If you’re a landlord that manages your own portfolio of buy-to-let properties then life can easily get in the way of quarterly checks. However, they are an important element of your property management responsibilities.
The purpose of quarterly inspections is to check the condition of each buy-to-let property within a portfolio, ensure it complies with current safety regulations and spot any repair or maintenance issues.
In the long run, this could save you money – repair things before they break – and reduce void periods by keeping your tenants happy and feeling at home.
Here are our top tips for carrying out quarterly inspections.
Add the dates to your diary
To avoid missing quarterly inspections, you should set up a diary system that you will take note of and populate it with inspection dates as far in the future as you can. If you have a wall calendar but never look at it, then that won’t work. Try setting regular reminders in your Smart Phone or Outlook calendar for a couple of weeks prior to the due date. This is especially important if you are a landlord with a large property portfolio.
Notify the tenant in writing
It is important to inform all tenants that you intend to visit the property in order to carry out the quarterly inspection at least 24 hours beforehand. You must ensure that you are visiting the property at a reasonable time of the day and they should confirm they are happy with that. It’s also better to do it while they are present.
A text or call is always an effective method of communication as we rarely go an hour without checking our phones, but you should also send a formal notification. It is up to you whether you send a written letter, but note that emails are now considered legal documents and so can be a cost-effective way of delivering important information.
Use a checklist
To ensure you’re not missing anything, take a checklist with you and go through it room by room.
This should include:
– Points of entry – Check that all of the locks are in working order, that doors and windows open and close properly and don’t leak.
– Heating, hot water and lighting – Make sure that the systems are working efficiently by checking each tap and shower unit, radiator and light switch.
– Visual inspection – Are the carpets/floors, walls and ceilings in good order and free of damp and mould? Are there any new stains that need further investigation?
– General condition of fittings – This includes bathroom fittings, white goods and other appliances if applicable. Check they are in good condition and in working order
– Garden – Is it clear of rubbish and well-maintained?
If you furnish your rental properties, you should also check the condition of all furniture, blinds, curtains and appliances.
Finally, make sure you ask your tenants whether they are experiencing any problems with the property and remind them that they can contact you at any time to report issues.
A good tip here is to go armed with your tool box and WD40 in case any quick fixes can be made immediately!
You should also to check the following:
– Smoke alarms – Check that every smoke alarm works and be sure to give them a clean as they often get clogged with dust.
– Fire doors – If you let Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) or flats, then it’s likely you’ll have fire doors installed. They should be checked to ensure that they close properly, that the seals are in good condition and that the hinges work. If you use battery operated Dorgards to hold your fire doors open, you will need to change the batteries as part of your quarterly inspection.
– Risk assessment – During quarterly inspections, you should always carry out a risk assessment while checking the property. Identify potential hazards and who might be harmed and how, evaluate the risks and decide on precautions, record the findings and implement them.
Be thorough – but not too thorough
Remember, this isn’t just a property – it’s a home to someone. While landlords have every right to check that the property is maintained to a certain standard and that everything is functioning as it should, you shouldn’t cross the line.
Rummaging through private wardrobes and drawers is unlikely to help you find a leak or detect a faulty light.
As is the case when refurbishing a property to rent, you have to remember you don’t live there. Just because you might maintain a certain level of cleanliness, it doesn’t mean your tenants will have the same housekeeping standards.
Unless what they are doing is causing property issues (such as face wipes in the toilet causing blockages or drying clothes in the bedroom causing damp), then you need to be reasonable. You cannot impose a charge or penalty because they haven’t dusted for a week or leave odd socks on the landing – but you can if they have caused damage!
Managing buy-to-let property, by its very nature, tends to accumulate paperwork. It is therefore important that you maintain good control over the administration of the properties.
You should keep a printed copy of all property information in a physical folder as well as electronic versions on your computer. It is also a good idea to save and label documents by date for ease of reference in the future.
There are added benefits to carrying out quarterly inspections – not only can landlords prevent major property maintenance issues, but can help you to build strong relationships with your tenants and deal with any concerns they might have.