As the owner of a rental property you’re all about keeping your place safe, right?
You’re all about going into your property regularly to check things out and see what’s going on inside. Your rental property is your investment. You have the absolute right to inspect your investment and ensure your standards are being kept.
Nothing wrong with that, right?
We understand. There is nothing wrong with wanting your property inspected. Only natural you’d look for a property management company who provides this service every three months.
But wait a minute.
How often should you inspect your rental property? What’s the norm here?
Well, when you’re looking for a property management company, you’ll come across a few telling you every quarter is the norm and they’ll provide that service for you. And then you’ll find a few like us here at GTL who’ll tell you that once a year is enough.
Who should you believe? What should you do?
On the surface, we imagine you’re tempted to go with the company offering quarterly inspections.
It makes sense a property management company who inspects its properties every three months (instead of every year) will be more “on top” of things.
But we’re here to urge you to reconsider and tell you quarterly inspections are a bad idea.
Hear us out here, please, because we’ll save you time, money, and stress, by listening to what we have to say.
Did you ever rent when you were younger, before you got on the property ladder and bought your first home?
If you did, you’ll understand what we’re about to tell you. And if you didn’t, we hope you can put yourself in the shoes of your tenants.
Cast your mind back to the days when you were renting yourself.
You paid your rent on time, caused no problems. You didn’t own the place where you lived – well, yeah; you were renting – but it was your home. It felt like home to you, right? You trusted your landlord, had a great relationship with them, and they trusted you right back.
Because they didn’t invade your privacy every three months with a home inspection.
Imagine if they had done that?
How would you feel if “Big Brother” came by to snoop around every 90 days? Not exactly a way to encourage trust and good relations, is it?
It’s no secret tenants renting out homes hate being reminded they don’t own the place where they live. And like everyone else, they want their privacy. They’re paying you for their privacy (more on this in a little while).
The bottom line is, if you, the landlord, inspected the place every three months, the tenant would soon tire of this.
Odds are they’d tire so much they wouldn’t renew their lease at the end of their year.
That would leave you spending money on looking for a new tenant. A new tenant who also wouldn’t renew their lease after you’ve invaded their privacy once a quarter!
The last thing you want to do is make a tenant uncomfortable. An uncomfortable tenant doesn’t renew, and a tenant who doesn’t renew costs you a lot of money.
The number one rule when renting is to keep the same tenant in your place for as long as possible.
You want a low turnover, not a high turnover where you’re always looking for new tenants.
Keeping the same tenants long term is key to keeping your costs down and your profits up. It’s also key to having as little stress as possible as a landlord.
So try to keep your tenants happy! Better for you in the long run. A happy tenant will renew with you and that should make you happy too.
If you send us in every three months to look around and take photos, you won’t keep your tenants happy, we promise.
There are also legal concerns, beyond keeping your tenant happy.
We mentioned earlier that when a tenant pays you rent, they’re paying, in part, for a measure of privacy.
It’s not just a matter of paying for a place to sleep, cook, and store their things. They’re paying for a home and for the right to enjoy the benefits of that home.
And the legal term for this is “quiet enjoyment”.
“Quiet enjoyment” is the right every tenant has to live without their landlord hassling them. The right they have to enjoy the benefits of living in the home they’re paying for.
A tenant might sue a landlord for breaching their “quiet enjoyment” rights if that landlord insists on inspections every three months.
And guess what? A lot of judges would agree with the tenant instead of the landlord.
We’ve met plenty of judges who see quarterly inspections as a breach of “quiet enjoyment”. Sure, some judges have no issues with them, but it’s a crap shoot. You don’t know what judge you’ll get when your tenant sues you.
You could get a judge who will order you to pay damages back to the tenant. You do not want to get into a situation like this.
So the best way to avoid a situation like this is to not insist on quarterly inspections.
Here at GTL we offer all our client landlords the choice of annual or bi-annual inspections, with the strong recommendation to stick to annual. We never met a judge who believes that’s intrusive.
Our rule of thumb is to inspect the property once a year, about three months before the lease is up.
There’s also another reason to be wary when a property management company offers you quarterly inspections.
They are probably lying to you about doing them in the first place.
They might offer quarterly inspections as part of their spiel when looking for your business, but we would bet almost anything they’re not going out and doing them.
Let that sink in a second and we’ll explain why.
Like any business looking to stay on top and stay relevant, we often use market research companies to engage in secret shopping. Most businesses do this to keep an eye on what the competition are up to.
Anyway, our secret shoppers phone around the competition to find out what they’re charging, what services they offer, and so on.
We often run into companies claiming to offer quarterly inspections and we press them.
We ask if they provide time and date-stamped photos to the landlord. They say no. Then we ask if they provide in-depth, detailed reports to their landlords after each inspection. Nope.
Afterward we ask if they’re providing inspections every three months, why is no evidence presented to the landlord?
Great question, and one they often fudge trying to answer.
They say they don’t provide inspections per se, but on average a repair person enters one of their properties every three months to fix something, and they consider that an inspection.
Yep. Doesn’t matter if repair person doesn’t enter the same property every three months – it’s more of an estimate across the board, so-to-speak.
Another excuse – sorry, inspection example – they give is this:
They don’t go into the rental every three months, more like just drive by and check things out from the street.
Now we see it! So to them, driving by outside is an inspection, and that’s what they’re selling to you, but not in those words. You think you’re getting a full inspection but you’re not. You’re getting some guy driving past outside and calling it a day.
In all fairness we used to do these quarterly drive-by inspections ourselves.
Although we didn’t sell them as “home inspections”. We sold them as drive-bys and they turned out to be useless.
Our clients got nothing from them. Most of the time they never bothered opening the email we sent them with a pic of their home from the street. So we stopped.
Chances are your property management company offering quarterly inspections is offering these drive-bys.
But if they’re selling them as something else, that’s a dishonest business practice. And if they’re dishonest about quarterly home inspections, what else are they dishonest about?
Do you want them looking after your property?
But let’s keep pressing.
What if your property company swears on all that’s good and holy they carry out full, interior inspections every 90 days? No drive by inspections, no repair person shenanigans, nothing like that. A full inspection.
Well… we still call BS. As a property management company ourselves, we can’t see how it’s possible.
Time for a little math.
Right now we manage about 400 properties.
As we said earlier, we recommend annual inspections. So that works out at 400 inspections per year. There are 365 days in a year, but in reality around 250 work days (home inspection on Christmas Day, anyone? Don’t think so). We’re averaging over one inspection per day right there.
Now imagine we’re doing these inspections every 90 days. We‘re talking 1,600 inspections per year. Over 6 (6.4 to be precise) inspections every day.
Remember, a proper inspection takes some time – at least an hour plus the time writing up the report – and you’ll understand why we call BS on any company saying they do this.
Or if they are doing this, they’re not doing something else they should be. Like collecting rents, scheduling repairs, and so on.
It doesn’t add up.
Maybe they’re a smaller company with less than 400 properties. Fair enough. But in that case they’d have fewer people working for them, fewer resources, and proportionally you’re looking at the same problem.
Space and time, my friend, space and time. The logistics don’t add up.
Any rental company who tells you they offer these full inspections quarterly is exaggerating (like with the drive by thing), outright lying, or they’re telling the truth but neglecting far more important tasks.
Whatever, it’s a giant red flag either way.
So here’s what we recommend when looking for a property management company.
Ask them about their move in and move out inspections. These are the most important ones you need and you want a company with a detailed process on this.
Then ask them about their periodic inspections. Avoid any company who doesn’t do them at all. But as we’ve seen here, also avoid any company who offers too many. They are stringing you along.
Look for a company who offers one or two per year like we do. And trust us when we recommend that once a year is enough to keep you and your tenants happy.
For any further info on this topic, touch base with us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll be happy to help.
Until next time.