Landlord inspections: what are they allowed to inspect when they come in?
November 25, 2005 8:14 AM   Subscribe

Landlord inspections: what are they allowed to inspect when they come in? Our landlord decided that since we've been living here for 4 years now, he wants to come in and inspect our apartment (I assume for damage and cleanliness).

What is he allowed to actually do in this inspection? Just check out what's in plain view? Open cabinets, closets, and storage boxes? Peek behind couches?

While the house is of average tidiness for a wage-slave and a student who want to relax when they get home, other than the random clothing on the floor in the bathroom and bedroom the place is clean, and nothing is a fire hazzard. However, our closets are in a perpetual state of disarray and our spare bedroom is packed full of storage boxes full of books, clothing, and craft supplies. We plan on being there when the inspection is done and he's given us plenty of notice about his plans to come in (letting us pick the day), but I don't want him coming in and telling us we need to organize our closets or wanting to open boxes if he's not allowed to do so.
posted by chickygrrl to Home & Garden (23 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Where do you live?
posted by raedyn at 8:16 AM on November 25, 2005

I'm in Rhode Island, and from what I've seen in the rental laws I've found for RI, there's no mention of what he can and can't do during an inspection, only that he needs to give us notice that he's coming in if it's a non-emergency.
posted by chickygrrl at 8:26 AM on November 25, 2005

Does he want to do repairs or something urgent?

If not, don't let him come in. It's your place. You pay the rent.
posted by jon_kill at 8:26 AM on November 25, 2005

No repairs, just checking out the place. He lives in the apartment over us, so he'd know if things needed to be fixed because we're not shy about letting him know when something's wrong. Most of the time when we see him conversations will go one of two ways - a simple hi-how-are-you or the more interesting "I never see you take trash out" conversation, which is why I think this is geared more towards a damage/cleanliness inspection than anything else (for the record, we do take the trash out, but he's never home when we do it in the morning).
posted by chickygrrl at 8:36 AM on November 25, 2005

He could be inspecting for any number of things -- compliance with your lease (if it has stipulations regarding the condition of your home, number of occupants, pets, etc), function of appliances/HVAC unit, or, if your lease is up for expiration or renewal, to determine if any major repairs will need to be done before a new tenant moves in. My guess is that, if you've been living there for four years, he wants to just generally check out the property and make sure nothing is in major disrepair. Some people just won't call in a maintenance request, even as the place falls apart around them. You wouldn't believe some of the things I've seen working in property management!

In any case, the general cleanliness of your home won't matter to him at all, unless it's to the point of being a risk for infestation or there is a foul odor that is offending your neighbors (which obviously there isn't in your case). He may glance in the closets, since that is part of the structure of the apartment, but he won't be looking inside any boxes or going through your personal belongings. He may check to see that all the major appliances work, check or replace your air filter, or determine that your hot water heater isn't leaking. If he has been made aware of any problems with any of his other units, such as rodents, window leaks, radon, etc., he may check for signs of those in your place as well.

Believe me, if he were trying to entrap you in any way, compromise your privacy, or find evidence for lease termination or eviction, he wouldn't be working with you to find a mutually agreeable date. Your lease most likely has a clause allowing him to enter "with cause" at will, and he'd take advantage of that if his intentions were shady.
posted by justonegirl at 8:41 AM on November 25, 2005

I own apartment buildings. Not sure about RI, but in California, the owner has the right of inspection with a 24 hour written notice. An owner usually doesn't care how tidy your closets are.
posted by growabrain at 8:50 AM on November 25, 2005

It's a big deal here now, because of the grow-ops and meth labs. They're going to change the law so the landlord is responsible for costs, including fire department if it burns. Insurance is void. I suppose some landlords know what goes on, others don't.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 9:17 AM on November 25, 2005

It is a huge pain in the ass, and it's intrusive and insulting. That said, your landlord sounds much cooler about working with you than my old one did, so I wouldn't be concerned as long as you're not totally filthy with cockroaches scuttling about, et cetera.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 9:27 AM on November 25, 2005

His insurance may want him to inspect for fire safety. He could be thinking about selling. Maybe he saw a cockroach in a hallway. Lots of reasons why he'd want to inspect. If the boxes in the spare room are a fire hazard, deal with them. He can inspect wiring, outlets, bathroom, plumbing, kitchen, which could include behind couches. Opening boxes or dresser drawers is unlikely. He'd have to have a good reason. Try to look at the place from a safety and cleaniness/hygiene point of view. You'll get to have a nice clean apt. for a while, so it's not all bad.
posted by theora55 at 9:39 AM on November 25, 2005

I'm sure that after four years he just wants to check that the floorboards aren't rotting away or whatever.

He certainly can't open your boxes, but opening cupboards shouldn't be a problem, should it? I've never lived in the US, but the house inspections I've had have always consisted of the agent walking through the house, having a chat, just looking around - the way you do when you're looking to buy or rent a place yourself. Making sure that you're not some crazy who has pulled down the ceilings to make a huge loft space, or whatever it is that these nightmare tenants do.
posted by different at 9:40 AM on November 25, 2005

Sorry, I didn't answer your question the way I meant to. I meant to say that I'd be shocked if he was planning to tell you to tidy your cupboards. I would imagine that the idea is just to check on his asset, given that he hasn't seen inside it in four years. I honestly wouldn't imagine that it would be a drama.
posted by different at 9:42 AM on November 25, 2005

Full Disclosure: I am a landlord.
I think that you may be taking this the wrong way if you think of it as a privacy issue. Of course he has NO right to search through your drawers and boxes and stuff. But (with appropriate notice at reasonable intervals) he does have the right to inspect the building structure and appliances.
Think of it like this, He owns the structure, you own the content. Just as if you rented your car to someone, you would want to ensure at some interval (every few years) that they had not put cigaret burns on the dash, or ripped the leather seats, or crashed it and not told you about it. You would hate to have them continue to trash it over more time, only to have them leave it on the side of the road in the middle of the night and take off. You would not care about clothing in the back seat, or what was stored in the trunk. Your interest is solely in the value of your investment (read car), not in what the renter has inside it.
We inspect every few years (at a time that is convenient for the tenant if they want to be there). In all frankness, this is just work for me, and I have no interest in their personal lives etc. I just want to make sure that there is no damage to the property and carry on to the next suite.

Of course having said that if your landlord is a weirdo, voyeur then forget what I have just said, but considering he wants to work with you to do this I doubt that is the case.
posted by TheFeatheredMullet at 9:51 AM on November 25, 2005

Well, I'm positive we're roach-free, since the only bug I've spotted in the house has been flies over the summer and the yearly house centipede scare, and I've lived with enough roaches to recognize them.

As for inspecting the appliances, he's welcome to check out the stove to make sure we haven't damaged it, but all the others are mine and weren't supplied by him. I'm not worried about him going into cabinets, since all we store in them are plates and glasses and some spices, but because we have almost no storage space in the house, the closets (both of them) are are tiny and stuffed full, mostly with blankets and clothing we don't wear very often, so I try to avoid opening them if at all possible - think of those cartoons where a person fills the closet up and things pour out when the door is opened. The boxes/bins themselves aren't a safety issue and are just stacked up, but moving them to get them open is a pain in the ass, which is really the only reason I'm worried about them being a problem, since the last thing I want to deal with is him pointing at one on the bottom and yelling, "That one! NOW!"

And yes, he is a weirdo. From what utility workers have told me, the man has a virtual arsenal of guns in the basement, and has been known to sit in the back yard cleaning them on the picnic table. There's also the fact that we can only use 1 of the two entry/exit doors in the apartment. Previous tenants would hang out on the front porch, so when I moved in he explained that the front door can only be unlocked and used when absolutely necessary and he has the single key for it (and I'm worried he'll find me causing a fire hazard?).
posted by chickygrrl at 10:29 AM on November 25, 2005

From what utility workers have told me, the man has a virtual arsenal of guns in the basement, and has been known to sit in the back yard cleaning them on the picnic table.

That's not weird, that's actually being considerate. Firearms owners are supposed to clean their guns after every trip to the range to prevent damage to the equipment, and the chemicals needed stink something awful. By doing it outside, he's preventing your building and all the apartments in it from smelling like cleaning solvent fumes.

Which is to say that your landlord may be a wierdo for other reasons, but probably not for that one.
posted by Asparagirl at 11:40 AM on November 25, 2005

From what utility workers have told me, the man has a virtual arsenal of guns in the basement, and has been known to sit in the back yard cleaning them on the picnic table.

If this is common neighborhood knowledge, it is better than a burglar alarm.

I'm with FeatheredMullet above. His interest is in assuring himself that the valuable building he owns isn't suffering from lack of maintenence. He's not interested in dinging you, prying into your life, or causing you trouble; he's interested in assessing the condition of his property and making arrangements to do any necessary preventive maintenence.
posted by ikkyu2 at 3:10 PM on November 25, 2005

The landlord likely isn't going to care about how organised your closets are. Checking that the property is reasonably kept and in good condition is his right as the owner. He needs to know if any maintenance/upkeep issues are going to arise. He's being quite reasonable about it, it sounds. I don't know about him being a bit of a weirdo.

I work in a property management office, and we inspect properties annually, on a time/day arranged with the tenant. The property manager wants to know the plumbing is working, the walls don't need painting immediately, how the carpet/flooring is holding up, any sign of pets--er, I meant pests, but seeing if there are unauthorised animals is also a concern.

Yes, we also want to know if you're cooking meth in the kitchen, too, as that's a huge liability to the owner/manager. We don't care if you're cooking funky food or what's in your cupboards, really.

When I last rented, the property manager inspected our place annually.
posted by Savannah at 9:26 PM on November 25, 2005

Could you ask him ahead of time what sorts of things he's going to be looking at? Opening closets, refrigerators and cupboards seems out of line to me; looking into the bathrooms and bedrooms for safety hazards does not. If you're reallly worried, simply asking might go a long way towards clarifying things and reducing your stress.
posted by mediareport at 11:49 PM on November 25, 2005

You said he's a weirdo, so who knows what to expect from him. What I'd expect from a normal sane landlord is for him to check that there isn't any damage to the house. That's all.

No looking in boxes, no looking in your cabinets, no looking in your closets. Just checking that you haven't knocked holes in the walls, or put gouges in the floors.

In my country inspection time is also the time when you tell the owner about any little problems that might have come up. (Big problems obviously are dealt with right away.)

I'm amazed that after four years in the house this is the first inspection you've been through - I'm also surprised this is the first inspection you've ever had, I guess you're young. - Here it happens more like every 6 months.

Preperation is the same as if you're mother came over. Assuming your mother didn't raise you in a cave. Sweep or vacuum, possibly even mop. Do the dishes. Just tidy shit up, you're not a child. You don't need to live in filth. But a reasonable landlord also won't care if the whole house doesn't sparkle.
posted by The Monkey at 4:02 AM on November 26, 2005

Oh, and jon_kill's advice is about as bad as you could possibly ever want.
posted by The Monkey at 4:06 AM on November 26, 2005

Update on the inspection:
He did his walk-through tonight. My husband went upstairs to get him to do the insection while I was fixing dinner, and got no answer. No less than 30 seconds after I put the food on plates, he shows up saying "I smell dinner." Sure... we can't disturb his meal, but he can come down during ours? Whatever, at this point, I just want him out of the house.

First, he came in and started in on the bedroom because there was a ripped window shade that's only visible from the backyard. This is unacceptable, so he’ll be buying and giving us another one.

Then, he went into the kitchen and complained that the ceiling needed to be painted. While he was in there he bitched because there was a dead fly up there by the light. As predicted, he accused us of storing trash in here, even going so far as to say that over the summer, he looked through our kitchen windows and stuff on our kitchen table for 3 weeks. Ok, I admit that there was random shit on the table that probably could have been tossed out, but it wasn't food, and where the FUCK does he get off looking in our kitchen windows? Or any of our windows for that matter?

In the bathroom, he said nothing about the fact that the clothes were piled up everywhere, but he did complain about the fact that there’s a leak in the shower door that seems to breed a steady stream of mildew that just won't go away no matter how often it's cleaned up. He also thinks that we have nothing better to do than make sure that there are no dust bunnies behind the toilet, because he said the toilet is too dusty back there.

He found nothing of interest in the living room except a large crack in the ceiling, which has been there since I moved in, and the fact that one part of the blinds in one window was slightly higher than the rest and not even. And he seemed more upset than neccessary that the chandaleer in here doesn’t hang properly and leans a bit. The horrors! The same thing goes for the spare room - nothing in there to pique his interest, even with the stored boxes and bins.

He then proceeded to complain once again about the trash and requested that we take it out at least every other day, whether it has anything in it or not. Because obviously, in his little personal universe, trash bags grow on trees and we can just afford to toss them out with 3 empty Diet Coke cans and a Hamburger Helper box. And the quote of the night (in my best typed Polish accent)? "Creestal, you are a woh-min, you should know ‘ow to do this theengs."

Yes, you heard it here first, folks, having a vagina makes you automatically have the ability and desire to scrub your house from top to bottom! It must be one of the perks of having XX chromosomes. someone alert the Nobel judges, I deserve an award for this idea.

I swear to god, if we could find a place the same price as what we’re paying and not looking for first/last month rent with a security deposit on top of that, we’d be out of here asap. I don’t need some anal-retentive landlord peeking in our windows and telling me to clean the back of the toilet. If he's not ashamed to admit to peeking into the kitchen, I wouldn't put it past him to just come in without notice when we're not home.
posted by chickygrrl at 4:45 PM on November 30, 2005

Why do you get the Nobel for your landlord's idea?

Anyway, he sounds like a crackpot, but now you know that a property inspection is pretty much painless, yes?
posted by The Monkey at 8:59 PM on November 30, 2005

Oh, I knew that in general they're painless; it's not my first, I had at least one I can remember in a large apartment complex, but this is the first I've gone through with with a landlord with only 1 apartment and maybe not as familiar with tenant rights/rental laws as opposed to a property manager with 400 apartments and a good knowledge of what he's allowed to do. I pretty much wanted to make sure of what rights I'd have in the case he started asking to see/get into anything he had no right to be going into, like the boxes in the spare room, crap under the bed, poking through closets, etc.

Not that anything would have stopped his peeping-tom ass.
posted by chickygrrl at 7:58 PM on December 1, 2005

Part of the reason Mrs. Chyme and I bought a house is so we'd never have to deal with a landlord again. There's a whole 'nother set of issues involved, but it is a billion fucking times better than dealing with some asshole on a power-trip. Sorry I was wrong about him sounding okay, and good luck in the future.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 11:28 AM on December 12, 2005

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