Seller's Inspection Checklist

General

Inform inspector if something isn’t working, is winterized, or shouldn’t be turned on!

Ensure your pets are penned or crated, & that firearms and valuables are safely put away.

Be sure to clear items out of the way of electrical panels, accesses, and foundation walls.

Inside

Make sure all outlets and switches have covers. Replace any burned out bulbs. Put fresh batteries in and make available remotes. Be sure proper screws are installed on panel cover.

If your smoke detectors don’t work or are older than ten years, replace them.

Ensure all handles, latches, knobs, slides, and locks are present and properly functioning on drawers, windows, doors, and cabinets.

Replace dirty HVAC filters. Clean dust and lint from bathroom fans, registers, and dryer vents.

Clean appliances and fixtures and have them unloaded or empty. Make sure all available accessories are present, safety devices are installed, and let us know if a feature isn’t working or has been disabled.

Correct any trip hazards or loose handrails.

Repair any leaking plumbing fixtures.

Repair or replace broken fans/electrical fixtures.

Install missing or repair broken shelving. Ensure all doors and windows operate properly and have screens installed (if applicable).

Ensure proper operation of garage doors.

Test GFCI and AFCI outlets and breakers.

Basement and Outside

Remove any animal nests from fascia, vents, and soffits.

Apply fresh chalking where needed and paint metal lintels over windows and doors.

Clean gutters, install splash blocks or downspout extenders.

Be sure to slope mulch or topsoil away from the edge of any siding or veneer. 

Trim back vegetation away from roof or sides.

Remove items away from foundation walls and from underneath decks, porches, or within crawlspaces. Replace or reinstall any missing or hanging insulation.

Ensure all basement window and egress wells are clear and covered.

Test the sump pump and make sure a cover is installed.

Ensure fencing and gates are serviceable.

Clear vegetation and items from HVAC, plumbing/well, and sewer/septic components.

Ensure exterior outlets have weatherproof covers and are GFCI protected.

Repair any trip hazards, loose boards, or railings.

Ensure the chimney cap is installed and the roof is clear of debris. Repair or replace any loose shingles or missing components.

Test the doorbell and all exterior lighting.

Pressure wash exterior surfaces. Repaint and repair cladding and trim as necessary.

***Don’t forget. Lawn irrigation, pools, hot tubs, exterior buildings, etc. may need additional, preparation as well…

Emergency Egress Requirements for Basements in Your Delaware & Maryland Rental Homes

Converting or finishing a basement space, to include adding bedrooms or a bathroom, can be a great way to increase useable square footage and ROI for your rental. However, it’s important not to create a death trap in the process. We sometimes find unpermitted basement conversions without adequate emergency egress in area rental properties, so it’s a good idea to recap some of the IRC requirements:

Even in walk-out basements, bedrooms must have two egress routes. If the basement has a recreation room, den, office, or home gym, but no bedrooms, the requirement for at least two egress routes from the area still applies. Doors or windows can be used, but they must be fully operable from the inside and not require the use of keys or special tools. Below grade egress windows and doors have egress well requirements that must also be met. Remember, tenants will frequently convert these areas to host “temporary” guests or to generate extra income from subletting—that’s why we have to cover the safety contingency that they will.

Basement Egress Window Requirements

The bottom of the egress window opening can’t exceed 44” from the finished floor.
The minimum opening area of the egress window is 5.7 square feet.
The minimum egress window opening height is 24” high.
The minimum egress window opening is 20” wide.
The egress window must have a glass area of not less than 8% of the total floor area of room(s) for which it is servicing, to allow the minimum amount of sufficient natural light. *
The egress window must have an opening area of not less than 4% of the total floor area of room(s) for which it is servicing, to allow the minimum amount of natural ventilation. *
* Multiple windows can be used to service a single area where one window does not meet these percentages of total floor area.

Egress Window or Door Wells

Wells are required where the bottom of the egress window or door is below ground level.
The egress well must not interfere with the egress window or door fully opening.
The distance from the egress window or door threshold to the back of the egress well must be at least 36”
The minimum area of the egress well must be 9 square feet (36” x 36”).

Egress Ladders and/or Steps

Egress ladders and or steps are required on window wells deeper than 44” and must be permanently attached.
An egress ladder or step may encroach into well up to 6”.
Steps and/or distance between rungs of the ladder can’t exceed 18”.
The rungs of an egress ladder must be 12” wide or greater and must project a minimum of 3” away from the back wall, but can’t exceed 6” from the back of the wall.

Egress Well Cover and/or Well Grates

Grates and covers shall be easily opened or removed from the inside of the egress well without special tools (don’t padlock!). These requirements are intended to make sure an average, able bodied person, would be able to both fit through and lift themselves up, and out the egress well.

Be Sure Bedrooms are Compliant in Your Delaware & Maryland Rental Homes

We frequently see rental homes in our area that have non-compliant bedrooms, and this is a summary of what an inspector is likely looking for:

  1. Privacy.  It should have a door that doesn’t open into a public space, like a barber shop, etc. It can’t be a dual-purpose room, such as a bed set up in the kitchen or bathroom. The occupant should not have to walk through an adjoining bedroom to access it. Note: crib rooms and those configured for handicap accessibility may be exempted from this requirement. Some loft bedroom configurations can also be exempted from the “pass through” restriction.
  1. Lighting and electrical service. There has to be at least one electrically-supplied light and two outlets, one of which can be on the light fixture itself. Note: larger bedrooms may require additional outlets or specific types of outlets or branch circuit protection, for example, TR outlets or AFCI breakers.
  1. Operating smoke detector. Note: additional requirements also apply in some locales, for example, combo detectors with CO monitoring, 10-year sealed battery back-up, electrical interconnection, etc. Handicapped tenants, such as those with hearing impairments, can compel additional accommodations as well.
  1. Heating & Ventilation. The area has to be capable to maintain at least 65 degrees Fahrenheit at a distance of 3 feet from the floor and any wall. The room must have a source of natural or mechanical ventilation. Note: any HVAC system must be maintained in working order if the house has one. If ventilation is provided by a window, it must be intact and operable from the inside.
  1. At least two egress routes. A bedroom needs to have another way to exit in an emergency besides the normal entry door. This can be through a door leading to a hallway that leads outside, a direct exterior door, or an exterior window. If a window, it has to be installed between 24-44 inches from the floor and, it must meet square footage or length and width requirements. Basement egress also has additional requirements that vary by jurisdiction. Note: standard window sizes for the bedroom are generally 24 inch by 36 inch, 24 inch by 46 inch, 28 inch by 54 inch, 28 inch by 66 inch, 28 inch by 70 inch, 34 inch by 46 inch or 34 inch by 62 inch and are either single hung or double hung windows. 
  1. Open square footage 64 square feet or greater. Note: some jurisdictions or ancillary subsidized housing requirements may have higher minimums, for example, 100 square feet minimum for bedrooms hosting foster care children or 7 feet in any direction from the center of the room for some public assistance-funded housing. 
  1. Ceiling height 7 feet or greater throughout at least half of the bedroom. Note: many jurisdictions raise it to 7.5 feet for non-attic/basement bedrooms.

There’s a lot of specious reasoning when it comes to these types of requirements, for example, closets are typically not required and neither are three-prong outlets in older buildings having ungrounded outlets—despite widespread beliefs to the contrary. The area building code enforcement authority will have additional warranty of habitability or fire safety requirements, as do some social services programs. Checking with the permitting office and the department of social services for your area before you invest in renovation is a wise preliminary step. Also, tenants will frequently convert non-compliant basements and attics into bedrooms for “temporary” use by friends or family or subletting for additional income, so it’s a good idea to have a clause in your lease agreement and periodic inspections of the property to cover these potential liabilities.

Bedbugs in Rental Housing--What Maryland Landlords Need to Know

The unpleasantness of a typical rodent or insect extermination is largely the fee charged by the exterminator.  But with bed bugs, this fee is just one piece of a greater nightmare. Because bed bugs are adept at hiding almost anywhere, an alarming quantity of possessions, from curtains to books and picture frames, must be discarded or quarantined. Other victims have had to throw away their books unless they were willing to inspect each one, page by page. Some possessions may be salvaged if they are sealed in special casing long enough for the bed bugs to die, which can takes many months. During this time, residents may be forced to move to temporary housing elsewhere. Lest you think this is not your problem, consider the 2013 Annapolis case that awarded an elderly tenant over $600K in punitive damages against her landlord--who failed to disclose an infestation prior to her moving in. Also, a bedbug infestation definitely comes under the requirements related to warranty of habitability concerns--regardless of whose "fault" it may have been, and, as most landlords already know, the courts universally rule that it's almost always our fault! 

Having mitigation measures in place is key to keeping your residential rental units bedbug free!

Awareness and prevention

  1. Check out the available history of any property prior to purchasing as a rental investment. One resource is the National Bedbug Registry Website
  2. Review and download available public awareness materials, such as doorhangers and information brochures from EPA's Bed Bug Resources Page
  3. Research and determine which licensed pest control specialist to use BEFORE they're needed: consider paying for their inspection, pre-treatments, and a clearance letter as proof of non-infestation prior to relisting a vacant unit.
  4. When you hire a licensed home inspector for your rental inspection, add a requirement to specifically inspect for signs of bed bug infestation.
  5. Consider installing washer and dryer connections to make it easier for tenants to do laundry at home (instead of laundromats or a relative or friend's house).
  6. Have a reviewed clause in the lease agreement that specifically addresses bed bug contingencies--responsibilities, etc. Don't make it lopsided! If the tenant is afraid to report, it's only going to make any bed bug problem tremendously worse! Also consider that if a neighboring property in turn gets infested, it's highly likely that the landlord of the originally affected property will be culpable for remediation, damages, etc. 
  7. Make sure acknowledgement and receipt of awareness and prevention materials is part of your lease agreement. This clause should also include reminders not to bring in discarded furniture, inspect all second-hand items purchased at yard sales and thrift stores, etc.
  8. Periodically inspect your unit! Compel tenants to address conditions that make a pest infestation more likely and make sure that other hosts, such as pegions or other birds and bats are not nesting in the attic (there are some types of bed bugs that prefer these hosts but will opportunistically settle for your tenants).
  9. Keep a can of bug repellant (with DEET in it) in the vehicle you take to the units. If you suspect there may be a problem, apply the spray as directed prior to going inside. Consider wearing light colored clothes that will make any "hitchikers" easier to spot on your way out.

Response

  1. Take all complaints seriously! Do not wait for proof to take action because the longer you wait, the worse it will get.
  2. Call your selected pest control specialist and get them out there as soon as possible. Go with them to the appointment if you can manage it, and be sure to take lots of photos of the unit at the time of the initial response. If bed bugs are confirmed, confer with the exterminator and tenant on the best way to eliminate the pests and then follow through with all measures. 
  3. Document, photograph, and file...everything related to the infestation.
  4. When completed, get a clearance letter from the exterminator and send a copy of it, along with a letter of your own, to the tenant via certified mail. Keep proof of this mailing. This will be critical if a reinfestation occurs or is discovered post vacancy (not to mention delisting the property if it made it to the national registry).
  5. Once the unit is vacated, throughly clean it and have a inspection and clearance letter issued by your exterminator. Attach a copy of this clearance letter to the next tenant's lease and get them to date and initial it, along with the other leasing paperwork. Again, make sure they received the information/awareness materials and follow through with the other mitigation measures.

 Don't let the bed bugs bite is a cute saying many parents tell their children at bedtime, so let's try to keep it that way and keep our rental units pest free!

The advice given here is, like other articles, not all-inclusive and is based solely upon our experience and publicly available information. We disclaim and shall be held harmless from any liability arising from any detrimental reliance placed in its content. We highly recommend getting your legal advice and leasing documentation reviews from a licensed attorney who is knowledgable in landlord-tenant laws.

 

 

Carbon Monoxide Detector Requirements for MD Landlords


In April 2018, Maryland legislation went into effect requiring rental units to have carbon monoxide alarms installed on every level of the unit,
including the basement. The law applies to dwellings that contain one or more of the following: fuel-burning equipment, an attached garage and wood-burning
fireplaces or pellet stoves. The CO alarms must be installed in one of the following ways: •Hardwired into an alternating current power line with secondary battery backup; •Battery-powered, sealed, tamper-resistant and using a battery with a life of at least 10 years; •Through a security system, i.e., connected to an on-site control unit that monitors the CO alarm remotely and alerts a responsible party
when the device sounds an alarm; or, •Combined with a hard-wired smoke alarm, if the combined device complies with Underwriters Laboratories (UL) and American National
Standards Institute (ANSI) standards. The law also requires owners to provide written information on alarm testing and maintenance to at least one adult occupant of the unit, to
maintain records of notification, and to install alarms for hearing-impaired residents if a hearing-impaired person lives in the unit. More
information can be found at the following hyperlink: MD Landlord Requirements for CO Monitors in Rental Properties Link

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