In the loft

Enter the loft space, check with a flashlight that there are no leaks, holes, or mice or rats. Lofts are also favoured places for squirrels and bats to make their homes.

·      Outside

Check garden fences and gates, to make sure they are sound and in working order. Ensure that the garden is being kept in a tidy state by the tenant, and that rubbish is not being piled up outside. Let your tenant know what responsibilities they have for maintaining the garden and outdoor space – for example, trimming hedges and bushes, mowing the lawn, etc.
If the fence needs to be repaired, arrange with the tenant to have someone make the repairs necessary.
Check outside drains and inspect gutters and sewage pipes.

What if the tenant refuses entry?

You must get permission from your tenant to enter the property – it is their home, after all. Sometimes they may refuse entry. This is usually the case if they don’t know you (or your property manager) very well. Especially in this day and age, female tenants may be reluctant to be alone in a home with an unknown person.
It is unlikely that your tenant is refusing entry because they wish to hide some kind of illegal activity, but if your tenant does refuse access, you may need to get a court order to enter the property. If you don’t, you will be considered to be entering the property illegally and could be prosecuted for harassment. (The exception to this rule is for an emergency.)
It is always best, therefore, to speak to your tenant and arrange a time that is convenient for them when you want to inspect the property.
Finally, make sure that you:

  • Take your property inventory with you
  • Take plenty of photos
  • Get the tenant to sign the updated property inventory (on every page)

To find out why you should include an inventory checks clause in the tenancy agreement, call one of the Ezytrac team today on  +44  01522  503  717


buy-to-let landlord, property inspections

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