If you’re renting a property, as either a tenant or a landlord, you should be quite familiar with the concept of incoming and outgoing inspections – they are, after all, required by law under the Rental Housing Act. Despite this, many people consider inspections to be a formality at most. Jacqui Savage, the Rawson Property Group’s National Rentals Development Manager, explains why this can be a very dangerous stance to take.
“The incoming inspection with a new tenant forms the foundation of the relationship between landlord, tenant and agent,” she says. “It’s not just about making sure everyone knows which skirtings are dented and where that cracked tile is: it’s also about laying down rules and expectations for the rental period, and establishing a level of trust.”
As such, it is absolutely essential that the tenant is present for the incoming inspection, but failing to attend can have consequences and simply tarnishing the agent or landlord’s good opinion.
“If the tenant whose name is on the lease doesn’t show up to their agreed-upon incoming inspection appointment, they legally forfeit their right to contest repair costs deducted from their deposit when they move out,” says Savage. “That said, it’s equally important for the landlord or their appointed representative to show up, because they also forfeit their right to claim for future repairs if they fail to appear.”
The reasons behind this rule are quite logical: if a tenant doesn’t attend the inspection, they can’t prove they didn’t cause the damage in question. If a landlord or rental agent doesn’t attend, they can’t prove that the damage wasn’t already there when the tenant moved in.
Meticulously-recorded incoming and outgoing inspections put an end to these kinds of disagreements, but they need to be thorough to be effective.
A tenant’s checklist for every room
- Lights: Do all your lights work? Switch them on and off to double check. Consider looking at the light fittings for any loose cables and make note of these. You should give all light switches a once over with a cloth to remove any residue or leftover prints.
- Walls: The condition of your walls is important. If you’re renting, small ‘wear and tear‘-style cracks shouldn’t worry you, but definitely note them down so you’re not hit with any surprise costs. Look along the bottom edging of your wall for any rising dampness.
- Floorboards: While they’re a pleasant alternative to dealing with carpeting, floorboards can easily show signs of wear and can be expensive to fix. Checks for creaks by walking over your floor, but also have a look to see if your floorboards have started to come up at the edges.
Kitchen and bathroom
- Sinks and plumbing: How are your taps working? It might seem harmless, but a dripping tap can have a huge effect on your utility bills. Check that all dripping taps are securely fixed. It might be as simple as replacing a washer if required. When you turn the taps on, listen for any strange sounds. It wouldn’t hurt to check under your sink for possible leaks.
- Kitchen appliances and fittings: No one likes to clean their oven, but it’s a key sore spot for property managers and landlords alike. Open your stove, run your finger over the range hood and give the stove top a very thorough scrub. If there’s built-up grease around these areas, it won’t be looked fondly upon. If your microwave and fridge were included in your property, make sure you open them and check that they’re clean.
- Tiles and surfaces: It’s all about the shine when it comes to your next routine rental inspection. This is where you should clean away any residual debris and scrub hard. The same goes for your sink, mirror, shower and bathtub too.
- The toilet: We know. Ugh! But make sure you do an extra check around the likely-to-get-more-dirty-than-other places like the toilet and bin areas. It’ll give you an idea of how much love you’re giving that area (and what needs to be improved on!)
- The cupboards: Food residue and grime can be caught between the hinges of your cupboards and in the joins of shelves in your bathroom and kitchen. Give them a thorough look-over.
- Walls and floorboards: Just as you did in the living room, look at the state of your walls and floorboards. This will give you a good indication of how much love your bedroom needs. Consider giving them a little extra TLC where you can.
- Windows and doors: Open your windows and doors, and let the air in. Check the handles and locks on everything where appropriate. Sliding doors and windows can easily fall into disrepair.
- Have a general clean-up: Your landlord or property manager isn’t likely to poke around in your bedroom too much, but giving it a good once-over, throwing away any rubbish and wiping down exposed surfaces will go a long way to give a good impression during your routine inspection.
Your property’s exterior:
- Cobwebs: The dreaded cobwebs can be a nuisance, but you must clear them ahead of your routine rental inspection. Sweep around the whole exterior of your rental property and clear away any cobwebs.
- Your entrance doors: Are the locks and handles functioning properly?
- The garage: If your property comes with a garage, check the doors. Do they work properly? Ensure the whole space is kept relatively clean and well-organised.
- Gates and garden: Now is the time to look for any non-human residents your property might be housing. If your property has gates or a garden, look over them as well.
“There is a lot to cover during an inspection,” says Savage, “which is why we encourage agents to use a detailed checklist – created in advance – that itemises all building elements and inventory from floor to ceiling, room by room. Every flaw needs to be documented in writing and photographed, and general pictures of the property’s overall condition should be taken as well. The resulting document must then be signed by the tenant and agent, and a copy given to everyone involved.”
By bracketing a lease with an inspection on either end like this, culpability is easy to prove. To prevent or minimise problems in the first place, however, more frequent checks are advised.
“A big part of our Rawson Rentals ethos is matching the right landlord with the right tenant,” says Savage, “and that means maintaining transparency and open lines of communication throughout the lease period. To achieve this, we conduct inspections at least once every six months to confirm that everything is in order, and nip any potential issues in the bud.”
While some tenants may not find the prospect of additional inspections appealing, they can actually be quite useful – particularly towards the end of a lease.
“Interim inspections can highlight issues that will crop up in the outgoing inspection, giving tenants the chance to attend to things themselves rather than have the cost deducted from their deposit later on,” says Savage. “Some of our rental agents will even do a specific pre-outgoing inspection to give tenants this opportunity – it’s nice to be able to help them save money if we can do so in a responsible way.”
No matter how responsible you are, however, inspections are an inescapable – and important – part of the rental experience. They are also the best way to protect tenant and landlord interests, and ensure fair treatment for everyone at the end of the day.