William J. Bennett, who worked under Ronald Reagan, once remarked, “Home is a shelter from storms—all sorts of storms.” This holds for those living in both purchased and rented homes. Across the country right now, it’s never been more true: whether you’re the resident or the property owner, home has become a place of refuge in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis.
Before the pandemic, effective care for your rental home required careful inspections to ensure your renters were taking proper care of your investment property—and that hidden maintenance issues were uncovered before they got more expensive. As an expert in NOVA property management, we know this is still crucial—even during a public health crisis of this scale.
Thankfully, when inspections are done properly, and according to a set schedule, they can do a lot to preserve the value of your investment. The novel Coronavirus has certainly thrown all kinds of scheduling for a loop! Between closed businesses, work-from-home proliferation, and lockdowns across the United States, ensuring that your renters have a safe home with no significant issues is still possible even during social distancing. If you happen to be between renters, inspections of your property still matter! Follow these tips from your NOVA property management ally.
A word of caution: This blog post does not act as a substitute for medical advice or legal counsel. When in doubt, consult with your trusted attorney, property manager, and medical care provider for real-time assistance.
DO: Perform a Thorough Move-In Inspection
Your move-in inspection accomplishes a few key objectives. When you inspect the property, you may find things that need to be addressed before you hand over the keys. This may include issues such as lights that need to be replaced, outlets that aren’t functioning properly, small leaks, creaky doors, or fixtures that could use some TLC. If you catch these before the tenant moves in, their experience living in your property can get off to a smoother start.
Another reason to do a move-in inspection is to set a baseline condition of the property before your renter takes up residence on the premises. It could be argued that the success of the rental term depends on establishing the state of the property before your new resident moves in.
After the tenant hands over their security deposit, they may very well be expecting to get it back when they move out. To determine whether or not they have a refund waiting, you need to know if they have treated your property with respect.
The move-in inspection is a snapshot of the property’s condition before the tenant has stepped foot inside. An accurate record can help you establish—even in a court of law—the extent to which damage was done. This may come in handy if the tenant challenges your decision not to return some or all of the security deposit. Here are some things that could be documented:
- The condition of all fixtures
- The state of the refrigerator
- How well crucial appliances function, such as the washer and dryer
- The operation of kitchen appliances that you choose to offer with the rental
- The condition of windows, doors, floors, ceilings, and walls
- The shape of any furniture in the rental.
Not only should you make a written description of these and other items, but you should also gather photographic evidence. When the inspection is complete, you can prepare a document that both you and the tenants can sign, agreeing on the condition of the property. Such documents can be prepared for, delivered to, and signed by your prospective renter without ever having to make face-to-face contact.
It’s a good idea to disinfect high-touch areas like door handles during an inspection performed prior to move-in if your renter will be entering the property shortly. COVID-19 doesn’t last in the presence of alcohol-based cleaners with a 70-95% alcohol content but can survive well on plastics and steel for as long as 72 hours.
DO: Perform a Mid-Lease Inspection
A mid-lease inspection shouldn’t be viewed as an intrusion, but a necessary check-up on how your tenants are treating their home—and your investment. Although many rental agreements give the owner the right to come in and check the property on short notice, additional care should be taken if you decide to enter a renter’s home during the COVID-19 crisis.
- Notify your tenants well in advance of any inspection that you will be entering their property (and when).
- Perform correct hand washing or sterilization protocols prior to applying any PPE and after removal.
- Disposable, non-sterile gloves, an N95 FFR, and some form of protective eyewear are recommended if you intend to enter an area with suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19.
- Avoid close contact (within six feet) and touching your face before and after a visit to your rental property.
- Dispose of any PPE after exiting the property (and be sure to properly wash your hands!)
Of course, working with a professional NOVA property management company that has experience in carrying out inspections mid-lease can also be useful.
At Renters Warehouse DC/NOVA, we consider it wise to schedule your first inspection about three months after the lease begins. Thereafter, you can do it every six months. You may notice issues that, if addressed right away, may save you time and money in the future.
DO: Perform a Thorough Move-Out Inspection
In the often hectic process of moving out, it can be easy to miss—or forget—your next inspection. You may have a new renter already lined up as the old tenant is packing up! However, if the property can’t be returned to adequate condition in time for the next tenant, you could lose out on the kind of income you need during these times of uncertainty.
Performing a timely move-out inspection can put you in a position to clear up any issues regarding the security deposit, so you have no doubt where the funds will be coming from for any repairs.
In addition to comparing the condition of the home to before the tenants moved in, you will also want to check to see which issues fall under normal wear and tear. While what determines normal wear and tear is different from property to property, many landlords consider the following par for the course:
- Scrapes in the paint
- Small holes in the drywall as a result of hanging pictures or TVs
- Scratches less than a couple of millimeters deep in the floor
- Loose hinges.
On the other hand, significant damage to your NOVA home—even if accidental—should not be overlooked.
DO: Prepare Your Property for Your Next Renter
We urge all of the property owners reading this blog post to stay safe, stay home, and keep washing your hands! However, we know that the work of a landlord is rarely done—even during a pandemic.
Whether you have another resident ready to inhabit your rental home post-inspection or you need to find your next tenant, you need to make sure your property is ready! However, your Make-Ready Process involves more than a thorough deep-clean and disinfecting of your rental home.
With the stress of the novel Coronavirus already creating more work for property owners, Renters Warehouse DC/NOVA has your back! Remove some of the guesswork in prepping your property by downloading our Make-Ready Checklist! It includes critical areas for property owners to target when preparing their rental homes.