So, you're sitting at home, after a day at work, enjoying the fact that you can be lazy for a while. Then one of your housemates walks in with the mail...

"Inspection in a week".

Yes, it's the dreaded house inspection. You've managed to forget that you have a landlord, and a property manager, for the last few months. Then out of the clear, blue sky, comes the letter of doom. You look around the room...and you shudder. Empty pizza boxes litter the area, beer bottles line the walls, and something's growing underneath the stove's hotplates. Yes, there's a lot of work to be done.

The house inspection doesn't need to be a painful experience. However there are special challenges to be faced when you're living in a shared house environment. You're dealing with a number of individuals, possibly working different hours (or not working, as the case may be). You may share with some particularly lazy people. So how do you coordinate the people you live with, and get the house clean in time?

Firstly, there's the notice itself. If you happen to be the one to open the letter, it's up to you - let your housemates know!! You can't afford to waste time - there's nothing worse than finding out only a couple of days before a house inspection is due. You can't just be satisfied with informing your fellow residents of the looming test though. You have to post a visible reminder of the upcoming occasion. Simply marking the date on a convenient calendar isn't enough - it must be something that assaults your consciousness each and every day! A large notice on the fridge is probably your best bet. It's so easy to forget about - you know when you forgot to pay the electricity bill, and were conveniently reminded by a letter saying "pay now, or the power's going to be switched off'?. Well, property managers don't need to worry about such things. They're turning up on the day in question, whether you're ready or not. If you're not there, they simply let themselves in, and look around. So you must be ready in time. It's easy to fall into the 'we'll just wait for the final notice' habit - but the first notice, is the final notice.

Ok then, so you're received the notice, everyone knows, the reminders are plastered everywhere. What next? The next phase of the house clean is all about organisation, and timing.

Organisation:

There are a few things you can do, to make the preparation, and allocation of tasks easier:
  • Call some type of house meeting, to talk about the looming inspection. If you do this, nobody can claim they didn't know about it, or that they weren't clear on what they were supposed to do to help.
  • Allocate tasks among your housemates. This is most important. You need to figure out exactly what needs to be done, and who is going to be responsible for what. Of course, everyone will have to clean their own bedroom. If there's an ensuite in the house, whoever uses that will have to clean it themselves. It's the shared areas that you need to worry about. Just how do you figure out who gets the wonderful job of cleaning the toilet? If you're a reasonable, democratic household, you can probably talk about it, and simply volunteer to clean different areas. If it's not this easy, try writing different rooms on pieces of paper, and putting them into a hat. Get everyone to take turns pulling out a room - whichever room you pull out, you have to clean.
  • Stock up on cleaning products. Essentials include paper towel, spray cleaner, toilet cleaner (cleaners that include bleach do wonders for an infrequently cleaned toilet bowl), floor cleaner, brooms and mops, a vacuum cleaner, brushes and cloths.
  • Make sure you have a good selection of high energy music. Nothing makes cleaning easier, than some great music pumping throughout the house. It's most important that you get this right though - no depressing tunes, no mellow sounds. Fatboy Slim will probably do it. Nick Cave won't....
Timing:

It's not just a matter of organising who does what, and then doing it. You've got to think about when you do it all, or you'll end up wasting time, and doing the same thing numerous times:
  • The day of the inspection will have a big impact on how you go about timing the work you do. If the inspection's early in the week, you've got the weekend to do things in. If it's later in the week, it's probably not much use doing too much on the weekend, as whatever you do may need to be done again by inspection time.
  • Work out what things can be done earlier in the week before the inspection, and what are last minute jobs. It's not too much use getting the stove spotless 3 days before - it's just gonna get dirty again. However you can probably vacuum the house, and clean your own room, without having to repeat the work the day before the inspection.
Now that you've organised everything, there's only one little step remaining...

Execution:

Ah yes, you've still got to actually get your hands dirty! Hopefully, the work you've done before now will make this bit a whole lot easier.
  • The major clean should be a group effort. Sure, do bits and pieces beforehand yourself, but when it comes time to really hit the task head on, everyone will be far more motivated, and less willing to slack off, if everyone in the house is pitching in at the same time. So set aside some time a couple of days before the inspection, make sure everyone will be around, and jump right in. Now is when you're gonna need that music!
  • Realise that some things, you can't really do until the morning of the inspection. It's nice to have a beautifully shiny sink and benches 2 days beforehand, but people are still going to have to eat breakfast on the day. So be prepared to have to do some last minute cleaning - it should be no more than touching things up though.
  • Don't forget those parts of the house that are often forgotten. These are the things you just don't notice in your day to day living - like the spilled, burned and black food under the hotplates. The cobwebs around the ceiling. You may not notice these things - property managers are trained to see them!
  • If it turns out that one person has a bogger workload than everyone else, then help them! It'll be worth it in the long run, when you're living in a harmonous household, free of resentment.

And hopefully, that will be it! You'll end up with a glowing report, won't be in danger of eviction, and you can forget about your landlord for another three or four months. A couple of final things:

  • This is supposed to be advice for a mid-lease inspection. End of lease inspections are a different beast - much tougher, with a bond riding on the result. My advice for an end of lease, is to pay someone else to do it! Believe me, it's probably not as expensive as you think it could be, and the benefits far outweigh the costs. The last time I did this, it cost $180 (Australian), shared between 3 of us. Aa six or seven member cleaning hit team turned up one Saturday morning, and went to work. A couple of hours later, the house was clean, the carpets steam cleaned, and we were ready for inspection. When something wasn't quite right at the checkout, the estate agent called the cleaning service - we'd paid them to do the work, and it was guaranteed.
  • The backyard is a separate thing. I'd suggest approaching it in the same way as inside, as a group. If the inspection's later in the week, hit the backyard the weekend before. It should never be simply considered just another room - it's a lot of work!
After nine different share houses, in eight years, I think this is one of the best approaches to an inspection. Hopefully, it will prevent anyone having to do more than their fair share of work, and force any slackers in your midst to get off their bums, and pitch in.

And for at least a few days......you'll have clean dishes!

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