Rental industry commentators often give the advice: “If you don’t do your property inspections, you don’t know what’s going on inside your house.”
This is partly true. But with the typical property inspection being conducted every 3, 4 or 6 months, Landlords and Property Managers are unlikely to have their finger on the pulse if they haven’t seen the interior of the property for a whole 3, 4 or 6 months.
Bad tenants rely on this well-defined property inspection schedule
These infrequent but set-in-stone property inspection frequencies allow tenants to drop their guard as soon as an inspection has been completed. Bad practices quickly return.
You’ve probably heard stories of tenants panicking and doing the ‘Big Tidy Up’ in preparation of the Property Manager’s 3-monthly inspection: the empty bottle collection is put in the recycling bin; carpet stains are scrubbed (or the furniture adjusted to hide them); grimy bathroom fittings are scrubbed; the bucket of cigarette butts on the patio is emptied out; and so on.
But as soon as the Property Manager leaves, the tenants get back to normal for another 3 months.
How do you avoid the Big Tidy Up cycle, and have perfect tenants all year round?
We’ve spoken before about having a year round presence on the property, rather than just making inspections 2, 3 or 4 times a year. Here are some articles on how to do that:
- Why a 5-minute walk and a cup of coffee goes a long way in rental inspections.
- The sliding scale of rental property inspections.
- Why you should use maintenance work as an opportunity for an informal property inspection.
- Why you need to keep an eye on these clues between property inspections.
In short, the key is to use contractors as your key to visiting the property in between inspections.
How do you use contractors as an informal property inspection opportunity?
To check out the property informally, visit the property with contractors whenever they need to do any work, i.e. you are the one giving contractors access to the property.
This is not a property inspection opportunity as defined by the RTA, but it is a viewing opportunity – and an extremely important one at that.
In this scenario, you can’t inspect all areas of the house (because it’s not an inspection), but you can view areas that you have to pass through whilst with your tradesperson.
It is this presence on site that deters bad practices: this is far more effective than the 2, 3 or 4 property inspections per year that induce recycle bin filling and ashtray emptying.
The very best way to build up your presence on the site is to use a combination of all the means available to you to visit the property. That means undertaking property inspections; providing access to contractors; and also walk around the exterior of the property. This may total 20 visits per year and provides for a totally different outcome compared to just 2, 3 or 4 visits per year.
Your trump card here is that a tenant will generally provide you with immediate access for bringing tradespeople around to make a repair. After all, it’s in the tenant’s interest to have the shower mixer or lounge socket outlet repaired quickly, so they’ll generally be accommodating about getting you into the property promptly.
This is good news for you, because you’ll see the property in its unaltered state, without the ‘Big Tidy Up’.
What are the legalities around access for repairs?
Under the 1986 Residential Tenancies Act, a tenant is required to be given 48 hours’ notice of formal property inspections.
But for the Landlord to get repair/maintenance access, 24 hours’ notice is needed. However, this does NOT apply if the tenant has given the landlord immediate access for entering the property. And in most cases, the tenant will appreciate you fixing their problem ASAP.
Good tenants won’t see these visits as an imposition; rather, they’ll think you’re providing them with a good service. They know that the Landlord or Property Manager will visit once per month to check that the lawns are being mowed properly by the contractor. Tenants are also pleased when you respond quickly to their repair and maintenance requests. Many tenants are also concerned about security issues, and will appreciate the Landlord or Property Manager being present while the electrician is repairing the stove, or the plumber fixing the toilet. This on-going service is then seen as the level of property care that the Property Manager provides.
In other words, the Property Manager’s visits are seen as positive, with repairs being completed quickly. And the Property Manager is seen as a problem solver who improves their living environment; they certainly aren’t viewed as imposing on the tenant’s quiet enjoyment of the property.
Does this approach to property inspections work?
Yes, this approach to property inspections works well for Bridgman Property Management. We don’t experience property damage, rent arrears or spend time at the Tenancy Tribunal. This is because we provide a hands-on management service where we work in partnership with the tenant.
You can do a tribunal search online to see that we don’t have any tribunal appearances; we have been to the Tenancy Tribunal only once in 30 years.
- Property inspections 2, 3 or 4 times a year lead to the ‘big tidy up’… and normal (bad) behaviour returns thereafter.
- A Property Manager needs to see a property more regularly to have their finger on the pulse. A good way to do this is to accompany tradespeople to the property when they make repairs. You can’t access all the property, but at least you will see part of it – and without the ‘big tidy up’.
- Also stroll around the exterior of the property once a month to check that lawn-mowing contractors have done their job – you do not need to give the tenants any notice for this.
- If you combine these 3 ideas for viewing the property inside and out, it can add up to 20 visits per year, so you will be far more aware of what is going on with the property.
- Another benefit of this approach is that tenants will see you providing a good service. So the tenant is far more likely to work with you, and be a good tenant. Think: less damage, less wear and tear, and rent paid on time each month.
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