Property Unit Inspections : How and When
Property managers recognize the importance of preventative maintenance and inspections when it comes to property safety/upkeep, but the lines become a little blurred when it comes to unit inspections. Perform them effectively with these tips.
It’s no secret to any property manager that regularly performing property maintenance is an essential safety precaution that comes with the territory of managing a building. In fact, routine maintenance inspections can aid in identifying serious safety hazards and rectifying them before a situation deteriorates and becomes a critical issue.
While preventative maintenance inspections are a no-brainer common practice across all types of properties in public and shared spaces, the best practices become a little more skewed when it comes to inspecting occupied units on property. Of course, this responsibility is bestowed upon a property manager, who has the rights to the property and to conduct checks, but there are more items to consider. To what degree does the lease hold the tenant responsible for recognizing maintenance issues in their unit? Based on this, how often can be considered diligent vs. redundant, or not a good use of the property manager’s time? You also must factor in tenant experience. While the end goal of a property unit inspection is a nice, safe, comfortable space for the tenant, the process of a unit inspection can actually be disruptive and undesirable for a tenant. Is there a “sweet spot” when it comes to frequency that allows for proactive safety improvement without seeming invasive? Finally, once you have set aside the time for a unit inspection, what should you pay attention to? It is important to make astute observations on key unit elements in order to make crucial improvements and to correct potential issues, which can be easy to overlook.
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Because Kings III works with many property managers on their safety initiatives, we’ve heard a thing or two about what makes an actionable and effective unit inspection. We will highlight the essentials below.
WHEN- How often does a property unit need my attention?
For your property’s thorough preventative maintenance, it is recommended to perform unit inspections at the following times.
- During tenant move-in
- During tenant move-out
- Seasonally to look for wear and tear
Other inspections- consider the property type
The previous times serve as a baseline, but you may run into situations in which you may want to consider additional unit inspections. Typical reasons to conduct unit inspections include:
- To ensure that tenants continue to meet the maintenance responsibilities expected of them (outlined in the lease)
- To seek necessary repairs to the property’s structure or a major building system
- To identify any hazardous substances in use and determine if they are being used safely
When evaluating the need for an inspection, the nature of your property’s use should sway the frequency of unit inspections conducted. For example, certain states have laws that place limitations on when the property manager can enter residential units. If you manage a residential property, be aware of these laws so that you do not enter a unit when you are not supposed to.
On the other hand, when it comes to commercial space, no such laws exist. However, it is important to keep the nature of your tenant’s work and how big of a disruption that your entry might cause in mind when deciding how often to conduct an inspection. For example, a tenant in the retail or restaurant industry would experience less disruption during an inspection visit, since people come and go to and from the space as they please. Conversely, medical offices may experience a significant disruption from an inspection, as they must conduct private appointments. This doesn’t mean that you cannot perform unit inspections on these types of properties, but you should consider prioritizing unit inspections so that they are kept minimal. You should also definitely provide at least a several days’ notice of a planned inspection to such tenants.
HOW- What can I do to ensure a successful unit inspection?
Property managers should include an entry clause within the lease that address what the tenant can expect regarding unit inspections. The clause should include the following:
- Emergency situations, such as a break-in, gas leak or fire, for which you will have the right to enter the unit
- Other inspection situations for which tenants can expect you may enter the unit, such as the reasons listed above
- Days of the week/time periods in which the property manager may enter the unit
Provide sufficient notice of entry
You will need to be able to schedule non-emergency visits to the rented space ahead of time. The amount of notice will be determined by the sensitivity of the business and what the visit of the property owner involves. In regards to business sensitivity, think of the example of retail vs. medical above. While you may need to give 1-2 days’ notice to a retail tenant, a medical tenant may need an entire week’s notice in order to schedule their appointments accordingly.
The nature of the inspection will also determine the notice needed. If the visit is a quick, routine inspection, it may be easier to work around it. However, in the case of a prolonged inspection, which may involve some construction, more notice will be needed.
Perform the unit inspection
We’ve laid out all the groundwork. Now, this is it. What do you need to accomplish during your inspection? Be sure to achieve the following based on inspection type:
Move-in: It is important to walk through the property together with a new tenant before move in and to make note, in writing, of any damages to the property that may previously exist. Doing so protects both you and the tenant from any legal disputes on the state of the property and any responsibilities for damages.
Move-out: These inspections should also be done together with the tenant before they hand over the keys. This will allow you to document any damages beyond the normal tear and wear which may require significant financial input.
Seasonal inspections: Any property will depreciate in value and encounter new safety issues due to wear and tear and may require some replacements or refurbishments. It is, therefore, important to carry out periodical inspections at the end of every season. Items to check include:
- Wall structure
- Wall outlets
- Fire detectors
- Floor structure
- Furnace filters
- Ceiling structure
- Other items that may be costly to repair
By routinely checking these items, you may catch something that could be a much bigger problem later on.
BONUS- SAFETY BEST PRACTICE: Property Safety and Emergency Preparedness Reminders
A unit inspection is an ideal time to remind your tenants of your safety items to help them on the property. Good examples of leave-behinds include:
- Crime prevention tips
- Fire safety rules
- How to get help in a time of need- where emergency phones are located on property
- A copy of your property’s Emergency Action Plan procedures
The above property manager tips for a unit inspection can help to ensure the safety, upkeep and longevity of your premises, all while maintaining good relationship with your renter and staying aware of the tenant experience. For more information on how Kings III can help keep your property safe, visit www.kingsiii.com.
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