A landlord’s guide to property inspections
House and property inspections play a vital role in ensuring your property is maintained according to the terms of your tenancy agreement. They’re also a good way to build rapport with tenants, which can help to build a successful long-term relationship.
To help you arrange a house inspection, clarify your legal obligations, and your landlord rights, here’s what to consider.
- What is a house inspection?
- Landlord right of entry dos and don’ts
- When should landlords carry out house inspections?
- What’s the best way for landlords to ask permission for house inspections?
- What should landlords do during a house inspection?
- How can landlords spot the difference between wear and tear and damage?
- Protecting your assets with insurance
What is a house inspection?
Carrying out a house inspection allows you to check the state of your property inside and out. The inspection should help ensure that your rental is ‘fit for human habitation’, which is one of your landlord responsibilities set out in Section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985.
A house inspection should:
- Ensure any contents you provide are in good working order.
- Determine if any damage has occurred and what needs repairing.
- Check for overall cleanliness, particularly if there are pets in the property.
One of the key benefits of regular house inspections is that if you do find a problem, catching it early can help prevent more serious issues from developing later. Inspections are also a way to ensure that tenants fulfil their obligations in their rental contract. Crucially, it also helps ensure that no illegal activities are taking place.
Landlord right of entry dos and don’ts
Under the Housing Act 1988, you have the right of reasonable access to inspect your property and evaluate its overall condition and state of repair. That said, there are laws in place that you’ll need to follow to respect your tenants’ rights.
Can a landlord enter a property without permission?
It’s important to bear in mind that landlord right of entry is not automatic and cannot be assumed simply because you own the property. Remember, as a landlord, you only have rights to ‘reasonable access’, primarily to ensure that repairs and maintenance can be carried out.
You can only enter the property without permission if there’s a genuine emergency, for example, a gas leak or a burst water pipe. Otherwise, it could be seen as trespassing or landlord harassment.
Can a landlord enter the property to provide cleaning services?
If you provide cleaning or gardening services, it’s a good idea to ensure this is included in the tenancy agreement, along with the frequency (for example, once a week). If this is clearly set out and agreed upon by your tenant, you shouldn’t need any further permission.
Of course, it’s always courteous to agree on a fixed time and day so tenants know when to expect you. This can also help ensure schedules aren’t interrupted if tenants work from home or have small children.
Can a landlord enter the property without the tenant present?
If your tenant has given you permission to enter the property without them there you can, but it’s sensible to have this agreed in writing.
Nevertheless, carrying out an inspection while your tenant is present is normally more beneficial for both of you. Not only does it make the whole process more open and transparent, you both have the opportunity to discuss issues and repairs.
Can tenants refuse access to a property?
Yes. Tenants can refuse entry and are within their rights to do so. Although, a robust tenancy agreement which includes a clause on property inspections can deter tenants from refusing access for this.
If your tenant repeatedly denies you access, it’s worth keeping hold of any correspondence. If any issues occur further down the line, this evidence can help show you’ve made attempts to inspect the property but was denied.
When should landlords carry out house inspections?
There’s no right or wrong time for house inspections – so long as the time you set works for you and your tenant. It can also depend on circumstances, for example, how long the tenancy is, how long the current tenants have been there, and whether or not the inspection is carried out by you or a letting agent.
Common inspection schedules include annual checks or assessments at the beginning or end of tenancies. If you want a more comprehensive schedule, you can also opt for periodic inspections, which take place at regular intervals – for example, quarterly. Whatever you decide, setting out clear expectations and a timetable within the tenancy agreement can help smooth the process.
What are the consequences of not carrying out a house inspection?
Whether or not you choose to carry out a house inspection is entirely up to you. If you have longstanding tenants and have previously inspected the property, you may not feel the need to continue to a fixed schedule.
If you decide against house inspections (or don’t get around to it), you may find your property is left in a state that leaves you facing hefty repair or cleaning costs.
What’s the best way for landlords to ask permission for house inspections?
If you want to carry out a house inspection or need to enter the property, you should give tenants at least 24 hours’ notice in writing. Don’t forget that you’ll also need their permission to enter unless there is a genuine emergency.
When you do ask for permission, you should:
- Ask for permission in writing – this can be a text message or email.
- Set out clear reasons for why you need to enter the property – for example, if it’s for an inspection or to resolve a maintenance problem you’ve already discussed.
- Be clear on the date, time, and people involved – you should specify details, including who will be visiting the property.
- Consider your tenants’ schedules – especially if they work from home or shifts.
What should landlords do during a house inspection?
House inspections should be thorough – it’s much easier and more cost-effective to resolve a problem in its early stages.
What you specifically look for will depend on several factors. For example, if the building has a history of damp, you might want to keep an eye out for this.
It’s worth having a checklist covering the property’s external and internal areas. If you’ve got more than one property, keeping record is also a good way to keep up to date with maintenance cycles.
Internal considerations include:
- damp and mould;
- leaky taps or pipes;
- ensuring smoke detectors and carbon monoxide alarms are working;
- checking the condition of items you provide, such as electricals and furniture;
- checking the condition of permanent fixtures and fittings like bathroom suites, carpets, flooring, and light fittings.
External considerations include:
- leaky gutters;
- loose paving slabs;
- broken or damaged fencing;
- making sure there isn’t excessive amounts of rubbish being left out that could attract rats;
- checking outbuildings are secure.
How can landlords spot the difference between wear and tear and damage?
Wear and tear is to be expected in any rental property, and it’s reasonable that there’ll be scuff marks or the carpet will be more worn. It’s also fair to assume that after a while, the electrical items you provide will need replacing.
Having a comprehensive inventory list for a rental property makes it much easier to distinguish between wear and tear and damage. For example, marks on walls, peeling wallpaper and loose edges on carpets can all be considered fair wear and tear. Whereas large sections of ripped wallpaper, heavily stained or soiled carpets, smashed doors, walls and furniture can all count as ‘damage’. An inventory with photos also serves as evidence if you need to claim damages.
Protecting your assets with insurance
Being a landlord isn’t as simple as handing over the keys to a property; there are many legal obligations to consider too. At Alan Boswell Group we understand this, which is why we offer award-winning landlord insurance that you can rely on, including:
- Landlord buildings insurance
- Landlord fixtures and fittings insurance
- Rental protection insurance
- Legal expenses insurance
- Home emergency insurance
For more information, call an expert adviser on 01603 218000 or visit our landlords’ hub, where you can also find advice, from dealing with problems with tenants, understanding how to issue a Section 21 eviction notice, to knowing what different types of tenancy agreement exist.