As a landlord, your rental property will go through many different types of inspections – all of which play an important role. In the rental industry, the longer a unit sits vacant, the more money the owner loses. Therefore, making sure your rental is ready for marketing and an efficient lease process is key to your success. The first step is to complete a pre-leasing inspection. While it may seem like a tedious task, this will save time and aggravation in the long run. Continue reading below as we provide the steps of pre-leasing inspections plus a downloadable PDF checklist to get you started!
What is the Difference Between Pre-Leasing and Move-in Inspections?
As we mentioned above, rental properties experience many types of inspections. For most landlords, the names of inspections are interchangeable, and the most important factor is recording condition. However, there are a few differences between a pre-leasing inspection and one that takes place at move-in. So, before we get into specifics, let’s review these differences below –
Pre-leasing inspections are often the first step in the rental process. The goal here is to evaluate the general condition and identify areas of concern. If you employ a property management firm, their representative should complete this walkthrough and use it to guide repair efforts. That said, this may include items to address safety concerns or before the property receives necessary compliance certifications.
Identifying these concerns as early helps create a realistic availability date based on the work needed. Furthermore, it aids owners or managers in prioritizing tasks for more cost-effective and efficient maintenance.
Before a tenant moves in all of their belongings, conducting a move-in inspection is vital. This very detailed checklist goes room by room to identify any preexisting damage or issues in the home. Then, this inspection gets compared to a move-out inspection to determine any tenant damage that could be withheld from the security deposit above normal wear and tear.
Typically, this checklist is completed with both the tenant and property manager or agent present. That way, each party can sign off that they agree on the damage noted and properly document the condition with photos or video. All of which is essential to avoiding future disputes.
What to Look for in Pre-Leasing Inspections
When completing a pre-leasing inspection, there are certain things every landlord should look out for. In particular, these include any issues that could slow down or completely halt the marketing process. Continue reading below as we discuss some of the checklist items to pay special attention to.
Chipping or Peeling Paint
In the state of Maryland, any rental home built before 1978 must meet certain requirements before moving in tenants, which include –
- Registering the property address with the Maryland Department of the Environment and paying an annual fee.
- Performing full risk reduction measures and obtaining a Risk Reduction or Lead-Free Certificate from an accredited lead inspector.
- Providing tenants with EPA-approved Lead pamphlets that address safety precautions and the potential hazards of lead-based paint exposure.
Evidence of lead paint in your home is not always easy to spot, but there are a few telltale signs that include –
- “Alligatoring” means the surface paint is cracking or wrinkling in a pattern that resembles scales.
- If the paint rubs off with a chalky residue, it could contain lead
If any of these issues are noticed, it could cause you to fail a necessary lead inspection or result in costly repairs. So, once warning signs are identified, further testing is needed to determine the lead levels that may be present. A lead certificate must be provided to rent to a tenant in Maryland, so get ahead of these potential issues early.
Water Damage, Wall/Ceiling Discoloration, or Mold
Mold is a scary word for rental owners. Not only is it a health hazard, but it can also take hold and quickly cause extensive damage requiring thousands in repairs. However, mold typically starts as a moisture issue or leak. So, identifying vulnerabilities throughout your rental is an essential part of any pre-leasing inspection.
For example, if you notice the basement is damp, a dehumidifier may be necessary to prevent mold growth. A discolored ceiling spot signals a potential roof leak that could be creating a mold-rich environment in the ceiling or attic insulation. If mold is visible, the drywall, insulation, and any damp materials must be safely removed from the home and repaired. Due to the added precautions needed to remove mold, these repairs can take longer than expected, delaying your ability to find a tenant.
Safety or Building Code Violations
In Howard County, landlords must obtain a rental license and meet certain requirements from the county. To help owners get their property ready, the county website includes a rental housing checklist that outlines some key compliance items.
In addition, owners completing pre-leasing inspections should look for any potential safety issues within the rental property. Not addressing issues like the examples below leads to costly liability –
- All structural elements are secure and intact (including floors, stairs, walls, and roofs)
- In multi-family dwellings, the common areas, hallways, and stairways are safe and free of clutter.
- Electrical, plumbing, heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning components function correctly as designed.
- Heat and hot water systems function appropriately
- Any known environmental or health hazards are appropriately addressed (mold, lead paint, asbestos)
- Doors, locks, and exterior lighting that secures the property is in proper working order
- Exterminate any known infestations of rodents, termites, roaches, bedbugs, or other vermin
While it is essential to correct the items above no matter what, keep in mind, the county will not allow occupancy until the property passes inspection. So, once you submit your rental license application and pay the fee, you will receive instructions for making an inspection appointment.
3 Tips for Completing Your Property’s Pre-Leasing Inspections
- Have a Pre-Leasing Inspection Checklist – Checklists help keep the inspection process efficient and organized. Therefore, create a list of each room and a list of condition issues to look out for. A great way to begin is by checking out our downloadable Rental Property Pre-Leasing Inspection Checklist.
- Take Detailed Notes – When noting condition issues or areas of concern, detailed notes are key. Taking the time now will save time when revisiting the inspection or relaying specific needs to a vendor.
- Record Issues with Photos – Even with detailed notes, a picture is worth a thousand words. So, photos help to not only document conditions but could aid in getting more accurate estimates from vendors.
How Property Management Can Maximize Your Property’s Potential
Owning rental property can be a rewarding and lucrative investment. That said, it is not an industry without headaches. So, for busy owners, hiring a qualified property manager is a great way to ensure your property reaches its full potential. Check out the many benefits of professional rental management below –
- Identify and avoid problem tenants through a robust yet Fair Housing Law compliant screening process.
- Property managers serve as a buffer between owners and tenants to address issues before they become a problem. Thus, allowing the owner to focus on other things.
- Efficient and targeted marketing efforts are one of the best benefits to professional management. They work to get your rental in front of a large applicant pool, bettering your chances of decreased vacancy time.
- Professionals in the industry understand that keeping the tenant happy is essential to long-term success through renewals. Therefore, they balance tenant wants and desires with the goals and budget of the owner, so everyone is happy.
- Your rental representative ensures tenants follow all terms of the lease, including paying rent on time. If not, they administer the consequences per the rental agreement without you having to step in.
- Thanks to a thorough knowledge of applicable rental laws in your area, a property manager can help to avoid costly legal or compliance issues.
- Management firms often have extensive vendor networks. These connections allow owners to potentially benefit from faster service and more cost-effective repairs. In addition, property managers help coordinate preventative maintenance, further staving off larger or more expensive repairs.
The Best Decision You Can Make as a Rental Owner
When it comes to protecting your valuable investment, regular and thorough inspections go a long way. However, managing repairs, tenant needs, and satisfying local compliance regulations can quickly become a full-time job. Savvy investors know that the key to headache-free rental ownership is through the help of a local property management company.
Bay Property Management Group is the area’s leading firm of rental industry specialists. Our experienced team has you covered from the pre-leasing inspections all the way to move-out and beyond. So, if you are looking for a way to boost your profit potential while simultaneously lightening your workload, give us a call today.