Following the rules: What does the law say?
It’s clear by now that you should be conducting property inspections—but you just can’t show up any time. By law, landlords must provide a minimum of 24 hours’ notice (except in emergency situations) before inspecting the property, and it is advised this is provided in writing to avoid disputes later. But it’s better to go beyond the minimum requirements and offer your tenants a little more lead time to clean and tidy, which can put them at ease during what can be a tense time for some. Further, be prepared to be flexible with your visits. Your tenancy agreement should cover all situations and outcomes about when and how you are able to enter the property. An agreement that states you can enter anytime is not permissible, so be sure you are aware of and are following UK law.
Another situation you’ll want to make a property inspection is shortly before taking viewings for a new tenant. This will give you an opportunity to ensure the property is in presentable condition before showing it to prospective tenants.
When it comes time to conduct the inspection, you should prepare a checklist so nothing is forgotten. Common items to evaluate on regular inspections include:
- Dampness and mould, particularly around windows and in the kitchen and bathroom
- Leaks in the ceiling or from pipes and fixtures
- Damage to furniture and fixtures outside of normal wear and tear
- General condition of the property (rubbish, dirt, signs of pests or vermin, exterior care)
- Checking smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and changing the batteries if needed
- Evaluating electric and gas meters for proper operation and/or signs of tampering
There are many other items to potentially include on an inspection checklist. Fortunately, there are many available resources that can help you put together a checklist as well as downloadable templates to make conducting inspections a little easier.
Ideally, the property is in good condition and no intervention is required until the next inspection. But if any issues are raised, next steps should be clear. Start by creating a written report of the inspection you can send to the tenants. This demonstrates you are upholding your responsibilities as landlord and will bolster your position in case of dispute. Document any repairs that you need to conduct (major problems that affect tenants’ health and safety must be addressed within two weeks) and violations or issues the tenants need to address to remain compliant with the tenancy agreement.
Should damage or another violation be severe enough, in some cases the landlord may make a claim against the security deposit mid-term. This is obviously a situation that is best avoided, and regular property inspections can help prevent these situations from occurring.
When assistance is required—Allowing other parties to conduct inspections on your behalf You may already be using the services of a letting agent for acquiring and vetting tenants, writing the tenancy agreement, and collecting rent. They will also often perform regular property inspections on your behalf, which will be outlined in your contract.
There are other possibilities, however, should you be unable or otherwise prefer to have another party conduct the inspection. Some third-party agencies specialise in property inspections and will guarantee a thorough point-by-point examination. You might also contract with a cleaning service that takes care of upkeep for the tenants and is included in the price of rent, which will help prevent maintenance issues before they occur. The Sharehouse trust partnership network has many resources available to landlords that can help facilitate property inspections. Be sure to evaluate all of your options before undertaking property inspections on your own.
The best way to ensure that the tenancy agreement is being upheld is to conduct regular property inspections. This not only gives you the opportunity to spot issues before they become larger problems, it also gives you the opportunity to speak to your tenant face to face and build trust and confidence in the tenant-landlord relationship. And, if doing the inspections yourself is an issue, there are always resources that will support you as a landlord. Sharehouse can help.