Property inspections, they’re a necessary evil, that’s for sure.
On one hand, they’re incredibly useful and crucial, because they allow landlords to spot any problems with the property, but on the other hand, they can be a right pain in the arse to orchestrate, and often be the moment when you realise your tenant isn’t keeping to their end of the bargain by taking care of your beloved investment. That’s when it can be particularly evil. Of course, there have been times when I’ve been blown away by the outstanding condition my property has been kept in. I like those moments.
What is a property inspection?
Let’s start with the basics.
The primary purpose of an inspection is to evaluate the overall condition of the property; specifically to check if everything is in good working order and reasonable state, both the interior and exterior. It’s also the perfect opportunity to ensure your tenants are behaving themselves, and not living like primates.
Inspections are typically conducted on a quarterly basis, but often reduced to bi-yearly after frequent positive inspections to the same property/tenants.
While it’s important to make regularly inspections, it’s as equally important not to make too many inspections (e.g. once a month), because it could be deemed as harassment. In most cases, there isn’t a reason to make so many inspections, unless there are genuine repairs and maintenance issues that need attention.
If the tenant feels like you’re making unnecessary visits too frequently, they could file a complaint.
Let’s cover some of the basic law so you know where you stand.
The Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 s11 gives the landlord the right to enter the premises to view the “condition and state of repair”.
This is the exact legislation:
In a lease in which the lessor’s repairing covenant is implied there is also implied a covenant by the lessee that the lessor, or any person authorised by him in writing, may at reasonable times of the day and on giving 24 hours’ notice in writing to the occupier, enter the premises comprised in the lease for the purpose of viewing their condition and state of repair.
Blah, blah, blah.
God damn, I wish they would write it in plain English- seriously, no one normal is going to understand that, right? Right. In any case, in normal human talk…
- The inspection must be conducted at “reasonable times of the day”
- The landlord/agent must give 24 hours written notice (you can download an example of a notice letter at the bottom of this blog post)
- If someone other than the landlord or agent is going to do the inspection, then that person should be authorised in writing
Why inspections are necessary and required
This is mostly common sense, but some of my points may make for some “oh yeaaah” moments. Or they may not. Either way, here’s a list of reasons why inspections are necessary and often required…
- Opportunity to spot any repairs & maintenance issues
Obviously this is the primary objective, to spot any obvious cries for attention.
But more crucially, it’s the perfect opportunity to repair any minor problems before they spiral out of control and become major repairs and money pits. It’s always easier and cheaper to repair problems at their early stages. Something simple as a small leak can transform into a catastrophic disaster if it’s neglected for long enough.
It’s also worth noting that relying on tenants alone to report potential problems can be a recipe for disaster, because they often won’t. Granted, most tenants will report serious issues, but many won’t report the little ones until it’s too late… and expensive to repair. So annoying.
Moreover, through no fault of your tenants, it’s often easy to be completely unaware of potential problems. For example, your tenant might be accustom to the smell of dampness, however, you might notice it as soon as you walk through the front door. A set of fresh eyes, ears and nose is extremely useful for picking out minor problems at their early stages.
- Assess tenants’ living conditions
While the condition of the property might be generally sound, it doesn’t necessarily mean your tenants are keeping the property in good order. If that’s the case, you may not have legal grounds to evict, but you may want to consider whether or not you wish to renew the tenancy when the fixed term comes to an end.
- Spot illegal activities
Unfortunately, it’s easy to slip into a mindset of a
lazyrelaxed landlord when money is coming in on time, every time. But complacency can be a dangerous trap.
The reality is, some of the most destructive tenants are the best payers because they want to keep their landlord away from the property so they can conduct illegal activities (e.g. there have been an increasing amount of cases where tenants have transformed BTL properties into cannabis farms). So I urge landlords not to assume the best tenants come packaged as just timely payers.
- Helps build a relation with your tenants
Not enough landlords value the relationship with their tenant. They should though, because it can be the key to a profitable and stress-free relationship. There’s a lot to be said about a good tenant/landlord relationship- it makes everything easier, including the arrangement of inspections and repairs.
Inspections are a perfect opportunity to simply “catch-up” with your tenant and discuss life in general.
Tenants are less likely to pick up and move if they’re happy with their landlord, which ultimately equals long-term, reliable tenants.
- New tenants & viewings
It’s common practise for landlords to conduct an inspection before they start taking viewings with new prospective tenants before the current tenants are due to vacate (for whatever reason). It makes sense, as the landlord will want to ensure the property is presentable.
What you should be looking for during inspections
This can be quite subjective, and it really depends on how thorough you want to be.
I’m not overly thorough, I don’t go around on my knees with a magnifying glass, but over the years I generally know which areas to check in particular, beyond the general condition of the interior and exterior of the property…
- Dampness & mould
Mould and dampness in a BTL is one of the main areas I focus on during my inspections, because they’re often overlooked.
From my experience, most tenants ‘just live it’, the mould that is, because they don’t realise how dangerous and serious mould infestations can be. I always look around the windows and sinks, and pay special attention in rooms prone to moisture, such the bathrooms and kitchen. I also check all the pipe work hidden away in kitchen units.
It’s also worth checking the extractor fans to ensure they’re all working and not clogged up with dirt, this will help prevent mould infestations occurring in the future.
I run all the taps and check for any leaks. Leaks can be one of the primary causes of mould infestations and rot.
It’s also worth checking the drainage outside for blockages and ensuring water is not overflowing.
I once had stupid tenants that used to dispose of their cooking oil by pouring it down the sink. It eventually caused a blockage in the outside drain- water was visibly overflowing every time they run the kitchen tap, but of course they never reported the problem. Why would they?
Fortunately I spotted the problem during an inspection and called Dynorod the next day to clear up the mess. Needless to say, the money was taken from their security deposit. Fools.
- General condition of fittings
I always give a patient once over all the fittings, including toilets, white goods and everything else that I provided with the property.
- Condition of garden
Generally speaking, most tenancy agreements do come with clauses specifying that it’s the tenant’s responsibly to maintain the garden(s).
So I just check that the garden is neat and isn’t overgrowing. I also check for pile-ups of rubbish, because they can attract nasty rodents and other unwanted wildlife.
- Smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors
Very important to check all smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors.
It’s also worth noting that smoke alarms often get clogged with dust/dirt, so it’s worth opening them up and giving them a quick clean and puff-puff.
- Lofts & attics
None of my properties actually have attics, but they do have lofts.
I ALWAYS have a quick snoop around with a torch, looking for any leaks, holes and/or rodents. I’ve been lucky so far (*touches wood*), but I’ve heard of some nasty stories involving rats the size of donkeys.
A common dilemma with inspections is that there can be a very fine line between ‘fair wear and tear’ and ‘damage’. I’m sure most of you already know, landlords can’t make tenants liable for fair wear and tear, only damage. So it’s important to recognise the difference during your inspections, otherwise you may end up making your tenants wrongfully responsible for certain repairs. For more information, he’s a more in-depth blog post on wear and tear in rental properties. Enjoy.
Letting agents & inspections
For those of you that use letting agents to manage your properties, the general practise is for them to conduct the inspections. Actually, I’d be very confused and angry if it wasn’t part of the deal. Inspections are a major part of ‘managing’, so it would be mind-boggling if it wasn’t. But then again, we are talking about agents here..
It has to be said, that from my experience, while agents usually say it’s part of the service, many of them don’t actually conduct inspections. They just say they do.
So my advice is to make sure they actually do the inspections and to actually get proof, after all you’re probably paying for the service. Most agents will use scoresheets to help record the condition of the property and note down any problems.
Inspection clauses in Tenancy Agreements
Most tenancy agreements will have ‘inspection clauses’ specifying that the landlord has permission to access the premises to conduct an inspection. For example, here are the clauses which are found in the tenancy agreements available from this website (and the one I personally use):
12.2 The Landlord reserves the right to enter the Property at any reasonable time on giving not less than 24 hours’ prior notice to the Tenant:
12.2.1 to inspect the condition and state of repair of the Property;
12.2.2 to carry out the Landlord’s obligations under this agreement;
However, in my opinion, I don’t believe the clauses are actually required, because under Section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, it states that it is the landlord’s legal obligation to:
- keep the structure and exterior of the property in good repair, including drains, gutters and external pipes
- keep installations for the supply of water, gas, electricity and sanitation in good repair and proper working order
- keep installations for space heating and water heating in good repair and proper working order
In any case, the inspection clauses are usually in all tenancy agreements and I wouldn’t use one without them, just in case.
When the tenant refuses entry
This can be tricky and terrifying.
An inspection can feel quite intrusive and often tenants don’t feel comfortable with strangers walking around their home. So it’s easy to understand why they might be reluctant to allow entry. Of course, they may also be refusing entry to hide sinister activities, which is definitely a more worrying prospect.
But what does the law say about the issue? Under Common Law, all tenants are entitled to live in “quiet enjoyment”, which essentially means the landlord /agent (or anyone on behalf of either) must ask the tenant’s permission before entering the premises. But what if permission is asked and it is refused, even when the landlord/agent is willing to arrange for a suitable time for the tenant?
From my understanding, the landlord or agent cannot enter the premises without permission- asking for it alone is not enough, the tenant must agree. If the landlord or agent enter without permission it could be deemed as trespassing and harassment. I believe the only exception for ‘forceful entry’ is if there is an emergency. Section 11 says that if there is an emergency the landlord can enter without permission, which I’m assuming is something like a heavily leaking/burst water pipe or fire. Kind of ironic actually, because one could argue that the inspections are designed to prevent ’emergencies’.
It’s also worth noting that if the tenant refuses entry, and as a direct consequence the property is in worse repair at the end of the tenancy (because the landlord wasn’t given access to assess the condition and state of repair), the landlord may be able to claim against the deposit.
Finally, if the tenant does unequivocally refuse access you may want to consider whether or not you wish to renew the tenancy when the fixed term comes to an end. I would personally serve a Section 21 possession notice, so they have to vacate at the end of the tenancy,
For more information on this matter, please go to my blog post about tenants refusing entry.
Communicate and be respectful
I want to end this blog post by highlighting the importance of communication and respect. Ultimately, valuing your tenants. Good tenants will make or break your profit margins. Rightly or wrongly so, they hold the key to YOUR success.
It’s important for you to appreciate your tenant’s right to live in quiet enjoyment, along with understanding that your property is their home. They are paying for that privilege.
In most cases, tenants will be more than happy to accommodate inspections, but only if it’s done with courtesy. Don’t just assume you have a right to enter the property, you don’t, so respectfully ask for permission. Be generous and flexible with your time and make sure it’s convenient for all parties.