by Theresa Bradley-Banta
If you use a third-party management company to oversee operations at your multifamily property—or even if you manage it yourself—it’s a good idea to conduct a physical property inspection every six months.
Depending on the size of your property, a walk-through should take you no more than 60 minutes.
During your property inspection examine:
- All common areas
- Model units
- Leasing office
- Storage and mechanical rooms
- Parking lots and structures
- Rooftop(s) (don’t skip this)
- Front and back stairs
- Front and back entryways
Walk the entire property inside and out (with the exception of individual rental units).
Make arrangements with your on-site or third-party manager to see the inside of several rental units. This is something that should be scheduled in advance, as the residents will need proper notice of your brief visit.
What do you look for during a property inspection?
Some things are obvious such as:
- Is the property clean?
- Do you notice any funny odors?
- Are the common areas in good repair or in need of a refresh?
But are you in compliance with local ordinances and life safety requirements? For example, your inspection should include life safety systems such as:
- Smoke and CO detectors (Are they installed in all common areas and rental units? Are they regularly checked?)
- Exit signs (Are they working and properly located?)
If you are the owner manager, put on your property manager hat so that you can inspect the property from an unbiased, receptive point of view.
If you were your own boss would you keep yourself on the job? Or would you give yourself the boot?
Multifamily property inspection checklist:
- Janitorial and housekeeping are doing a good job. The property is clean and common areas are free of obstruction.
- Lawn and landscaping are regularly maintained and free of trash and debris.
- Appropriate indoor and exterior security lighting exists in: halls, laundry, mail, entry/exits, parking, pool and all other common areas (indoor and outdoor).
- Exit signs and egress are clearly marked and in working order.
- CO detectors are installed in all units. (Verify working condition and establish scheduled testing/inspections.)
- Fire extinguisher inspection/testing is current and future inspections are scheduled.
- Disability access is ADA compliant (Americans with Disabilities Act)
- Common area doors and windows are properly secured.
- Entry doors remain locked at all times.
- Mechanical/boiler room doors remain locked at all times.
- Hallways and stairwells are clear of obstruction.
- Emergency vehicle access/fire lane is clearly marked.
- Verify working condition and establish scheduled testing/inspections for:
• Secure entryway system
• Domestic hot water system
• Boiler system
• HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning)
- Laundry room is regularly cleaned. Washers and dryers are properly serviced; lint screens are checked on an established schedule.
- Mailroom/mailboxes have working locks, the tenant names are clearly visible, and the room is regularly cleaned of junk mail, trash and phone books.
- Elevator has a regularly scheduled maintenance check and the logbook is current and up-to-date.
- Storage room is securely locked with no improperly stored flammable or hazardous materials.
- Pool area has non-slip surfaces, is properly gated, the rules and regulations are visibly posted. There are no improperly stored flammable or hazardous materials.
- Boiler/mechanical rooms are securely locked with no improperly stored flammable or hazardous materials.
- Ensure all mechanical systems are property labeled.
- Master keys access (locked key box) has been granted only to authorized personnel and is locked and secure at all times.
- Trash dumpsters are properly located and emptied on a schedule that assures the area remains clear of debris and overflowing trash at all times.
- Barbeques, fire pits and grills are compliant with local ordinance.
- Pest control inspections and preventative treatments are regularly scheduled.
- Property signage is visible and provides contact information for property management and leasing offices.
- Street address numbers are clearly visible to emergency services.
- Resident doors are clearly labeled with unit numbers.
- Establish and map access to: crawl spaces, roof, storage, plumbing systems, main water shut off, utility meters, outdoor lighting and sprinkler controls, mechanical rooms and master keys.
- View property with an eye to structural integrity. (Look for signs of shifting, cracks, uneven surfaces, etc.)
- Is the property in need of power washing, window and blinds cleaning or general building upkeep?
- Loitering rules are enforced.
- Decks and railings are properly secure.
- Bulletin board postings are in compliance with rules and usage guidelines.
- Asphalt/sidewalks, parking curbs and line painting are in good condition.
A Final Word on Multifamily Property Inspections
While it might be tempting to assign the multifamily property inspection checklist to someone on your team, think twice about doing that. You’ve invested a lot of money in your real estate portfolio. It’s your job to manage your asset and to manage the managers.
Don’t become complacent over time. Put your inspections on your calendar in advance and keep those appointments.
If you like operations checklists (and who doesn’t?) you can download a complete multifamily operations checklist at this link: Multifamily Property Checklist: An Owner’s Guide for Operating Apartment Buildings
Early Warning Signs Your Property Manager Has Lost Control
How To Manage Your Multifamily Property Manager
How to Hire Multifamily Property Contractors
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