Rental Inspection Checklist: Free Templates for Landlords 2023
Regular rental inspections are crucial. Beyond allowing you to monitor the condition of your rental units, regular inspections help you determine areas that you can improve. Action which leads to higher profits when you take on new tenants or renew existing lease agreements.
Yet, many landlords neglect rental inspections or fail to follow an appropriate rental property inspections checklist.
The consequences of not following a rental inspection checklist are wide-ranging. It could even result in you not spotting damage in time to hold a tenant accountable.
The message is simple:
You need to conduct regular rental inspections. To do that, you’ll need a comprehensive landlord inspection checklist that ensures you spot every possible issue. This article explains the different types of rental inspections, what to look for with each, and the laws you need to follow when conducting an inspection.
What Is a Rental Inspection?
A rental inspection is a process that allows landlords to examine their properties. There are several types of inspection. Some take place before or after a tenant moves in, and others occur while a tenant is in residence. The inspections need to be conducted at key points of the rental cycle. That way, you can confirm your property is in good condition and figure out what you can do to improve your rental rates.
As a landlord, you have a legal right to inspect any of your properties regardless of whether or not they have tenants. However, there are also specific laws you must follow to conduct a rental inspection legally. These laws vary depending on the state, with some allowing more regular inspections, while others require you to have a specific reason for the visit.
Why Should Landlords Use a Rental PropertyInspection Checklist?
There are many reasons to use a property or condo inspection checklist. We’ve already highlighted two key reasons in terms of verifying the condition of a property and discovering issues that might affect the unit’s rentability.
Without regular inspections, the property could be damaged without the landlord noticing. For example, structural issues often involve part of the property slowly falling into disrepair over several years. A lack of inspections leads to these problems not being caught early when they’re easier to fix. If that’s the case, you end up spending more on fixing the problem when it becomes a major issue.
You should use a rental inspection checklist to confirm that existing tenants have left your property in the same state it was in before they moved in. Your inspection may uncover damage done by the tenant, which entitles you to part or all of their security deposit to cover the costs. Failure to spot this damage means you can’t hold the tenant accountable, resulting in you paying for this damage yourself.
Finally, a good rental property inspection checklist gives you something that money can’t buy – peace of mind. You can confirm that nothing untoward is happening to your property while you’re away.
How Often Should You Conduct Rental Inspections?
At the very least, you should run through an annual rental property inspection checklist once per year. But that is the bare minimum and it may not help you to uncover tenant-related issues in cases where you transition between tenants during the year.
Assuming you have a longstanding tenant who stays in the property for the entire twelve-month period, it’s not asking too much to conduct three or four inspections per year. You can frame these as quarterly inspections so your tenant knows when to expect them.
Conversely, be wary of carrying out too many inspections. For example, trying to inspect your property every month may make your tenant feel like you’re invading their privacy. This could lead to the loss of a good tenant. Legal action may also be taken against you if you inspect too regularly and fail to provide proper notice.
The Types of Rental Inspection Checklist
On the surface, you should be able to use a single rental inspection checklist for every inspection you carry out. But there are actually several types of rental inspections, each of which serves a different purpose. As such, they need a different checklist to ensure you have the best chance of catching issues.
As the name suggests, this is an inspection you conduct six months into a tenant’s residency. Also called a mid-term inspection, it gives you a chance to check in with your tenants, talk about any issues they have, and scan for any damage they’ve caused during their first six months.
A rental inspection checklist for this type of inspection usually covers the following:
- The general condition of the property and any furniture or appliances you provide to your tenants.
- Details relating to the property's structure and main features, such as windows, walls, floors, and exterior spaces.
- Checks for any required maintenance to essential utilities. Your tenant will usually alert you to any problems if you ask them.
- A scan for pets, evidence of smoking, or any other activities that breach your tenancy agreement.
If you’d rather have a dedicated rental inspection checklist, quarterly inspections may be the best solution. They cover many of the same areas as six-month inspections. The key differences being that you carry them out more regularly and stick to a schedule rather than inspecting the property six months after the tenant moves in.
Your quarterly rental property inspections checklist will contain the same items as a six-month checklist. However, you can retain completed checklists from the previous quarters to track the property’s condition more accurately.
As mentioned, quarterly inspections may make your tenant feel like you’re invading their privacy. Be sure to explain the reasons for these inspections before the tenant moves in. This will help them to understand that you’re taking care of your property rather than checking on them specifically.
Winter is a dangerous time for landlords. The cold weather can wreak havoc on the fixtures and fittings, leading to an increased possibility of damage occurring. A winter rental inspection checklist allows you to focus on areas of the property that are most likely to be affected by the season.
Your checklist will include the following items:
- Checks of the property’s roofing and guttering. You’re looking for cracks, plant debris, and similar issues. Cracks are especially important because they can get filled with moisture. If the temperature drops, that moisture turns to ice and exacerbates the crack.
- Basic garden maintenance, which often involves placing summer items and furniture into storage. You likely won’t trim hedges or branches due to the weather. But you need to ensure the garden is in a good enough condition to handle the winter.
- Pipe maintenance is important during colder months. You need to check that the pipes are insulated, have no cracks, and that any appliances that rely on the pipes are in good working order.
- You might run a pest check to ensure your property doesn’t attract mice, rats, and other small animals looking for a warm place to stay.
- It’s a good idea to check your door locks as some models freeze up. A quick spray with some lubricant usually preempts possible freezing issues.
These inspections tend to focus on properties that are primarily rented out during the summer, such as vacation homes. Therefore, a rental inspection checklist for summer usually focuses on ensuring the property is ready for vacationers.
Use this inspection to complete any cleaning and to ensure the facilities provided in your summer property are in good working order. It’s also a good idea to create a checklist of items that guests might forget, such as toiletries, dishes, and towels. Make sure the property is well-stocked with these items.
A summer inspection may include checking the property once a vacationer leaves. Again, you’ll focus on cleaning and ensuring the property is stocked up. You should keep an inventory of items that are supposed to stay in the property as well. Checking this inventory after a guest leaves helps you spot thefts.
You conduct a move-in inspection alongside a new tenant. Also referred to as a walk-through, this inspection involves both you and the tenant working through a rental inspection checklist. You should conduct this inspection after the tenant signs the lease but before they move their furniture in.
The checklist documents all aspects of the property. Your tenant must confirm all the items on the list and sign the agreement. Once they’ve done so, the move-in inspection checklist can be used to inspect for damages beyond normal wear and tear when the tenant moves out.
When a tenant moves out, you’ll visit the property to run through the rental property inspection checklist you used for the move-in inspection. You’re looking for any evidence of damage, appliance switching, or other issues that go beyond the normal wear and tear you’d expect to see in your property.
Examine each item on your checklist and take photos or videos of any damage. You may need this evidence if you need to withhold the tenant’s security deposit to cover costs they’re responsible for. Conduct this inspection as soon as your tenant leaves. Waiting too long means you may not be able to claim for any damage the tenant caused. The deadline for returning security deposits varies depending on the state, with some allowing for 60 days while others require you to return the money within 14 days. Make sure you complete your move-out inspection before the deadline for your state.
A routine inspection serves the same purpose as a six-month or quarterly inspection. It’s a chance for you to check-in and ensure your tenant has kept the property in good condition.
You’ll run through a similar rental inspection checklist as you would for a six-month inspection. The only thing you need to be wary of is providing your tenant with enough notice. A routine inspection doesn’t mean you get to turn up every week. Set a schedule, share it your any prospective tenant, and ensure they understand that routine inspections mostly focus on checking the condition of the property.
This is one of the few types of rental inspection that doesn’t require advanced notice. It’s also the simplest. You drive by the property to quickly scan the exterior for any issues.
The rental property inspection checklist for this type of inspection isn’t particularly long. You’re looking for any evidence that a tenant is mistreating the property. In addition, you’ll inspect the front yard if the property has one.
A drive-by inspection gives you a chance to check for things that are out of the ordinary. For example, you may see the same car parked outside the property every time you drive by. That’s not strange it itself. But if the car has a license plate that’s different from the one on your tenant’s application, the presence of this car may indicate that your tenant has moved somebody else in without your permission.
How to Prepare for a Rental Inspection
There are three things you need to do to prepare for a rental inspection:
- Provide your tenant with advance notice that you’re going to inspect the property. Most states stipulate that you must provide between 24 and 48 hours of notice before an inspection, though some states may have longer periods. Check your local laws to ensure you provide enough notice.
- Encourage your tenant to be at home for the inspection. Although this isn’t an obligation, having the tenant available means you can ask questions and run through your rental inspection checklist with them. It also gives you a chance to get the tenant’s signature on any documents related to your inspection.
- Explain why you need to conduct the inspection with a focus on how your visit benefits the tenant.
While most inspections run smoothly, you may have to deal with hostility. If that occurs, stay professional, gather evidence, and address any issues you need to raise in writing.
A Quick Overviews of Rental Inspection Laws
The specific laws for rental inspections vary depending on the state. That said, there are some key laws common to most states that you must observe:
- All tenants have the right to privacy, which states that you can’t conduct frequent inspections or inspections without notice. State and local laws dictate the nature of these rights so consult a local real estate attorney to discuss how to meet your tenant’s right to privacy.
- You must always provide notice before an inspection unless you’re conducting a drive-by inspection or inspecting a vacant property and have no need to contact a previous tenant.
- You have the right to conduct an emergency inspection as long as you have a clause in your tenancy agreement that details when and why such an inspection may occur.
How to Fill Out a Rental Inspection Checklist
Thankfully, filling out a rental inspection checklist is fairly easy. Start by creating the checklist and ensuring it contains every item you need to check. Use “Yes” and “No” checkboxes as quick indicators of whether the item is present or not. Each item should also have a textbox available for you to make notes.
Once you have your template, filling out the checklist is as simple as carrying out the inspection and making notes as you go along. It’s a good idea to sign and date the checklist once it’s complete. Having your tenant do the same provides you with additional evidence that they agree with the findings of your inspection.
Creating the rental property inspection checklist is the hard part.
That’s where we come in.
We provide several types of landlord inspection checklists that you can use to make inspecting your rental property simple. Just click the appropriate link below to download a ready-made template:
Frequently Asked Questions
Does Every Problem That Shows Up on a Property Inspection Need to Be Remedied Immediately?
Minor cosmetic issues don’t require fixing immediately after an inspection. As long as the issue doesn’t affect your property’s habitability, you can leave it until you’re ready to fix it. However, doing so may make the property less attractive to future tenants, who may be unwilling to pay market rates for a property in poor cosmetic condition.
You do need to fix issues immediately if they affect the property’s habitability. For example, a damaged roof structure has to be fixed straight away because you can’t legally rent out a property with a damaged roof. As such, many landlords use rental property checklists to check for major problems first, with cosmetic issues coming later.
What Is the Difference Between a House Inspection and a Rental Property Inspection?
House inspections and rental property inspections have the same purpose. They’re both designed to examine the condition of a property. The difference lies in who benefits from that examination.
With a rental inspection, a landlord runs through a landlord inspection checklist to find evidence of damage or issues they can fix. The inspection may also lead to the landlord retaining a security deposit or pursuing damages against a tenant who damages their property.
House inspections are used by buyers to assess a property before they commit to a purchase. They’ll look for key structural and cosmetic issues. But they’re more focused on helping potential buyers understand the nature of any issues they’ll face if they take ownership of the property.
What Is Most Often Missed on a Rental Property Inspection Checklist?
The most commonly missed aspects of a rental inspection checklist tend to be issues that aren’t immediately visible. Examples include poor ventilation, which isn’t apparent during a quick inspection. You may also miss electrical faults if you don’t use the affected wiring during your assessment.
Structural issues, such as subsidence, are easy to miss too as they occur gradually and often leave little evidence until they become major problems.
Who Should Use a Residential Rental Inspection Report?
Landlords should use these reports before welcoming tenants, after tenants leave, and during tenancies. They’re vital for identifying potential issues. Rental inspection reports also give you the opportunity to ask your tenants about any problems they’re experiencing.
My name is Nick Caucci and I help run the Rentroom blog. Over the years, I have seen and helped many different property managers and owner-operators streamline their daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly workflows.