Landlord Tenant Q&A
CARL L. FRAZIER (R), PB
Owner, Principal Broker
Past President, Oahu Chapter
National Association of Residential Property Mangers and
National Conference Speaker
Q. A rental unit that I own has often been maintained in a careless manner by tenants. I want to make visits to the property more regularly to encourage my future tenants to keep ordinary things clean and in good repair. How do I go about scheduling regular inspections? How much notice do I need to give? How often is reasonable? Is the notice different if I find something in need of repair? Do I have the right to make the tenant correct something, for example a stain on the carpet? Can I make them get it cleaned right away instead of waiting until their lease is up and the stain has set in and cannot be removed?
A. Conducting periodic inspections is a good practice as it encourages the tenant to maintain the property and to be more aware of areas of concern to you the owner. The basic Hawaii Association of Realtors Standard Rental Agreement provides for the ability to access the property for various reasons with a two day notice. The lease reads “Right to Enter: Landlord will give Tenant at least two (2) days notice before entering the unit; and enter only during reasonable hours, except in case of emergency. Landlord may enter the unit in order to: inspect, make needed or agreed repairs; decorate, change or improve the unit; supply services agreed; and show it to anyone who may want to buy, rent, or lend money on it. Landlord will not abuse this right or use it to harass tenant. Tenant shall not unreasonably withhold tenant’s consent. Landlord has no other right of entry except by court order, or if it appears that the tenant has abandoned the unit.”
If you prefer to create a lease addendum, or just add wording in the special terms, you could note that inspections will be done periodically…and every 6 months would be reasonable. A minimum of two days advance notice should be given to the tenant, but even a week’s notice in writing would be good practice.
As property managers we find that a tenant will clean up for us (and hide the dog that isn’t approved) but are less inclined to do so for our vendors. We expect our vendors to report back to us if there are any odd things going on at the unit the dog bowl in the kitchen, make-shift beds in the living room, or obvious damage to the unit. Vendors often help to serve as our eyes and ears when we aren’t there.
Regarding repairs, of course go ahead and have things taken care of when problems arise. Your inventory and condition form (which should have been presented and endorsed when the tenant took occupancy) will help you determine whether the problem is something the owner should be responsible for or if it is damage over and above normal wear and tear and therefore to be repaired at cost to the tenant.
In the event that the carpet is dirty or stained to the extent that it needs immediate cleaning to preserve the integrity of the item, then the Landlord Tenant Code provides you with the solution. You can give the tenant written notice that the carpet must be cleaned and that you will be back to reinspect in 10 days. If the tenant fails to remedy the situation, the owner can have the cleaning done and bill the tenant for the actual and reasonable cost. This amount can be billed as rent due along with the next regular rent payment.
Answers to questions in Landlord Tenant Q&A are provided by members of the Oahu Chapter of the National Association of Residential Property Managers (NARPM), an organization that supports the professional and ethical practices of rental home management through networking, education, and certification. The Oahu Chapter, founded in 2004, has become the largest in the nation with 175 registered members. Disclaimer: The answers provided in this column by Realtors address individual cases and should not be construed as interpretations of the law. For specific information on Hawaii State Law, go to http:// hawaii.gov/dcca/areas/ocp/ landlord_tenant or contact an attorney.