Despite major advances in technology in the last 15 years, photographs are still an afterthought when it comes to most property inspections. Sure, inspectors can pull out their mobile phones and take shots of stained carpets and frayed curtains, but in a best-case scenario it takes a property manager or clerical staff several hours to correctly match each digital photo to a specific tenant record. And in a worst case, the photos are lost forever in someone’s inbox or are saved to a general location—making it impossible to later associate those photos to the correct tenant and property. That’s because most paper-based inspections don’t have a good way to integrate photos with individual inspection records.
Paper-based property inspections are not only more time-consuming and error-prone than digital alternatives, they also equal lost revenue for property owners. That’s because when it comes down to disputes over damage deposits, the lack of photos can mean the difference between tenants paying for damage that they caused and owners being forced to cover the costs. That’s especially true in California, where many cities place the onus on property companies to prove that renters caused specific damage if they want to withhold all or some of a damage deposit. And the only real way to demonstrate that damage occurred in a unit is to have clear photographic evidence that shows that a problem occurred after a tenant moved in.
The easy answer would appear to be to take more pictures, but that’s only half the battle. Photos need to be clearly timestamped so that property managers can show the “before” picture if a dispute arises. In addition, there needs to be dates associated with the “after” images so that there is no doubt as to when damage occurred.
Of course, taking photos doesn’t mean a lot if there’s no good way to manage them in a timely manner. Having inspectors email pictures to the head office might be a good way to build a case, but most disputes (by law) have to be resolved in a few days so that tenants can get their money back as quickly as possible. This is where an email-based system is destined to fail: as everyone who works in the residential property industry knows, trying to match paper inspection forms to emailed photos is a cumbersome process that doesn’t lend itself to speed, efficiency, and accuracy.
What if there was a way to make photos an integral part of the inspection process? What if capturing an image was as easy as writing down that a microwave is in working order? That’s where the new generation of inspection tools are playing a critical role in helping the residential property industry maximize profitability and minimize expensive risks. So as technology becomes more and more important, make sure that you are taking advantage of tools that will seamlessly integrate photographs into all inspections and eliminate the disputes that often arise–and get resolved in tenants’ favor–because of a lack of ironclad evidence related to damage in your units.