Your rental property has to follow every safety protocol and be in tip-top shape for future occupants before you can put it on the market for rent. Some cities in the state of Iowa require a rental certificate for investment properties. This article will touch on how you go about getting a rental certificate, how you can better prepare for your evaluation, and things to keep in your back pocket for future reference.

What is a rental certificate?

If a home is not owner-occupied, it needs a rental certificate. It is proof that your property is suitable for occupants. This varies from state to state, and even city to city. “Not every city in Iowa requires a license,” Nate Schweers, Property Manager at RPM Iowa said. “It depends on the population of the town or city.” Schweers is one of the people in charge of acquiring certificates for RPM Iowa’s investors.

“You apply through the appropriate city,” Schweers explained. “Sometimes it’s accessible on their website, but other times you may need to call the department directly.” For example, the city of Des Moines has a page on their website dedicated to rental inspections, but you have to call them if you want to fill out an application. You’ll schedule a time to have an inspector.

How you can better prepare for your property evaluation

Do a walkthrough of your own property before your inspection. Some cities may have an inspection checklist as a resource for you. If a city doesn’t have a pre-inspection checklist, you can use the Des Moines list as a point of reference. This will save you plenty of time if you can troubleshoot before your official inspection.

“Nothing can be in the red,” Said Schweers. “If there’s even one thing slightly under code, it needs to be fixed before you can get a certificate and put your property on the market.”

Some things to look for during your self inspection:

  • Make sure there are no open wires
  • Deck posts – are they secured and tight?
  • Are the window wells covered and or up to par?
  • Carbon monoxide detectors on and working
  • Smoke detectors on and working
  • Does your property have fire extinguishers on site? Do they need to be replaced?

Keep these in your back pocket (or in your car)

The property managers at RPM Iowa handle all things inspection, so they have some time-efficient tips and tricks up their sleeves. Time is of the essence and you don’t want to have to schedule an inspection follow-up for something so miniscule. “We keep batteries, extra smoke detectors, and toolkits in our company cars for when inspections roll around.” Schweers said. That way, if the only thing that needs fixed can be done on the spot, you won’t need to roll back around in a week or two. Your property will be ready to go on the market sooner.

How often do you need to get an updated rental certificate?

“It depends on the city,” Schweers elaborated further. “Some cities’ standard certificate is three years long. But others depend on what the inspector wants to give you. Typically, they range from a year to three years before you need to renew.”

Renewals can be easily forgotten, but you don’t want to find yourself in a sour situation. Mark your calendars in advance so you don’t get yourself in a pickle. “We do all of the renewals for our investors, so they have one less thing to worry about.” Schweers said.

The no-stress way of doing business

Rental certificates are just one thing to consider when owning an investment property. There’s the writing of lease agreements, marketing your property properly, knowing how to price your rental, collecting deposits and rent, maintenance solutions, etc. etc. etc. If you’ve got the drive to invest in real estate but don’t want to be a landlord or property manager, think about hiring a property management company to take care of all of that for you. Schedule a consultation with RPM Iowa and get the ball rolling on your investment property.