When managing rental property in San Antonio, you want to ensure a maintained property for each new tenant. The best way to do this is by conducting property inspections with each new move-in and move-out.
Using this quick guide, you’ll learn the importance of property inspections, what happens during inspections, the difference between “normal" wear and tear versus damages and the requirements of inspections and their relationship to security deposits. Regular assessments help maintain a safe, beautiful property—but require time and consistent documentation.
When Should Inspections Occur?
The point of property inspections is to hold both you the landlord and your tenants accountable for any damages that may occur throughout the lease. To determine what damages occurred during tenancy, you'll want to have a well documented move-in inspection and follow it up at the end of the lease with a move-out inspection. Move-in inspections occur before the new tenant moves in; move-out inspections are conducted at the end of the lease but can happen anywhere from a few weeks before move-out to a few days after the renter has vacated. We will discuss the merit of early versus late inspection later on.
The Two Basic Categories of Inspection
You’ll want to schedule a walk-through with the tenant and have an all-encompassing checklist to guide you. This checklist should allow you to make notes, and it’s best to have space for you and the tenant to sign and date the checklist with copies for both of you to keep. During the walk-through, you'll want to take note of any missed stains, holes, leaks, or needed repairs from when you first prepared the property for the new tenant. It's vital that you take careful notes to create a report to use for comparison during the move-out inspection.
Move-out inspections can occur from a few weeks before move-out to a few days after. Now that the tenant is vacating the premises, you’ll want to compare your move-in checklist to the move-out checklist and see if there are any significant damages. These damages will need to be addressed by the tenant either by repairing before they leave or by having expenses deducted from their security deposit.
Inspections Before Tenant Vacancy:
- Tenants have the opportunity to fix whatever damages you may find which fall outside of regular use.
- If the tenant follows through, they may receive most or all of their security deposit back.
- Catching damage early means less turn-over time between tenants.
Inspections Post Tenant Move-Out:
- Tenants can’t hide any damages, making them easy to spot.
- These inspections can be done as a walk-through with the tenant or by yourself.
- This inspection must be completed promptly as security deposits are often due within 30 days of a vacancy.
Tips for a Successful Move-In or Move-Out Inspection:
Now that you understand the basic structure of inspections, here are some tips on conducting a successful one:
- Take photos or even video of the unit documenting its condition.
- Write a thorough report describing the inspection paired with your checklist.
- Include a document stating the terms of the inspection and how deductions to the security deposit can occur.
- Make sure both you and the tenant sign and date this document and the checklist from your walk-through.
- A walk-through with the tenant on move-in and move-out keep the lines of communication open with your tenant.
Security Deposit Disputes
One aspect of inspections that we’ve mentioned but haven’t discussed directly is the security deposit. Inspections are essential for maintaining the property and protecting your investment, but the tenant’s security deposit is tied to these inspections as well. If nothing but "normal" wear and tear has occurred in the unit during the renter’s stay, then their full security deposit can be returned to them. However, if there’s damage beyond the norm, then you as the landlord can make the necessary deductions to cover those damages. Most renters these days expect to get their full security deposit back and will dispute any deductions: if you’re unable to provide clear documentation, then you may open yourself up to a lawsuit. A dispute over a security deposit can also hurt your reputation as a landlord.
What Counts as "Normal" Wear and Tear?
Wear and tear when someone lives in a space for any length of time is normal: minor scuffs on the wall, scratches, minimal tears and stains of the flooring are all expected. Holes in the wall, large tears in carpet, pet urine saturation, and broken mirrors, shelving, or appliances are unexpected and considered damage! These damages can be grounds for security deposit deductions as long as they are well documented.
A Note on Landlord Neglect: Some damages may occur due to landlord neglect. These damages can’t be counted against the tenant and include things like water stains in the ceiling from a leaky roof or dead electrical sockets. Don't let your investment property become part of this category!
Why Are Inspections Important?
As a San Antonio property owner, your ultimate goal is to get a return on your investment. If you’re not conducting regular property inspections throughout the life of your rental, you’re doing yourself and your tenants a disservice. Move-in and move-out inspections are a great way to make sure you’re addressing any small, easily-fixed problems before they become significant repairs. These should be paired with annual inspections of the property, especially if you have a renter who stays multiple years. Ideally, you should inspect the property during each change in season.
Routine Property Inspections Don't Have to Be Overwhelming!
Inspections aren’t required in every state, and walk-through inspections aren’t required in the state of TX. However, inspections are still in your best interest if you want to maintain and protect your investment.
The property management professionals at Real Property Management Campanas understand that scheduling and conducting move-in and move-out inspections take a lot of time, effort, and extensive long-term documentation. Finding the best tenants right from the start can take a huge bite out of move-out inspection stress! Do you know how to spot fantastic tenants? Use our free tenant-screening checklist and reach out to us today to see how we can help you get your free time back!