There’s no substitute for a thorough property inspection. Property managers are expected to perform routine inspections so that they know the condos or HOAs they are responsible for managing, are in good order.
Things break, day-to-day use takes a toll on appliances, floors, windows, and toilets. If the property manager happens to spot a problem or potential problem during an inspection, they can take proactive measures to resolve the issue before it escalates and turns into a costly repair.
Furthermore, a detailed inspection report can serve as a legal document if needed. If there is ever a dispute over a deduction from a security deposit, or who is responsible for fixing a damaged wall, the inspection report can help prove or disprove a claim.
Think of property inspections as preventative maintenance. By keeping your condo or HOA clean and functional, you maintain its value and reduce the need for significant repairs.
When are inspections conducted?
Property managers should consider performing routine property inspections at least once a year, but some features may need to be tested more frequently. An association’s governing documents may specify how often inspections must be conducted. In addition to annual inspections, there are certain events that will call for a property manager to examine a home or condo.
You’re new to the building. A new property management company should conduct a thorough inspection of all units or homes, common elements, and shared spaces. This way, it can identify any issues and begin working on solutions immediately. The owner or board may have an inspection report already prepared for you. While you can use their report as a reference, it’s best to conduct your own inspection. Make sure to share your report with the condo or HOA once it is complete.
An owner is moving in. It’s common for property managers to conduct move-in inspections with the owner or tenant. This way, the new resident sees the same things that the property manager sees. They might even find something you missed. It’s not a bad idea to have the owner sign the inspection report. The signature is an acknowledgement that the inspection has been performed, and issues or damage has been documented.
An owner is moving out. Property managers can also conduct a move-out inspection with the owner or tenant. The property manager needs to make sure that no significant damage has been made to the infrastructure or appliances. If there is a problem, the owner may be responsible for fixing it, or the security deposit may not be returned to the renter.
You’re driving by the property. A drive-by inspection is a less formal inspection. A property manager assesses the exterior of a home or unit without entering the property. Property managers can conduct these sorts of inspections more often, but they are only helpful if issues are obvious and visible.
Property Inspection Checklist
An inspection is more thorough than a walkthrough. You’ll need to turn on taps, test out the oven, and check to make sure air is blowing from the vents. Here’s an idea of what you’ll need to check for when conducting a property inspection.
Heating and cooling
- Make sure the thermostat is working properly
- Check all vents to ensure hot or cold air is coming through
- Make sure every outlet works
- Test the doorbell
- Flip the lights on and off
- Look out for any breaks or cracks
- Ensure every window closes properly
- Screens should be in good condition
- Locks and hinges need to be intact and functioning well
- Open and close doors to make sure they shut properly
- Check to see if the stopper alignment is correct
- Test locks
- Look for any irregular gaps underneath the doors
- Examine walls for dents, cracks, etc.
- Inspect floors for dips, swelling, scratches, etc.
- Take note of the closet doors and interiors
- Turn any fans on and off
- Run the showers and tubs
- Ensure water temperature is appropriate
- Check basins for chips or cracks
- Flush toilets
- Check the walls, cabinets, and closets for excess moisture or mold
Attics and basements
- Look for signs of moisture or mold
- Inspect the walls, floors, and ceilings for water damage
- Pay attention to HVAC systems
- Test ventilation system elements
- Look out for rodents or bugs
- Try the remote doors and make sure they work
- Test lock codes
- Make sure drains are clear
- Note the condition of the siding or brick
- Inspect gutters, downspouts, and drains. If your building is near a lot of trees, you may have to clean gutters monthly, especially in the fall
- Look at sidewalks
- Examine porch or patio floors for cracks
- Watch for any exposed nails or screws
- Survey the roof. Make sure there aren’t any brown spots
- Test smoke detectors
- Try security alarms
- Test intercoms
- Make sure trees are trimmed
- Test gates
- Ensure security cameras are working
- Inspect pools
Who is responsible for repairs?
Say you do find mold growing in the bathroom of one unit while conducting an annual inspection. Is it the owner’s responsibility to pay to have the mold removed? Or is this something the association must cover? The answer to that question is not always clear. Generally, owners take care of issues that occur within their homes. Conversely, renters may not be responsible for fixing a clogged sink, repairing a broken washing machine or removing mold.
Always consult with the association’s documents first to find out who is responsible for maintaining what. If the documents don’t provide a clear answer, let the board know. They may need to make amendments to clarify maintenance rules and responsibilities.
If the repair issue becomes contentious, it may be necessary to bring in an expert who can help clarify if the mold issue is due to improper care by the tenant, or if it was caused by a bigger issue that the association needs to deal with.
Avoid getting into a heated argument with an owner or tenant during the inspection. Any maintenance problems should be addressed and documented in writing.
Get permission first
You must give notice to the owner or tenant before you enter their unit. Take note of the laws governing the amount of notice required before an inspection.
If the owner denies you permission to enter, do not ignore their request. You can try to explain why the inspection must be done. If they still refuse, but you feel that it is necessary to see the condition of the home, consult a lawyer for guidance. Never force entry. This action could lead to legal ramifications for you and the association.
While some property managers will support written documentation with photos, it’s best not to take pictures of anything that is personal to the tenant. Leave identifiable personal items out of pictures to protect the tenant’s privacy. The same goes for pets, mail and private information.
Using an inspection company
Property managers who look after hundreds of condo units may simply be too busy to inspect every unit. If you’re in this situation, a professional inspection company may be of value to you. They can provide you with a thorough report and notify you of any issues. Just make sure you do your homework and hire a company that will do a good job. The cheapest company isn’t always the best choice.
Conducting regular, thorough inspections is key to maintaining any residential property. It’s the most cost-effective way to find and address small issues, and done properly, inspections can save associations and owners money by reducing the number of large repairs they must make. Plus, your community will remain a desirable place to live, and maintain its value.
Download our free property management inspection checklist template