Tenancy Inspection visits

Should you take photographs when you do tenancy inspection visits of your let property, asks David Lawrenson of www.LettingFocus.com?

This can be a tricky one, but need not be if you are sensitive and respectful.

Tenancy Inspection Visits

We aim to do an inspection visit around 3 months after the start of a tenancy and then once more after another 6 months.

If it is clear from these visits that the tenants are looking after the property very well and if we are confident that they are the sort of tenants who will promptly spot and report to us anything that needs attention – such as a missing roof tile or a broken gutter – we will then leave our visits to once a year at most – and even then, we will only inspect the property from the outside.

This makes good tenants feel it is their home – which, of course, it is, for the duration of the tenancy.

In the last month of any tenancy, for all tenants we will always come round and inspect, so that the tenant has a chance to fix anything they have broken (or, if it is down to us, so we can fix it in good time for the next tenant and for viewings).

If we are less sure about the tenants ability to look after their home properly, we will inspect more frequently – at least once every 12 months going forward.

And for all tenants, good or bad, each autumn, I will send them our guide on how to avoid damp. This acts as a useful reminder.

We have a detailed checklist we use for our tenancy inspection visits – which we follow carefully. We like the tenants to be in when we do these visits, as one can always learn a lot on all sorts of matters – especially any issues in the local area. It pays to keep your ear to the ground! The visits are never wasted.

One potentially contentious issue is whether or not to take photographs of anything which relates to the property.

We would say it is OK to take photos of anything which is damaged – if only for the purpose of sending it to whichever contractor is going to to do the repair.

Tenancy Inspections – Tenant Lifestyle

But this could also include taking photos of anything that is “tenant lifestyle” related too, if by doing so, you can prevent accidents or damage in the future or to act as a defence in case of damage to the property, necessitating a possible future deduction from the tenancy deposit at the end of the tenancy.

So, if a fire escape is blocked, we would take a photo of that. If the tenants are drying clothes on radiators, (which can cause damp and mould), we would take a photo of that too. Not a close up, but a distance photo would be appropriate, in the latter case.

As far as possible, you should avoid taking photos which show any of the tenant’s personal possessions – and of course, there is no need for anyone to be “in shot” in any photo. Doing so at a tenancy inspection visit or any other visit, could be deemed to be an invasion of the tenant’s privacy and a breach of their right to “quiet enjoyment”.

We always follow up tenancy inspection visits with an email communication, highlighting anything the tenant needs to do (or which we will action). Where necessary, this will include photos.

Of course, it should go without saying that, in addition to these inspection visits during the tenancy, at the start and at the end of the tenancy, a detailed inventory is also done. This would be done by an independent, professional inventory clerk. This comprehensive document will include photos and detailed descriptions of everything in the property and comment on the state of the cleanliness too.

Without such a “before and after” tenancy inventory document, a landlord will have a very hard time trying to make a case for deductions from a tenancy deposit, if the tenant contests any such deduction.

There is a longer guide in my book, “Successful Property Letting” to all of this. See links below.

Final word: If you use an agent to do inspections for you – you should be seeing at least a brief report on their visits. If all is immaculate and the tenants are responsible, you should consider requesting less frequent visits and a commensurate cut in the letting agent’s fee.

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