Just like novice home buyers do not always understand the importance of pre-purchase home inspections, many novice investors think they can get by without move-in inspections, periodic inspections, drive-by inspections, and move-out inspections of their rental properties. It only takes getting burned one time by a renter who leaves the property in a mess or does extensive damage to learn this lesson the hard way. One way to identify potentially bad tenants is to conduct an inspection before they sign a lease agreement.

Visit where they currently live

Good tenants are valuable and should be appreciated. Bad renters are costly and should be avoided if at all possible. It is better to have a vacancy than a tenant who is going to end up costing you money by living in the property just long enough to fall behind in the rent and then move out, leaving holes in the walls, damaged fixtures, and non-functioning appliances.

To get a feel for potential tenants, pay a surprise visit to them in their current residence. You can be upfront with them and say it is your policy to visit all potential tenants in their current home prior to a lease agreement. If the property is a mess, you can expect yours to be kept in the same condition.

Periodic unscheduled inspections

Most rental property owners conduct regular property inspections twice a year. The problem is that it does not take long for a property to become cluttered with trash and a haven for insects, rodents, and other pests. Inform all tenants that the landlord or property manager can enter the property with proper notice at any time throughout the lease. This can be done to spray for insects or perform other routine maintenance tasks, such as replacing HVAC air return filters. These unscheduled inspections can alert investors to problems such as trash accumulation and unsanitary living conditions before they get out of hand.

Drive-by and exterior inspections

Drive-by inspections are especially important for single-family rental houses. It is typically the tenant’s responsibility to maintain the lawn and keep the yard free of debris.

Look for any indication of unauthorized pets. Cats have a tendency to damage blinds. Paw prints on glass doors are a clear giveaway that a four-legged member of the renter’s family is also occupying the residence. If you do notice an issue of concern, send them a politely worded note. The goal is to turn them into good long-term tenants. By staying on top of issues with consistent inspections, it is possible to avoid major headaches and surprises down the road.