Home inspections are only performed when someone buys a property – and sometimes not even then. Following this inspection, a qualified, professional home inspector won’t darken the doorway for years – sometimes even decades – until the home is sold. At that point, homeowners can be blindsided by major structural issues that could (and should) have been taken care of years before.
Here is an all-to-common example that we find: Sub-floor plumbing leaks onto the wooden support beams, causing wet rot on vital structural components that goes unnoticed for years. Now, you have to install new support beams under the house, shoring up the home and spending thousands and thousands of dollars in the process.
If someone has crawled into the crawlspace with a flashlight, the problem could have been spotted years earlier – and the pipe would have been fixed for a fraction of the cost. A failing crawlspace sump pump could also cause mold that renders the entire home uninhabitable.
One owner we know received a request from a long time tenant for new flooring in the kitchen. When the contractors removed the previous flooring, they found that the sub-floor had all but rotted away underneath the linoleum.
However, a rental home inspection isn’t just a matter of preserving the value of your investment. In some cases, it’s a life or death issue. In Emerald Isle, NC in 2015 a deck collapsed when over twenty family members gathered on one-third of the deck to take a photo. After falling fourteen feet, they all required medical attention. The cause of the collapse? Floor joists and deck boards collapsed due to deteriorating nails.
The home and deck were both built in 1986, were constructed to code, at the time; but the code in 1986 did not require stainless steel, corrosion-resistant nails. A detailed rental home inspection by an experienced professional may well have spotted the problem in time to avert any danger.
In another case, in Virginia, water was seeping through brickwork, and soaked a triple micro-laminate beam. The moisture attracted termites, which infested the nearby support beams. In this instance, the homeowner had called in a home inspector, who noticed the problem and suggested a structural engineer make an assessment. Upon inspection, the structural engineer said that a potentially deadly and catastrophic collapse of the entire home was imminent.
Your landlord insurance policy doesn’t cover these kinds of long-term, chronic problems with your rental property.
How Often Do I need a Rental Home
So how often should you schedule a rental home inspection?
It depends upon several factors:
If you have crawlspaces or a basement, you might want to invest in a rental home inspection every two to three years, or each time your property comes up for re-rental. You may also want to inspect this more frequently if you have older plumbing or wiring, or if your home is in an area with lost of moisture, an extreme climate, or both.
If your home is newer and was professionally inspected when you bought it, and you don’t have major weather extremes, you can probably get away with a little longer inspection cycle.
If your home has never been professionally inspected since you owned it, do it now.
Another reason to have a rental home inspection is if you are planning a major renovation project anyway. Why? You don’t want to have already committed thousands of dollars to a bathroom remodel only to discover that you need to replace your furnace. Conduct a reconnaissance before you march.
Rental Home Inspections:
Can’t I Just Do It Myself?
There are a few good reasons to hire a professional home inspector. First, few of us have knowledge of home construction materials, methods, and building codes, not to mention the experience to spot trouble from the smallest of indicators.
Professional home inspectors who are members of the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI), the National Society of Home Inspectors (NSHI), or the National Association of Home Inspectors (NAHI) generally carry errors & omissions insurance – a kind of malpractice insurance for professional services. If you are financially harmed because they overlook something they reasonably should have caught, their E&O insurance policy can protect you against financial damages. If you try to do it yourself, you get no such protection.
While not all good home inspectors maintain an affiliation with one of these bodies, it’s a good start, as each of them have an ethical code of conduct and minimum standards for certification (usually a written exam and proof of two hundred-fifty or more paid home inspections complete). Each of them encourages continuing education and provides their members with various professional resources. This alone is often worth their fee; that being said, it is a good idea to get verification that their insurance is in force prior to hiring them.
For most landlords, spending $400 for a professional, detailed rental home inspection to protect a $300,000 investment every few years is easily affordable. Indeed, failing to inspect on a regular basis is a gamble most cannot afford to lose.