When you are carrying out your routine inspections, what is your focus? Are you inspecting the property wearing blinkers and only looking at the way the tenant is maintaining the property or are you proactive, detailed and thorough?

During a routine inspection you need to understand that you are the eyes for the owner. They are paying you a management fee for you to professionally manage their property and to provide feedback to protect their investment, maximise income and optimise capital growth. On many occasions, owners often do not visit or see their property for years at a time and are relying solely on your feedback.

If a owner was to visit one of their properties tomorrow for the first time in five years, what would their reaction be? Have you kept them updated on the condition (explaining that they must expect wear and tear and that items such as carpets, window covering, painting, etc. will need to be replaced every 4-7 years) and required renovations needed at the property?

There are four main reasons for carrying out a routine inspection:

  • To ascertain if the property is being maintained by the tenant in a clean and tidy condition
  • To advise the owner of any repairs and maintenance that may be necessary
  • To suggest future renovations or improvements that may be required
  • And most importantly, to ensure that the property is secure and safe for the tenant to live in

You have a duty of care to the owner to carry out regular routine inspections and to issue a written report.

Do’s & Do nots when carrying out inspections

Do…

  • Be upfront and honest about the condition of the property.
  • Take your time and be thorough when inspecting the property.
  • Provide a detailed written report to the owner.
  • Go the extra mile and include photos with the written report, it is becoming an industry expectation now.
  • Follow up maintenance or improvement suggestions with the owner.
  • Have a disclaimer on your written report stating that you are not a qualified builder, electrician, pest control or pool inspector.
  • Recommend that the owner engages the services of the above professionals annually.
  • Highlight that the inspection is a visual inspection only.
  • Have a system in place to ensure that no properties are missed (It is Murphy’s Law… the one you didn’t inspect, will be the one that causes you problems).
  • Explorer different technologies and Apps to make the process more streamlined.

Don’t…

  • Presume that if the property is run down it has always been that way.
  • Be afraid to let the owner know that maintenance is required from fair wear and tear. Properties are going to require upgrading. It is not your fault that the carpets are getting old and worn or the walls are becoming marked.

What to look for when carrying out a routine inspection…

Start the inspection from the outside of the property. When walking up to the property, look at the external condition of the paint, walls, roof, gutters, fences, gates, driveways, gardens, etc… You are not a professional tradesperson; however, you are being paid to be an observer of common/obvious faults and repairs. When carrying out routine inspections, the following listed areas can easily be overlooked and are more likely to lead to a liability (injury) claim should there be a fault.

Check to see ‘visually’…

  • That all balcony railings are secure
  • That the gutters and downpipes are secure and clean
  • That steps and balcony floor boards are secure and free from dry rot or mould
  • That there are no leaks under the kitchen sink, bathroom cabinet or from the hot water system
  • That there is no mould build up or water damage on walls or ceilings
  • That fences and retaining walls are not wobbly or falling over
  • That all property locks are reasonably secure – especially pool fence/gate locks
  • That light fittings and power points are secure and not hanging out of their socket
  • That there are no tears or ripples in the carpet
  • That window panes are secure
  • That there are no dangerous obstructions on the property,
  • to name a few.

When carrying out your inspections, take the approach of, “If this was my investment property, what would I want to know?”

By Debbie Palmer
MANAGING DIRECTOR
ppm | group      www.ppmgroup.com.au

Author, International Speaker, Trainer, Consultant, Coach, System Designer, REIQ Gold Coast Property Manager of the Year 1996 & 1997, State Finalist in 1998 & Gold Coast Finalist in 1999.

Debbie celebrates more than 27 years’ experience in her property management career. She is the founder of the PPM Group, a national company that encourages and supports business development opportunities within property management departments through the development of procedural systems, coaching, live training broadcasts and learning resources.

Debbie is dedicated, passionate, focused and offers a youthful approach to property management. She guest speaks with thousands of property management team members and principals each year around the nation and overseas on how to improve profitability and productivity through the implementation of systems and strategic human resource management planning. She is well respected in the industry and has dedicated her working career to improving the mindset of property managers as well as the day-to-day internal operational procedures.

She is a mum of three children and enjoys a healthy family work-life balance.


Outsourcing is a word which some Real Estate offices liken to religion – you just would not dare bring it up at the dinner table.

Property Managers are extremely passionate and opinionated. Meanwhile, all of you believe you know the BEST way of doing things or at least a way in which a task could be better managed.

There is no crime in that.  You simply care for the industry and want your office to be successful.  To be successful you have to have systems in place and systems need money. I know firsthand how hard it is to get Principals to open their wallet.  “It will increase productivity, it will increase profits, it will stop me drinking a bottle of wine each night” ….nope…you will still drink the wine but nice try…

Outsourcing costs money.  Many Principals look at outsourcing tasks as YOUR job. The Property Manager does the routines and/or the trust accounting or they employ someone to solely do that role.  I say “get with the times”.

When I began in Property Management in 1997, I would type a lease on carbon copy document with a type writer.  There were no such things as pool or smoke alarm compliance.  A lease was 2 pages long and there was such a thing as a holding deposit.

As times have progressed and legislation is much more comprehensive, agencies have to progress with it.  The demands on staff are just too high and if one thing is forgotten, it will generally cost the agency a minimum of a few hundred dollars to rectify.

Why not appoint specialist to perform these tasks; specialists with their own liabilities and own skills?  Would you ask your husband to install a new kitchen light or your wife to replace the hot water service?

You may think this is a little far-fetched as these types of jobs are done by trades who study for 4 years.  However how many times do we all read articles about the OFT placing agencies into involuntary liquidation or arresting staff for fraud as they have been mismanaging a million-dollar trust account?

One million dollars.

You are responsible for a one million dollar trust account and you allow an unqualified 24-year-old Property Manager to receipt the money and send it to the owners each month?

These tasks need to be outsourced to reputable trained specialists who do this day-in day-out just like an electrician installing lights.  Of course, this will cost your office money. However, it could stop unnecessary problems from occurring in the future. It will also free up the time of the team member who can now focus on what they were employed for which is to Manage the Property.

Protect your asset.

Lauren Kropp

Director Real Strategix.

 


Unfortunately, in this day and age, it is almost necessary for a Property Manager or leasing consultant to complete a course in self-defence along with their registration.

I began asking Property Managers if any have had scary encounters whilst at a tenant’s premises.  Statistically speaking, 1 in 5 had some sort of scare.  I personally, have been pushed against a wall, whilst carrying out an exit inspection, by the outgoing tenant.  This drew me to the conclusion to NEVER agree to conduct the inspection with them present.

Routine inspections, if carried out correctly, should be fairly straight forward and the tenant should, in most instances, be aware that you are coming.  However, if a tenant forgets or simply did not get the notice, when a Property Manager turns up on their door step they are instantly frustrated, mad, and unhappy that you want to come in.   This is your fist decision in safety.

1) Enter and be prepared to be abused or put in an uncomfortable situation or 2) apologise and ask them when it suits for you to come back.

The first option is the safest, but this scenario could also be avoided if you have a team member make a courtesy phone call, or even an SMS, the day before the inspection to remind the tenant.  This way you will not have to be put in a threatening situation, or have to reschedule, and your inspection dates can stay on track.

On occasions, you will enter the property and find no one home – until of course you open a bedroom door and find them sleeping.  If you continue to carry out the inspection you will be putting yourself in danger.  If the tenant wakes up they may think you are an intruder and attack you, so in this instance it is best to leave a card on the bench or at the front door on your way out, and contact them by telephone later that day to explain and reschedule.

We are entertained on a daily basis, as Property Managers, as to the different types of personalities that we come across.  A Property Manager is really a “Problem Solver”.  Sometimes the tenants we deal with will not be happy with the way we solved the problems and will instantly take a dislike to you.  These types of tenants still need routine inspections carried out.  Every office should have a policy that if a Property Manager does not feel comfortable going alone to a certain property that another staff member attends also.

If, at any stage, you do not feel comfortable going to a property alone, you MUST discuss this with your Department Manager, or Principal, as there is nothing more important than one’s own safety.

At times, however, you may not know you are about to enter a threatening situation, so  below are a few tips that you should always do before, and while at, EVERY routine inspection.

  • Check the history notes in your trust accounting software. Generally speaking if a Property Manager has had a threatening situation before with a tenant, they will have logged notes.
  • Colour Flag the office copy of the key.  Create an office rule that, if you have an aggressive or abusive tenant, a little red tag is put on the set of keys, so that if a team member or a tradie is going to the property, for any reason, the flag is already raised.
  • Have your office on speed dial and always keep your mobile phone in your hand/pocket for ease to call.
  • Keep the front door open so if something happens, you can make a quick getaway. I personally tell the tenants if they are home that “our office policy is that the door remains open at all times for personal safety reasons, and that I am not singling them out we just keep our policies streamlined across the board – I then make a joke to lighten the mood that I would ask the same from an 80 year old grandma, especially those with walking sticks!
  • Always call out twice when you “partially” open the door yourself, and wait at least 60-90 seconds before entering. This will allow someone time to get to the door if they were up the end of the house, or you will find out if they have a dog in the house that may attack you.
  • Ask the tenant on the phone call /text the day before the inspection to please make sure all animals be tied up outside as you need access to the entire property (this will keep the savage dogs at bay)
  • Ask your Principal to send you to a self-defence course – this is not a joke. An employer will want you to feel comfortable and to be able to protect yourself.

The most important thing to remember is that you know your gut feelings better than anyone else and, if for one slight second you feel uneasy make an excuse to leave immediately.  Illness is always a believable excuse, something as simple as “I am sorry but I do not feel well at all and I have to leave, the office will be in touch to reschedule.”

If, of course, your office does not want their Property Mangers carrying out Routine inspections, companies such as Real Strategix can do them for you.

 

Lauren Kropp

Director

Real Strategix