A true detective story … In pursuit of the Perfect Inspection

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True Detective Story

Picture this … Pink Panther music is playing and the inspector arrives at the potential crime scene (the rental property) with his clipboard, ready to observe and record the tiniest defect as evidence. He is not just an ordinary inspector. He also has some forensic abilities and therefor looks for scratch marks, paint patch up marks and concealed pet odours to submit into the body of evidence. He then plots the sequence of events on a timeline to determine whether the Tenant should be brought to book for damaging crimes committed against the Landlord.

You might or might not find the above analogy funny and relevant, but if you want to be honest with yourself, you can’t deny the similarities. A good inspector needs to think and operate like a detective. In fact I think retired detectives will make excellent inspectors, that is if they were any good as detectives.

So what is a PERFECT INSPECTION?

Some people would argue that it is an inspection that accurately records the condition of a property at a specific point in time. To this effect, people record long lists of condition statements and take hundreds of photos to try and accomplish the Perfect Inspection.

With the introduction of mobile inspection apps, it is now easier than with a clipboard and a camera. So you would for instance find inspection reports having condition statements such as:

Item                                                            Condition                                  

Bedroom Wall                                               Poor                                                 

Bedroom Window                                        Good                                                

Bedroom Light Switch                                Good                                                

Bedroom Carpet                                           Fair                                                  

 

The above condition statements are extremely subjective because everyone’s Poor, Fair and Good will be different and open for interpretation. That is probably why inspections are now accompanied by hundreds of photos to address the issue of subjectivity. 

The perfect Entry Inspection in South Africa would be an Inspection that accurately records all existing Defects in a property when a Tenant takes occupation. Note that a Defect is not a Condition, a Defect is something that is either broken or does not work anymore. The Rental Housing act specifically applies to South Africa and requires Defects to be recorded when a Tenant takes occupation.

If the Landlord would like a general update on the status of his property in order to do some preventative maintenance and to replace items that have substantial wear and tear, a condition type of inspection would be more appropriate.

When it comes to Exit Inspections, the purpose is to capture and identify new defects that might have originated during the Lease term in order to determine Tenant liability. So, the perfect Exit Inspection would record all new defects that were not recorded during the Entry Inspection. So, the perfect Exit Inspection would make it easy for the Landlord to identify any Defects with reference to the Entry Inspection as a base line.

Taking hundreds of photos has become a trend lately. That is not helping and just introduces unnecessary clutter into the inspection reports making it difficult to read. If you think a Landlord enjoys scanning through many pages of photos of walls, windows, locks, cupboards, etc. think again.

Therefor, my take on the Perfect Inspection is as follows:

  • It needs to be fit for purpose as explained above and provide the correct information required depending on the purpose.
  • When defects are recorded, the words used need to be unambiguous and annotated with comments where necessary.
  • When defects are recorded, there should be a recommendation in terms of whether something should be done and also who would be liable for any associated costs of repair.
  • If  a checklist is used as a guide, empty items where nothing was recorded need to be removed to avoid clutter.
  • Photos must be included and linked directly to items only where it is necessary to clarify something that might be ambiguous such as wear and tear on a very old carpet.
  • Photos must be date and time stamped to avoid tamper after they have been taken.
  • Where photos are re-used, they need to be clearly identified as such.
  • Electronic Signatures should be date and time stamped to avoid tamper after the fact.

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