Make Residents Clean Units that Fail Inspection
Many owners and managers of assisted sites use leases that give them the right to conduct periodic inspections of units to discover unsafe and unsanitary conditions and unreported maintenance problems. Early detection of these and similar situations can help prevent problems, such as insect and rodent infestations, offensive odors, major repair jobs, and flooding, says Mark Chrzanowski, a compliance specialist at the Gene B. Glick Company and an expert in HUD rules.
If, upon inspection, your staff discovers an unsafe or unsanitary condition, it's important that you immediately inform the resident that the problem must be addressed, Chrzanowski says. If your staff discovers an unreported maintenance problem, it's crucial that you send your maintenance staff to repair the problem right away—and that you remind the resident of his duty to report such problems, he adds. Otherwise, the resident is likely to continue neglecting the unit, and the costs of repairing the unit—and evicting the resident—are likely to rise.
Get Right to Inspect Unit
According to the experts we spoke with, assisted site owners and managers conduct inspections at various times and for various reasons. Staff at some sites schedule regular quarterly or semiannual inspections to make sure units are in good condition, Chrzanowski says. Other sites have maintenance or management staff members who inspect units when they're inside them for other valid reasons, such as to change smoke detectors or the filters in heating and air conditioning systems. And some sites instruct maintenance staff to conduct informal inspections each time they're in a unit for a routine maintenance call.
But before you can conduct inspections of residents’ units, you must make sure your lease gives you the right to enter a resident's unit to conduct an inspection. If your lease doesn't give you such a right and you rely on the results of an inspection to try to evict a resident, the resident may argue that your eviction lawsuit is invalid because it's based on an unauthorized inspection, Chrzanowski says.
Here is some Model Language that you can adapt and add to your leases to get a broad right to enter residents’ units for inspection and other reasons. Check with your attorney before adapting this language for use in your leases.
Model Lease Language
Owner reserves the right to enter resident's unit during reasonable times for any inspections, maintenance, extermination, alterations, or improvements that are considered necessary or desirable in owner's sole discretion, or to show the unit to prospective residents during the last thirty (30) days of the lease term.
PRACTICAL POINTER: Some states and localities require owners to give residents advance written notice specifying the time, date, and basis for an inspection, and they give residents the right to object to an owner's entering their unit for any reason other than an emergency, Chrzanowski says. In such a case, state and local law may override your lease language giving you the right to conduct an inspection. Consult an attorney to find out what your local laws say.
How to Handle Problems Found During Inspections
Here are two common problems your staff may discover upon inspection of a unit and how to address those problems:
Unsafe or unsanitary condition. Almost all standard leases have a section requiring residents to maintain their units in a safe and sanitary manner, Chrzanowski says. A violation of this requirement is a breach of the lease and can be grounds for eviction if it goes uncorrected, he adds.
If your staff discovers an unsafe or unsanitary condition in a resident's unit, send the resident a letter informing her that she's keeping her unit in an unsafe or unsanitary manner, which is a lease violation, Chrzanowski says. The tone of your letter should be formal and strict, but shouldn't embarrass the resident, he adds. For example, don't tell the resident that her unit looks disgusting. For appropriate language, see “Model Letters: Get Tough with Residents Whose Units Are Unsafe, Unclean, or Need Repair.”
Unreported maintenance problem. Most standard leases require residents to immediately report maintenance problems, Chrzanowski says. If your staff discovers an unreported maintenance problem in a resident's unit, send him a stern but polite letter, like our Model Letter, advising him of the current problem and reminding him to report future problems, Chrzanowski says.
PRACTICAL POINTER: Typical maintenance problems to watch out for include: leaking faucets, running toilets, broken locks, broken windows, broken light fixtures, broken kitchen appliances, and peeling paint.
Mark Chrzanowski: Compliance Specialist, Gene B. Glick Management Co., 8425 Woodfield Crossing Blvd., Ste. 300W, Indianapolis, IN 46240; (317) 469-5885.
Search Our Web Site by Key Words: unit inspections; unsafe conditions; unsanitary conditions; unreported maintenance problems; eviction
See The Model Tools For This Article
|Get Tough with Residents Whose Units Are Unsafe Unclean or Need Repair|