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Top Tips On Rental Inspections  

Greg Watson shares his experience of visiting thousands of homes.

30 December 2023

Over my career I’ve been into thousands of homes and filled out a huge number of inspections. Throughout that time there have been trends, lessons learnt and some valuable tips I would like to share with you. When conducting inspections, I often feel like a “duck on the water”. Tenants see me as happy, polite, helpful and calm, much like the serene surface of a duck gliding on water. Meanwhile, beneath the surface, my mind is like the duck’s feet, rapidly processing what I consider the most important aspects of the inspection.

In no order, I consider the following:

Care For The House

A general overall summary of the level of care the tenants are taking. I note down and photograph any damage caused by the tenant. Some landlords wait to sort out accumulated damage (using the bond) at the end of a tenancy, but I believe it’s a much better idea to address issues at the time. This may include a 14-day notice for tenants to rectify damage and a subsequent follow-up check. A proactive approach reinforces acceptable behaviour, so hopefully the tenants take more care going forward.

Home Health

The “health” of the home can affect the value of your investment and the health of your tenants. These are very good reasons to be looking for evidence of water damage, mould, dry rot and rust. Spotting and dealing with problems early should save money in the long run, so make sure you have a close look. It can feel uncomfortable to inspect closely when the tenant is at home, but if you explain why, it’s usually fine. For example, I might say, “You will notice me looking in the cupboards under the kitchen sink; I am just looking for water-related matters”. Likewise, it’s fine to look in built-in wardrobes if you are looking for damage such as signs of a leaky roof.

Hazards

Landlords have obligations under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015. Landlords are considered a “person conducting a business or undertaking” (PCBU). This means it’s important to look for hazards at inspections and take action required by law to mitigate, reduce or remove them. Ideally, a pre-inspection would have picked up most hazards, but it is still important to check regularly.

Breaches

The tenancy law is on your side when it comes to several things you may discover during a routine inspection. Anything from tenants changing locks without permission, more people living in the home than the tenancy agreement allows, change of tenants living in the home, and evidence of pets when not allowed, are breaches of tenancy law. Rather than just accepting the situation, I believe it’s best to either serve a 14-day notice to rectify the breach or make a change to the tenancy agreement signed by all parties.

If you have long-term tenants, changing a tenancy agreement may trigger the need for the house to comply with Healthy Homes legislation, so get advice before acting. Tenancy Services have a helpful section on their website which explains the type of changes that will and won’t “trigger” this compliance.

Civil Law

During an inspection it’s crucial to be vigilant for violations of civil law, also known as offences under the Crimes Act 1961. I tend to look for evidence of illicit drug use, cultivation or production of prohibited substances and receipt of stolen goods. The appropriate action to take is to contact the police and obtain a file number. This is crucial for compliance with your insurance company. If you know something bad is happening and you fail to act, the insurance company is less likely to pay out if things go wrong.

There’s lots to look out for at the inspections and it’s always a good idea to document everything well. Good luck with the inspections, and happy landlording.

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