We have all heard the horror stories of a tenant trashing a rental unit, leaving the owner with thousands of dollars in repairs. Sure, you can probably get a judgment for the costs of repairs, but that takes time…time to get the judgment and even more time to collect. How can you avoid the problem in the first place? Routine inspections will help, if not avoid the problem completely. By checking on your property on a regular basis, you as the property owner can not only hold up your end of the bargain by handling routine maintenance, but you can also make sure that the tenant is keeping the property in the same condition as when he/she took possession. With that said, there is a right way and a wrong way to do it.
First, the tenant has some obligations, and not just to pay rent. Tennessee Statute 66-28-401 states the tenant shall: (1) Comply with all obligations primarily imposed upon tenants by applicable provisions of building and housing codes materially affecting health and safety; (2) Keep that part of the premises that the tenant occupies and uses as clean and safe as the condition of the premises when the tenant took possession; (3) Dispose from the tenant’s dwelling unit all ashes, rubbish, garbage, and other waste to the designated collection areas and into receptacles; (4) Not deliberately or negligently destroy, deface, damage, impair or remove any part of the premises or permit any person to do so; and shall not engage in any illegal conduct on the premises; and (5) Act and require other persons on the premises, with the tenant’s or other occupants’ consent, to act in a manner that will not disturb the neighbors’ peaceful enjoyment of the premises. That means that the tenant has a responsibility to take care of the property.
This leads us to the next step…how do we make sure the tenant is doing so. The tenant has the right to quiet enjoyment of the property, free from landlords standing over them all of the time. With that said, a tenant cannot unreasonably withhold consent to the landlord to enter onto the premises, including entering into the dwelling unit, in order to inspect the premises, make necessary or agreed repairs, decorations, alterations, or improvements, supply necessary or agreed services, or exhibit the premises to prospective or actual purchasers, mortgagees, workers or contractors. So says Tennessee Statute 66-28-403. Now, a landlord cannot abuse this privilege. You don’t need to inspect every day, but I doubt that a court would think that inspecting the property 3 or 4 times a year is unreasonable. When you decide to inspect, you can’t just show up. Tenants should be given reasonable notice of at least 24 hours before an inspection. Also, it’s a good idea to spell out in the lease agreement that these inspections will take place and on what basis. When giving inspection, Tennessee law allows you to email the notice unless a particular statute requires another form of notice, but you cannot make the tenant providing you an email address contingent on renting the property to them. See Tennessee Statute 66-28-108.
So protect your investment by following the proper procedures. It will save you time and money in the long run.