There is a fine line between being a concerned landlord and a nosy intruder. How often can a landlord inspect a property? Unfortunately, there isn’t a set number. Property inspection frequency all comes down to three elements: rental inspection purpose, landlord professionalism, and tenant privacy.
RENTAL INSPECTION PURPOSE
The primary purposes to inspect a property would fall under two categories: protecting the property investment and ensuring resident health and safety. With a focus on these two important elements, inspections fall under these subcategories:
Move in inspection
Move out inspection (which may include a pre-move-out inspection
Maintenance and safety
Routine home inspections (yearly, seasonally, or quarterly)
Safety inspection (smoke alarms, check/fill fire extinguishers)
Pest control and infestations
There may be other reasons a landlord may enter a property for non-inspection purposes such as snow removal, repair of a broken water heater or plumbing issue, a natural disaster, or an extended tenant absence.
Just as there are state laws regarding the amount of notification before entering a property or home for an inspection, check your state regulations and statutes for notification requirements for non-inspection scenarios as well.
Friendliness is a core competency in property management but even your closest friends may not appreciate a visit unannounced. Tenants, no matter how friendly or close the relationship, should always be treated with the utmost professionalism; especially when it comes to inspections.
Adhere to a code of professionalism in regards to home inspection frequency. Include provisions in the lease for inspection timing and notification. When welcoming your new resident and signing the lease, be sure to discuss property inspection frequency and the types of inspections scheduled.
Abide by the lease and state regulations at all times. Give ample notification, more than required if possible. Some states have no statute on the amount of notification and others require up to 48 hours. Typically the average amount of time required for landlord’s to enter a property for a non-emergency reason is a 24 hour notice.
With care, concern, and empathy see inspections from the perspective of the resident. Then, be prepared to inspect, document, and discuss concerns in a professional manner. Follow up in writing, note the positive, build report and relationship
PRIVACY AND QUIET ENJOYMENT
Residents understand that although they are at home in your house, the house does not belong to them and therefore have an obligation to allow you, their landlord, access. They can not simply refuse entry nor change locks without permission (and/or offering the landlord a copy of the new keys).
But that’s only one side of the equation. There is a covenant between the tenant and landlord that the tenant will be allowed privacy and an implied warranty of quiet enjoyment. Landlords can break that covenant by unduly disturbing the renter.
In the day-to-day business of the rental industry, it’s easy to lose focus on the people when attempting to maximize and protect a property investment. In that, landlords and property managers can oft forget that included in a rental payment is the tenants’ right to privacy and quiet enjoyment of the home.
Some tenants may feel multiple inspections are excessive. But how often can a landlord inspect a property before it becomes excessive? Excessive is in the eye of the beholder. If you’ve received a move-out notice and need to show the unit to a potential renter, perhaps daily showings might be a bit much. But a few times a week is reasonable. The key here is to be mindful of the tenants’ right to quiet enjoyment of the home and freedom from harassment.
Not only do state and local laws apply but social decorum and the golden rule might be well to be remembered: Do to others as you’d have them do to you.
CAN A LANDLORD DO THAT?
YES: A landlord may conduct a drive-by inspection (by walking, car, bicycle) as often as they like as long as they are not harassing nor disturbing the residents.
NO: A landlord may not conduct random property inspections.
YES: A landlord may schedule multiple inspections a year. Some landlords will schedule quarterly or seasonally.
NO: Unless specifically allowed by state regulation for circumstances such as an emergency, a landlord may not ‘pop by’ without notice.
YES: A landlord may enter a home unannounced in most states if to help in an emergency.
NO: A landlord may not conduct excessive property inspections outside the provisions of the law.
CAN A TENANT DO THAT?
YES: A tenant can speak to the housing authority and legal council to confirm the terms of the lease agreement and verify state and local regulations regarding property inspections and landlord entry.
NO: A tenant may not change the locks without either permission or giving a key to the new lock to their landlords.
YES: A tenant can go on an extended absence (travel, hospitalization, etc.) but may be required to inform their landlord and allow landlord access if applicable by state/local statutes.
NO: A tenant may not refuse entry to a landlord that has given the appropriate notification.
YES: A tenant may refuse entry to a landlord that has not given appropriate notification.
NO: A tenant that requested maintenance or repair can not then refuse entry if the landlord complies with state notification regulations.
Check with your state and local regulations.
Document inspection provisions in the lease or rental agreement.
Abide by those terms with proper notification.
Remember the purpose of the visit.
Consider using a property management software that integrates with an inspection app to raise the level of inspection efficiency and professionalism.
Keep interactions with residents appropriately friendly with a professional demeanor.
Be the resource that makes a house a home by providing a safe and well-maintained property for your residence.
The question then isn’t how often can a landlord inspect a property, but rather how does a landlord go about conducting appropriate inspections within regulations to the benefit of both parties.