Incoming and outgoing inspections are required by law under the Rental Housing Act. Despite this, many people consider inspections to be a formality at most. Jacqui Savage, the Rawson Property Group's national rentals development manager, explains why this can be a very dangerous stance to take.
What's the big deal with rental inspections?
"The incoming inspection with a new tenant forms the foundation of the relationship between landlord, tenant and agent," she says. "It's not just about making sure everyone knows which skirtings are dented and where that cracked tile is: it's also about laying down rules and expectations for the rental period, and establishing a level of trust."
As such, it is absolutely essential that the tenant is present for the incoming inspection, but failing to attend can have consequences and simply tarnishing the agent or landlord's good opinion.
Contesting repair costs
"If the tenant whose name is on the lease doesn't show up to their agreed-upon incoming inspection appointment, they legally forfeit their right to contest repair costs deducted from their deposit when they move out," says Savage. "That said, it's equally important for the landlord or their appointed representative to show up, because they also forfeit their right to claim for future repairs if they fail to appear."
The reasons behind this rule are quite logical: if a tenant doesn't attend the inspection, they can't prove they didn't cause the damage in question. If a landlord or rental agent doesn't attend, they can't prove that the damage wasn't already there when the tenant moved in.
Meticulously recorded incoming and outgoing inspections put an end to these kinds of disagreements, but they need to be thorough to be effective.
"There is a lot to cover during an inspection," says Savage, "which is why we encourage agents to use a detailed checklist " created in advance " that itemises all building elements and inventory from floor to ceiling, room by room. Every flaw needs to be documented in writing and photographed, and general pictures of the property's overall condition should be taken as well. The resulting document must then be signed by the tenant and agent, and a copy given to everyone involved."
By bracketing a lease with an inspection on either end like this, culpability is easy to prove. To prevent or minimise problems in the first place, however, more frequent checks are advised.
"A big part of our Rawson Rentals ethos is matching the right landlord with the right tenant," says Savage, "and that means maintaining transparency and open lines of communication throughout the lease period. To achieve this, we conduct inspections at least once every six months to confirm that everything is in order, and nip any potential issues in the bud."
While some tenants may not find the prospect of additional inspections appealing, they can actually be quite useful - particularly towards the end of a lease.
"Interim inspections can highlight issues that will crop up in the outgoing inspection, giving tenants the chance to attend to things themselves rather than have the cost deducted from their deposit later on," says Savage. "Some of our rental agents will even do a specific pre-outgoing inspection to give tenants this opportunity it's nice to be able to help them save money if we can do so in a responsible way."
No matter how responsible you are, however, inspections are an inescapable - and important - part of the rental experience. They are also the best way to protect tenant and landlord interests, and ensure fair treatment for everyone at the end of the day.
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