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Do Renters Need Home Inspections Too?


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Should renters get home inspections before signing a lease?

Home inspections are the norm for buyers of all types of properties, but they are virtually never heard of for renters.  Is that a big mistake? Is asking for a home inspection before signing a lease just being a pain, or is it smart for more renters to demand inspections before even considering handing over a dollar?

Why You Want A Home Inspection As A Renter

Most renters never think of it, but there are many reasons to get an inspection. Generally, buyers require one because they know they’ll be the ones paying for any major repairs after they close the deal. This is seldom true for renters, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be the rare landlord who tries to put the blame of a malfunction or damage onto an innocent tenant.

Another reason renters should consider an inspection is because they often fork over big deposits and legally obligate themselves for the term of the lease. This can be risky, even after moving out, if maintenance issues persist.  Few have the cash to be paying rent for two places if they are only using one, and few landlords will be forgiving enough to let you out of the lease and not pursue you for the balance in court.

Equally important are the potential health issues involved if you decide against an inspection. You don’t want your family living in a toxic home or apartment. Unfortunately, there has been some chaos in the real estate market over the last decade where many landlords are not aware of a property’s existing problems. As the prospective tenant, it is on you to do your homework.

Can I Get A Home Inspection As A Renter?

It may not be common, but there is no reason a prospective renter cannot order a home inspection for themselves. You will need your landlord’s permission and access to the property, but accessing this should not be a problem. Home inspections generally cost a couple hundred dollars or less, and are well worth the investment. An alternative option may be to request a copy of a recent inspection from the landlord. Your landlord should have one if they just purchased the property.

What Do Home Inspectors Look At?

Home inspectors are extremely thorough.  They will examine everything from the exterior, to pest control and the foundations. They will make sure the roof, wiring, and plumbing are all in working order. Don’t panic if they are overly detailed, It’s their job. You just need to worry about the items that might affect you while you are living there.  Make sure to document the final status of the property as well, in case of a dispute later on.

Some important items that don’t typically appear on an inspection include: the presence of mold, meth labs, and Chinese drywall.  These are extremely poisonous and potentially fatal, yet there may be no visible clues at all.

What if My Landlord Won’t Allow A Property Inspection?

Because this is a somewhat infrequent request, your landlord could be wary. Reassure them why you are doing it. If they still refuse, you should seriously question going through with the rental process.

What Else Should Savvy Renters Check?

It can be a minefield in the renters world today, which is why smart renters need to complete as much of their due diligence as possible. This includes checking into the solvency of the owner and manager. Are they paying the mortgage, taxes, and maintenance, or are they at risk of falling into foreclosure? What about any associations involved? Is the condo or homeowners association solvent? Do they have enough operating capital and reserves to keep up the services and maintenance you expect? Much of this information can be found in public records if they won’t provide it to you directly.

Also, ask about the owner or property management company’s reputation.  Are they tough, fair, good, crazy? Why did the last occupants vacate?  This gives you a chance to meet some of your prospective neighbors and feel them out.

Quick Notes For Rental Property Buyers

Home inspections are clearly important, even for renters. Regardless of brand new construction, never rely on looks alone. If the seller wont allow your inspection, insist. Confirm your right to purchase as-is with right to inspect, or know when the risk is too high and walk away.

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