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  • Writer's picturePhilip Middlemiss

The Hidden Value of Routine Inspections

Updated: Aug 15, 2022

Most real estate agencies in Melbourne offer two six monthly inspections as part of their annual management fee. These inspections are often referred to as routine or general inspections.

There is however a move towards a more “user pays” based model. This is where the agent offers you a lower, more competitive management fee but charges you for other services like routine inspections, paying your bills and arranging maintenance. Please check with your agent what their fees include.

What is a routine inspection?

This inspection is created by a brief visit to the property, which results in a collection of images and some brief notes about the condition of your property. It will focus on important areas like oven, stovetop, rangehood and shower / bath, highlighting any areas of concern.

What does a routine inspection look like?

Depending on the software your agent uses, this might vary slightly. The principle is however very simple, the agent (or now possibly the tenant) takes an image, and it will be marked as clean, working, fair, poor or some similar descriptor. There is also a space comments can be made, explaining what happened or what needs to happen.

This report is not as detailed as the Entry or Exit report which is generated at the start or end of a lease, the images are more general. We take images of ovens, rangehoods, dishwashers, extractor fans and the wet areas (shower, basin etc.). We will also add closer images of any damage that has occurred.

Most reports will give you a handy summary of the condition of the property. Highlighting any maintenance or recommendations form your agent.

When is a routine inspection conducted?

Routine inspections are normally triggered by the start of the lease and often take place in the third month, and then six months after that. These inspections may also be conducted if the Property Manager suspects “something is not quite right”. This could be late rental payments, regular maintenance requests or complaints from neighbours. You could consider these inspections as the equivalent of a parent scalding a child for being naughty.

Entry Notices

The Residential Tenancies Act 1997 very clearly states why an agent can inspect, when an agent can inspect and what the agent can do, during the inspection. An agent in Victoria needs to give seven days written notice for a general or routine inspection, this notice needs to be in a prescribed format.

Many of our overseas investors are shocked to know we just can’t turn up at the property. “How else do you catch them doing something wrong” is often the response.

Rather than recite these rules to you, I will simply direct you to the Consumer Affairs Victoria website, who are responsible for enforcing the Residential Tenancies Act here in Victoria.

Conducting a routine inspection

I was recently interviewing candidates for a position in my agency. These experienced agents were all asked the same question… “Please write down five things you dislike about being a Property Manager”. Guess what appeared on every single sheet? You guessed it, routine inspections.

Let me tell you why. Have you ever been invited to someone’s house, when you get there, you knock on the door, there is no answer? You know they are home; you just spoke to them. Your stomach starts to turn a little, is something wrong? You knock louder and call out, no answer. You decide to open the door and step in. NOW STOP RIGHT THERE. That feeling in your stomach now, that is the feeling every property manager gets when they must inspect someone’s property. It’s not natural, it not nice, it just feels wrong.

Now add to this, naked / sleeping tenants, sleezy guys (and girls), dirty undies, hoarders, sex toys, more undies and every PM’s favorite, the overprotective and aggressive dog.

I can add cats to my list. Once I was lured into an apartment by what I though was a welcoming and very vocal feline. When I reached the furthest point from the front door, this beast from hell unleashed what I often refer to as a frenzied act. The rolled up A4 paper in my hand became a tennis racket of sorts as I fought for my life and battled my way to the front door. This natural born killer flew at me from under coffee tables, around corners and as I finally exited and quickly closed to door, the hellish screams of victory were burnt in my mind forever. Cat 1 – Agent 0.

Virtual Inspections

During COVID-19 when Melbourne CBD’s rental market fell in hole, the advancement of technology in property was nothing short of phenomenal. QR codes, inspection booking slots, and virtual inspection apps (to name just some) were quickly pushed out to agencies across Australia.

During this time Victorians spent a lot of time “locked up” at home. This did not stop the requests from interstate and overseas landlords wanting updates on the condition of their property. Like the hero on the shiny horse, enter virtual inspections.

What is a virtual Inspection?

A virtual inspection is when an agent sends the tenant a link and they complete the report themselves. It is the same technology the agent uses if visiting in person but now they don’t have subject themselves to the unpleasant task of stepping over undies and killer cats.

Every Friday night in pubs around Australia there would be thousands of PM’s raising a glass to the invention of this wonderful technology. The surprising thing is, most don’t tell you they are using it.

Why do you need your routine inspection report?

They say a picture tells a thousand words. In real estate it only needs to cover about a dozen words… dirty, broken, missing, hole, burnt, and moldy.

Let’s not just focus on the doom and gloom, a picture also shows clean, tidy, working, not damaged and if you are lucky the beautiful handwritten note from your Tenant wishing you, the Landlord a Merry Christmas or Happy Easter.

There are two main reasons you should ask for your routine inspection report. Firstly, you want to make sure your tenant is not damaging your property. If they are, you can use this report at the tribunal as evidence that Exhibit A, now looks a lot different to what it did three months ago.

The second reason you should get his report is… you are normally paying for it!

If you have not received a routine inspection report from your managing agent in the last 6 months, we would love to hear from you at Re-define Real Estate.

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