The ultimate guide to inspecting your property

Let it and forget it, where you hand over the keys and watch the monthly rental income drop into your bank account for the next few months, or if you’re lucky, years, sounds like a great idea for a passive investment in theory. 

But the reality is somewhat different. Prudent landlords safeguard their investments by having a regular tenancy inspection regime at the start of a tenancy, at periodic intervals during the tenancy and when a tenancy ends.

Regular inspections are also a requirement of most landlord insurance policies and buy to let mortgage agreements, so they make practical sense. With a new let you want to be assured that the tenants are looking after the property. So initially you need to keep a close eye on what’s going on. Later on as you develop trust and can see that everything is going smoothly and the property is being looked after, then you can relax your close monitoring a little.

A degree of sensitivity is needed when entering a tenant’s home to do inspections. Tenants can feel vulnerable, even threatened by having someone enter their home to inspect. Some may react aggressively, especially if openly criticised. That’s why it’s sometimes wise for landlords to use an independent third party to carry out inspections – an agent or an inventory clerk. Whether you choose to appoint a third party or carry out inspections yourself, it’s a good idea to familiarise yourself with what’s involved.

It’s also important to remember that if a landlord enters their rental property without permission they are putting themselves at risk of being accused of trespass and harassment – we’ll cover this in more detail shortly.

There’s a lot of information to take in here, but you can skip ahead to the sections that are most relevant to you using the menu below.

Why should you do landlord inspections?

By far the majority of residential tenants pay their rent on time and look after their rental property. But there’s a minority who don’t.

These tenants usually represent no more than around five per cent of renters, but that number is significant if you happen to get one of these tenants.

If you have ever had your rental abused by reckless tenants, you will know the distress it can cause when the situation is out of control because there’s no quick resolution – evicting bad tenants is a lengthy process.

You can protect yourself as much as possible by doing thorough due diligence through tenant referencing and carrying out tenant checks on all your prospective tenants, but it’s impossible to reduce the risk to zero.

That’s why you should do regular checks and inspections, especially with new tenants.

In the extreme, tenants have been known to carry out all sorts of activities that would horrify most landlords, from throwing wild parties, introducing pets without permission and subletting, through to operating a drug den, a prostitution racket or setting up a cannabis farm.

Landlord inspections - how often should you do them?

Regular landlord inspections are vital for making sure that your tenant is looking after the property and not breaching other terms of the tenancy agreement.

Most landlord insurance policies, including Hamilton Fraser Total Landlord Insurance, specify that an inspection should be carried out within a month of the tenant moving in and then every six months during tenancies. Weekly inspections are generally recommended when the property is vacant.

The ultimate guide to inspecting your property

“Most landlord insurance policies, including ours, require tenants to inform their landlord if the property is going to be vacant for an extended period and you should make sure this is indicated in the tenancy agreement.

We ask that, where the property is going to be vacant for between 30 and 90 days, you make sure that all security devices are kept in full and effective operation and arrange for weekly internal and external inspections to be carried out.

We also ask that you keep written reports of these inspections, as well as rectifying any defects they reveal.”

– Steve Barnes, Associate Director at Hamilton Fraser Total Landlord Insurance