Rental inspections are probably the single most stressful part of being a tenant. It’s like being on an exam, where if you fail, it may cost you some money or even the roof above your head. Granted, the latter is far less frequent, but getting fines and some of your precious deposit withheld is a good enough reason to be prepared. Moreover, the entire stress around getting inspected by your landlord can be massively downsized if only you knew your rights, responsibilities, and how to prepare for a Rental Inspection as a tenant.
What are your rights?
Naturally, your fundamental right is to live in and use the property as long as it doesn’t contradict the agreement and it doesn’t damage the home. So, for example, if you rented the property as a living quarter, and that’s explicitly stated in your agreement, you can’t use it as a place of business. Moreover, you can’t sub-rent the property for extra profit if that’s not mentioned in the agreement.
Otherwise, if you don’t exhibit destructive behaviour, you have the right to live without disturbance from your landlord at any time. So in practice, while you are paying your rent and you follow all the rules, you practically own the place, and you can refuse access to anyone, including the landlord.
This being said, you do have some responsibilities as well.
What are your responsibilities?
Needless to say, being in charge of a household, especially if you do not own it, puts you in a delicate situation where you need to keep the place as it is. You must take good care of the rental and avoid damaging it at all costs. Moreover, if you damage the property in any way, you are responsible for the repairs. While you have the right to use the space without being bothered constantly, you must occasionally provide access to your landlord. Making repairs is the obvious one. Still, the landlord can’t just barge in at 3 in the morning, claiming they need to change a lightbulb. They must inform you in written form no less than 24 hours previously and visit only at a responsible time during the day.
This includes the infamous property inspection. Your landlord has the right to make such inspections, and they must inform you once again no less than 24 hours in advance. You can only refuse such a visit if it might threaten your or the landlord’s health. Surprise inspections, however, are typically a rarity, as landlords don’t go out of their way to stress out their tenants. Usually, both parties agree on a specific date, most convenient for both. Among other things, this gives the tenant enough time to prepare for the inspection. If you are about to have your first rental inspection, here is what you need to know.
Prepare a list of things that need to be fixed.
Living anywhere is tightly related to all kinds of problems. For most, you have absolutely no influence over them. The amortisation of the property causes the issues, and you have no legal obligation to fix them. But, naturally, some of these problems will be caused by yourself, so it’s best to fix them prior to the inspection. If you can’t do that, a good idea is not to try and hide the problem but to point them out and acknowledge your responsibility to fix the issue.
What you want to do is to point out the issue and let the landlord know whether you think it’s their responsibility to fix it or not. That doesn’t mean getting into a shouting match over each problem. Many issues may be caused by your negligence, and a civil dispute on the topic may help a lot in finding a civil solution. For example, broken pipes may be caused due to you leaving your rental place for an extended period in winter without turning off the central water supply. This way, the water inside the pipes freezes and damages the pipes. Make sure you are not at fault before you insist that the landlord is responsible for the repair. Otherwise, you may end up in a losing court battle where you will have to pay more than the repairs, and you’ll end up without a roof above your head.
Unclog your plumbing
We’ve all been there when your drain is slightly clogged but still takes all the water in. Yes, there is some delay, and you might experience some excess water in your bathroom. Of course, if it’s not an extreme case, that’s completely normal. Still, when your landlord is visiting to see how you keep up their property, such a small and often-seen sight might cause distrust in your ability to take care of the home responsibly. To avoid this embarrassing moment, unclog all your drains and ensure the water drains completely and without delay. It’s an easy task that takes just 10-15 minutes, and you don’t need any extra help.
Make your home spotless.
You should always keep your rental clean to some standard, regardless of whether you expect an inspection. If you live in a hovel, 24 hours are definitely not enough time to even begin cleaning it up. Moreover, if you keep the place just as tidy as a roadside dump, you might say goodbye to your deposit or even get an eviction notice the next day.
Still, most people prefer to keep their living quarters nice and clean, which is a good start. However, if you have the time to prepare, you might want to consider thoroughly sanitising the place. You would want to treat the visit as if it’s the end of your tenancy, and you would like to get your entire deposit back. If you don’t have the time, you might want to hire some professionals to take this burden from you. An end-of-tenancy cleaning service is not that expensive, yet it’s a great way to keep your landlord happy, keep your home clean and fresh, and ensure you won’t get into trouble over something you missed.
Leave your pets at a friend’s place or a hotel
Firstly, you need explicit permission in your contract to have pets in the first place. Otherwise, that might be a ground for immediate eviction. But even if you have the right to own a pet in the apartment, it’s a good idea to allocate them for the time of the inspection or even several days beforehand. The main reason behind this suggestion is the fact that pets are messy, and they don’t really care all that much about your legal obligations. So they might make a mess right after the cleaning crew has left.
Even worse, they might make a mess during the inspection. Although, to be honest, most landlords, who allow pets, are well aware that the cute furballs take a toll on their property and will most likely take the mess with a smile. Still, that won’t make you any less embraced and furthermore, this may be a ground for keeping your pet deposit (in Northern Ireland and Scotland) or increasing your rent due to the pet’s behaviour (in England).
Make your plants your allay.
Plants have one truly unique superpower. They can freshen up even the darkest place, so it looks fresh and clean. However, if your plants are obviously in bad condition, the effect is entirely the opposite. So if you have a green thumb, make sure you trim and give some extra care to your plants before the inspection. This will instantly make your home look better and more accommodating. Moreover, subconsciously, the landlord (or agent) will transfer your care for the plants to how you treat their property.
Keep yourself calm
When push comes to shove, there is really no need to panic over such an inspection. If you keep your home relatively clean and you don’t live like a slob, a rental check should be nothing more than a minor nuisance in your schedule. Moreover, those inspections are strictly regulated and don’t allow greedy and ruthless landlords to take indiscriminate advantage.
Furthermore, landlords can’t just evict you for no reason, so even if there are some problems, at worst, you will have to cover the repairs. Still, that presumes you don’t have a whole stable full of horses in your living room. To get evicted, you truly need to show some general disregard towards the property, have done excessive damage or live in a pigsty. So if you don’t recognise yourself in the last sentence, there is really nothing to worry about. Just be calm, talk to your landlord on friendly terms, and if there is a problem, it’s always better to cooperate and try to find a solution than start futile court battles over minor issues.
In a nutshell
Rental inspections are not designed to let landlords blackmail their tenants or give them the right to evict you as they please. They are a strictly regulated process that allows landlords to see how you treat their property. To avoid any conflicts, you must prepare yourself for the inspection. There’s really nothing to it. Just clean your place, unclog all trains, make sure your plants are well-taken-care-off, keep your pets away and stay calm.