Let’s continue with our little personal gold mine during this crisis situation. Still, my mind can’t get a grip of how this Covid-19 will pan out. From my research it seems like the Spanish Flu kind of disappeared on its own. It killed a lot of people but after a few years, it just went away. Will this Coronavirus do the same?,?, only time will tell. I’m getting a bit more nervous reading all the businesses that are closing and filing for Bankruptcy, our economy can only handle so many shutdowns before real estate starts feeling the pain. Even though us investors do well with our passive income, even that has it’s limits, we’re all interdependent!!
At this point, you’ve listed your house on the Section 8 list, screened your tenant and fell in love with them because they’ve taken care of their previous house and lived there for 4 years. You’ve done the necessary things to “hire the right employee”, that’s what one of my old mentors would say. Mike Cheatwood told me selecting a tenant is like hiring a new employee. You’re going to be depending on them to do their job to keep you in business. It’s a business relationship that must be developed and nurtured, so we get the best out of our new employee. They must be trained or they’ll train you. You have to set the standards up front so they know what to expect. Luckily us landlords get a little compassion from the crisis so you’re lucky. Now we have to get ready for our section 8 inspection. There are several things I’ve noticed over the years most inspectors really don’t like. They have their non-negotiables, that’s going to be obvious things that need to be repaired. Then they have the not so obvious, we’ll get into them both in this training.
I’m going deep with this topic because this is where you either get on the good or bad side of your inspector depending on how you handle this situation. Let me start by explaining to you what inspectors have told me personally since dealing with them from 2007. Just so you know, as I write this and think about surviving this business for so long, I’m grateful to be able to share with you. After dealing with the same inspectors for years, they start to open up and talk, kind of like in the office where people work. They have the same complaints as most gov’t agencies, overworked and underpaid and not enough employee to cover the load. But since I’m a high “I” on the DISC analysis, I love talking and getting to know them while they inspect my houses. Some of the things that really turns on their radar to look more diligently are: People trying to cover things up– Sometimes we have repairs that are costly so we try to cut corners and patch the job instead of fixing it completely. For example, if there’s a tear in the vinyl flooring and we try to glue it back together. Or perhaps there’s a crack in the tile by a door and we put a floor mat over it. The inspectors also hate it when landlords don’t do obvious repairs before they arrive. A lot of times we don’t want to spend the dollars to replace carpet. If the carpet has ripples in it or is dirty AFTER you’ve it cleaned, it’s time to replace it. If you have several doors that won’t shut and lock properly, get them fixed. And perhaps the biggest thing they dislike the most is if the place isn’t freshly painted and cleaned. They open up every cabinet in the house and if there’s debris or dust on the shelves, you will fail. They’ll fail you even if your place doesn’t require any repair. All the inspectors have a saying they use, the unit must be “Clean and move-in ready”. So please, do yourself a favor & don’t try to cover up anything or try to get them to pass something you KNOW needs to be fixed. When you do this, it makes them feel like you don’t value their time. It just gets on their nerves because they don’t want to waste time just as much as you don’t. In my town, inspections are about 2 weeks out which means they have more inspections than they have manpower. Further, if you repair everything before they arrive, it sends a signal that you take pride in your work and you’re a professional. They’ve told me several times most landlords wait until they point out repairs and require them to fix items instead of the landlord fixing it on their own. If you wait until the inspector points it out, then you’ll have them looking for more things to fix because now, your place will already require a reinspection. You see if you take the time and effort to fix everything required before they arrive, sometimes they’ll let you slide on a few small things because in reality, they don’t want to come back to your house to reinspect it. I’ve even had them tell me to fix certain things AFTER they’ve left because the unit was in such good condition. So, if you fix most of the stuff before they get arrive, they’ll love you for it.
Continuing with what to look for when doing a Section 8 inspection, I’ll go over some of the items I personally know the inspector will fail you for. Keep in mind people hire me to perform these pre-inspections for them, and get their houses ready for the Section 8 tenant to move in so I’ve seen tons of crazy things dealing with the housing dept. I also created a 4 page Pre-Inspection checklist for you inside The Landlord’s Guide to Section 8 Housing as well. The following will be some of the things you will be required to either fix or maintain in order to pass your inspection. If you DO NOT fix these items, you will FAIL:
–EXTERIOR- If you have a flower bed or some sort of greenery on or around the premises, they require it to be away from the property. The branches cannot touch the property in any way so make sure you trim them back from the property. The grass must be cut to a reasonable length upon the inspection. There can be no missing or cracked siding. The brick or siding must be in good condition free of holes as well. I remember one time I had several holes in my siding before an inspection. What you can do is buy some mesh tape and either use caulk or a much stronger material like ‘Rock hard’ to past over the hole. Once it dries, you can paint it the same color as the siding. Nobody will know as long as the paint is similar in color. The roof can’t be missing any shingles. You must have a handrail on the stairs. The mailbox must be operational and the street address must be in clear view. If you have a shed or detached garage, I HIGHLY recommend not allowing the tenant to have access to them. If you allow the tenant to use these spaces, then they’ll need to be inspected as well. I’ve passed the house inspection only to fail auxiliary buildings in the past and it’s not cool. This lead me to locking up these extra spaces & keeping tenants away from access. If you don’t mind having them inspected, then no problems there. I will say your tenant will probably want to use them anyway.
-WINDOWS- All windows must be perfectly operational. They must slide up and down and further they must lock. There’s been several instances where I’ve had to get my windows serviced by a pro simply because they wouldn’t lock. The windows get off track and the locks won’t latch so test them before the inspector arrives. If your locks are old or hard to operate, just lock the windows before she arrives for the inspection so she sees it can lock. They usually only open a few windows if you lock them all. 1st floor windows aren’t required to have screens, but if the window has a screen, it can’t have any rips or damage. 2nd floor windows are required to have screens. If your screen is damaged, you can take it to a local window company and they should be able to fix them for under $15. Don’t try to fix screens, it’s a hassle. Make sure your blinds are operational and in good condition or take them down.
–ELECTRICAL– I’ve attached a picture of a little tool called the “circuit Outlet tester” in our example here. I test each outlet before the inspection so I can get it fixed.
This tool will tell you if there is an open ground or if there’s a problem with the power at the outlet. Your inspector will check every one in your house so why not just make sure they all work before she arrives. Another thing they’re looking for is the outlet sturdiness. If the outlet shakes, moves or pushes in when you plug something in, they will fail it. Take a few mins to tighten all the outlets with a screwdriver, it’s really not that difficult. Further make sure all your face plates are in good condition and aren’t cracked. Sometimes we overlook small cracks in the outlet covers because it’s not really affecting the power. Your inspector will require them to be in good condition. If you have a major problem with the circuit at one outlet, I highly recommend simply deleting the outlet and adding a blank plate over it. Yes, you can do that and it’ll save you tons of money and time, they only cost .50 cent. Sure, your room will have one less outlet but the tenant will get over it. There can’t be any exposed wiring so if you have any, simply buy some conduit you can stick to the wall to enclose it. Make sure every light fixture has the appropriate lightbulbs. Check to make sure the light switches are in good shape and don’t shake when you touch them. They too must be free of any cracks.
They will test EVERY LIGHT, so go through the house and check all lights work, even exterior lights.
–DOORS- All doors must shut properly, latch and lock. You can’t have a keyed lock on a bedroom door so change it if you do. It will fail if the doors don’t latch and lock so you may have to hire somebody to set the doors. Make sure the hinges are tight as well, they don’t want loose doors when they open. You must also have deadbolts on exterior doors. The deadbolts must be single sided meaning you can lock with a key on one side & lock with your hand on the other. I’ve had to install deadbolts on many doors in my day. Make sure they’re either freshly painted or super clean. Doors tend to get a lot of dirt around the handle and it’s very noticeable so pay attention to that. Your closet doors must also close properly. Here’s a hack for you, if you have an issue with closet doors you can simply rip them off and trash them. I remember a time when I had those old ceiling high metal closet doors. They’re terrible to fix when they bend & get off the track. I was stressed out because it’s more expensive to replace these as it is the normal 80in wood bifold doors. My mentor told me to pull them off and put up a shower rod. So that’s what I did and it was super fast and cheap. The tenant will pick their own bed sheet or curtain to hang there so don’t overthink it. It will pass and the tenant won’t care if they don’t have closet doors.
FLOORING– We all hate spending money on rentals, but I’ve learned if you think it needs to be replaced, it’s best to simply do it now. If your carpet is old and worn, then you should replace it. If it’s dirty AFTER you clean it, get rid of it. This will save you time because if the inspector fails you, then she has to come back to re-inspect. I’ve seen them pass minor stains in carpet but if it’s too large, they want it replaced. I’ve found a secret to saving a ton of money on stained carpet. You can take a plate from the kitchen and hold it over the stain to cut out a perfect circle. Then cut a matching piece of carpet from inside the closet. You can patch the flooring with this piece of carpet and replace the entire flooring in the closet because the closet floor doesn’t have to match the rest of the room since the closet door’s closed most of the time. If it’s done right, nobody will know you patched it and it’ll blend right in. Remember sometimes they have a 2 week backlog so you don’t want to get caught up in that. There can be NO tears or rips in vinyl flooring so pay close attention to them. Ceramic tile can’t have any cracks and the grout must be clean without a lot of missing grout.
–PLUMBING- Check every faucet, spigot and drain line. Make sure your exterior spigots aren’t dripping & are functioning without any wiggle when you turn them on. If the sinks and tub have pop-up assemblies, they must work to stop the water when you engage them. If you don’t want to worry about that, you can bypass it by simply placing rubber drain stoppers at each sink & tub. Verify your shower diverter valve is working when you engage the shower from the tub spout. Sometimes the washer in the valve goes bad and the water will flow out the tub faucet and the shower head together. Make sure it works and verify the pressure is reasonable. They’ll fail you if the flow to the shower head is too low so you may need to get a new shower head too. I’ve failed many inspections from water not draining properly so make sure you run the water for enough time to see how your drains are performing. If it drains slow, go ahead and hire somebody to snake it out. Usually it’s hair or grease buildup that clocks drains. Check all your faucets to make sure they’re working. If you have a sink sprayer, please DELETE IT.
These things seem to go bad every year and take time to fix & further they’re simply not needed. They’re hell to fix so you can pull it out, install a plug over the hole and it’s over. Unfortunately, I’ve failed many times from these stupid sprayers so I don’t use them anymore. Be sure to test the garbage disposal to make sure it works and doesn’t sound like it’s falling apart. Run all your water to see if there’s any water leaking anywhere. Sometimes you can have a small leak that gets overlooked. I know this seems like a lot, but checking these things makes inspections easy. We’ll continue with our pre-inspection checklist next month. You must be thorough with this process to be successful. Don’t cut corners here!!!