Inspecting Tenant Occupied Apartments: Your Curiosity And Lack Of Trust Will Likely Cost You
Nexus Property Management ® has spent nearly a decade solidifying itself as The Property Management Authority® across Rhode Island and Massachusetts. In that role, a question that comes up often is whether or not to regularly inspect tenants’ apartments while they are still living there. Our response is a simple one: “What is your goal?” Why do it? What do you hope to gain? If you’re simply operating under the belief that it seems like the right thing to do or you just want to know what’s going on in there, please continue reading:
In a service industry (such as real estate) where time and efficiency are essential it’s ALWAYS important to ask yourself: “What problem am I trying to provide a solution to?” All too often we see people taking actions that don’t seem to answer any specific question. As a business built upon dedication to principles and core values we do our best to transfer that thinking to our clients: What is your goal? If your goal is general comfort (which is OK if that’s one of your key values), what price tag would you put on that?
THE COSTLY CAN OF WORMS:
NON-MONETARY: The goal of long-term tenancy should always be your focus as a property owner. High tenant retention helps you avoid vacancy and extended periods without income flow. To ensure tenant retention, we as landlords and property managers do our best to create a hassle-free experience for our renters...that’s really the name of the game...but regular inspections violate this important cog in the machine.
The reality is that you’ll likely interact with new tenants quite a bit early in their tenancy and ideally once things are settled after those first couple months, you’ll rarely hear from them ever (if you’ve done your job well and have a reliable system for rent collection). The reason for that is that you’ve established trust. To go back to that cog and machine analogy above, trust is the oil that keeps things moving smoothly. When you inspect an occupied apartment, what you’re saying to the tenant is “I don’t trust you”.
[ Learn More: The Monetary Value of Trust ]
MONETARY: Inspections, whether they be quarterly, semi-annually, or annually, are invasive. They are uncomfortable for tenants so they need to be worth it. No one wants pictures taken of their bedrooms or bathrooms. Let’s go back to that original question, “What is your goal”? If you’re worried that there might be pets or poor living conditions or you just want to keep your tenants “honest”, that is your prerogative as a property owner. But we generally advise against it. Correcting any of these issues because you discover them during an inspection is almost always more costly in the moment than not knowing they exist or dealing with the issues down the road. If something is problematic, it is likely to show itself in some other way (i.e. reported by neighbors, the tenant submits a service request, or it is discovered by a member of your team while performing general maintenance).
A perfect example of unintended consequences that we see more often than a problem averted thanks to regular inspection:
We had an owner who insisted on inspections. We followed his wishes, took photos of a bedroom and there happened to be underwear out. The tenant felt violated, broke the lease, and the owner had a vacant unit and no rent coming in.
LOOKING FOR TROUBLE:
We understand the general affinity for a parental role when it comes to your own property: If I check it out regularly and they know I’m coming, they’ll keep it clean. In some cases this may succeed...but we prefer not to look for trouble. If your goal is to get more rent, continue getting passive income, and to minimize maintenance expenses, don’t inspect occupied apartments.
What’s your goal? You’ll never ever hear a tenant say: “Hey, I’m gonna pay more rent now” after an inspection. Instead you’re going to end up with a laundry list of things that need to be fixed...remember, you’ve stripped the machine of that oil called trust...so here comes the friction. The little things that tenants could live with, that you’d end up addressing much more affordably during tenant turnover, are now at the forefront. There is value in the comfort you may gain from regular inspections, but there are almost always unintended costs as well.
[ Learn More: Charging Tenants For Maintenance Will Cost You ]
Mick Lefort is the Vice President of Operations for Nexus Property Management®. A National Property Management Franchise that manages all types of rental property from single family homes or condos to large apartment buildings and complexes.
Your Property, MANAGED®
The Real Estate Investing Authority®
Connecting You To Better Living®
You Could Own A Nexus Property Management® Office For Less Than You Think!