Chapter News

The importance of periodic inspections

By Sandra McGee - Starr Partners Merrylands

In the first part of a three-part series, REINSW is talking about the importance of periodic inspections for property managers. Brush up on your inspection requirements with Starr Partners Merrylands Property Management Manager Sandra McGee.

Before the inspection

Under the Residential Sales Act 2010, real estate agents can schedule a periodic inspection up to four times in a 12-month period. The tenant must be given a minimum of seven days’ notice, in writing, of the landlords/agents intention to inspect the premises. We try to give them two weekends notice or 14 days.

We complete a periodic inspection three-to-four months after a new tenant moves in and that inspection is incredibly important.

Even though you get references for the tenant, how do you really know that they are going to live up to those references. Scheduling this early inspection allows the property manager to ascertain the standard of the house/apartment straight away.

To ensure the first inspection is never missed, when we complete the lease document we now print off the letter for the inspection straight away. This letter then gets mailed out three weeks before the first inspection. Streamlining this process makes a property manager's job much easier and the inspection that does get overlooked.

Before you conduct a property inspection (say 24 hours prior) contact the tenant and find out whether they will be present. Having a tenant there is preferable because they can point out any defects. If they won’t be there, take the opportunity to confirm over the phone if any alarm codes or locks have been changed.

If the tenant won’t be home for the inspection, we ask that they leave a note with any issues on the kitchen table. When we send any periodic letter, we also send a tenant update form for the tenant to complete just in case they have changed their phone numbers, email address and next of kin. Periodic inspections are a great time to pick up all of that information.

During the inspection

When conducting periodic inspections, you are mainly looking for things that are related to the tenant and how the property is being maintained, as well as general deterioration of the property and potential hazards.

Common problems include:

  • a malfunctioning smoke detector (or one that needs a new battery)
  • mould  
  • structural cracks
  • loose or rusted balcony rails (or loose stair rails) 
  • dry rot (the decay of timber in buildings and other wooden structures caused by certain fungi)
  • swimming pools that do not comply with regulations (see swimming pools regulations.)

To streamline the inspection process, we use our rental program that allows us to complete our inspections on an iPad or smartphone. We can take photos during periodic inspections. These images should be used to show the landlord any defects and also to monitor potential problems.

Having a program like this allows us to complete more inspections, it saves a lot of time and we get the information out to the landlord much quicker.

Follow up procedures

Once a property manager has been to the house/apartment and has identified any issues, they are responsible for getting the tenant to fix them or bringing these matters to the owner’s attention.

If we go to that first inspection and find the property a mess we will write the tenant a letter straight away, telling them what is wrong, and that we will be reinspecting. We then go back two weeks later to make sure it is all fixed. This is standard process in our office. This letter is effective, because they know you are coming back.

We always email our periodic inspections out to the landlord, including photos. It is much cheaper to email all of this information.

Our policy is to complete the 3-4 months inspection and then return 9-10 months later, unless the landlord requests otherwise. That first inspection is vital because this sets the basis of all future inspections.