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Tenant inspections are a vital part of any solid plan to keep a property in good condition. Bad tenants can do an incredible amount of damage over time, and even good tenants might fail to report conditions in your units that could lead to big repair bills if they are not immediately addressed.

If you haven’t already done so, create a checklist that covers you with tenant inspections from all angles. Make sure all of the relevant local and state laws are incorporated into your checklist so you’re always on the right side of any applicable regulations. You’ll also need to decide and keep a schedule regarding the frequency of your rental schedules, such as every three to six months. Whatever frequency you decide on, always apply it the same way to all your tenants. If you appear to be “leaning” on one tenant over others by carrying out more frequent inspections in their unit, you may find yourself in some legal hot water.

Here’s what else your checklist should include, beyond the basics:

•       Time to talk to new tenants about inspections: When a tenant knows about the inspections before they move in, they’re more likely to keep your property in good condition and will be easier to work with during the process. Encourage tenants to be present at the inspections in case you notice something that needs to be addressed. If you can, accommodate their work schedules so they can be there.

•       Advance written notice creation and delivery: Always send out written notice about the inspection in accordance with local laws. Even if you’re friendly with the tenant and have verbal permission, you need to stick to the regulations in your area to cover yourself legally.

•       Time for the tenant to talk to you: Allot time so your tenant can talk to you about the property’s condition. Encourage him or her to make a list of potential problems so you have an idea of what work may need to be done.

When you’re doing the inspection, remember to keep it about the property and not about the tenant as a person. If you’re upset about the unit’s condition, don’t yell or start an argument with the tenant. Follow the procedures set out in the local landlord-tenant laws to give the tenant formal notice of the issues. In serious cases, speak to a lawyer if you think you need to evict them.

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