Rental Inspections

Tips to Prepare for a Housing Inspection

Before an Inspection

  • Notify your tenant(s) in writing of an upcoming inspection upon receipt of the inspection notice and ask them to report any concerns that might be discovered during an inspection.
  • Remind your tenant(s) of the inspection at least 48 hours prior to the scheduled inspection to allow time to reschedule if necessary without penalty.
  • When possible, pre-inspect your rental units and repair potential violations prior to the scheduled inspection.

Day of Inspection

  • Come to the inspection and be prepared to make basic repairs. Inspectors will point out any violations observed and provide guidance on acceptable repairs if needed. Inspectors will also answer any housing-related questions that you or your tenants have. DON’T FORGET THE KEYS!
  • You may save yourself a re-inspection if you come prepared with some basic tools and supplies. We suggest you bring:
    • Notebook and a pen
    • Tape measure
    • Screw driver and/or drill
    • Electrical outlet tester
    • Smoke alarms
    • Batteries
    • Outlet/switch cover plates

After Inspection

  • When possible, make repairs immediately following the inspection and notify the inspector when complete. In some instances, an inspector may accept photos of repairs in lieu of re-inspecting.
  • If repairs are more substantial than can be completed immediately, create a plan with a timeline to make repairs and follow up with the inspector if you are unable to complete repairs by the scheduled re-inspection date/time for options to avoid penalties and achieve code compliance.

Common Violations to Avoid by Pre-Inspecting

Smoke alarms

  • Missing or non-functioning smoke alarms are the most common violation found during inspections.
  • Smoke alarms are required:
    • outside each separate sleeping area,
    • in each room used for sleeping, and
    • one on each story within a dwelling, including basements.

Carbon Monoxide (CO) alarms

  • Effective July 1, 2018, carbon monoxide alarms are required in units and buildings that contain fuel-burning appliances, fireplaces, and/or attached garages. Location requirements vary based on the type and location of appliances present.

Electrical outlets

  • Improperly wired—Open ground on 3 prong receptacles or reversed polarity
  • Broken or scorched receptacles
  • Broken/missing cover plates on switches, outlets, and electrical junction boxes
  • Non-functioning GFCI outlets (use the test button to check)


  • Do not operate or stay in the open position
  • Broken glass
  • Deteriorated paint and/or glazing
  • Screens missing/damaged

Stairway handrails

  • Graspable handrails required on stairways with 4 or more steps/risers


  • Guards are required along all walking surfaces that are elevated 30” or more above the adjacent surface, including stairways and decks.

Deteriorated paint

  • Interior—windows, doors, walls, ceilings
  • Exterior—Siding, soffits, fascia, gutters, etc.


  • All appliances installed or on site must be capable of performing their intended purpose.
  • Appliances not in use must be stored in a safe way that will protect their future use.


  • Leaking, damaged, or non-functioning plumbing fixtures and/or piping
  • Slow or clogged drain pipes must function properly and be kept free from obstructions, leaks, and defects

Safe and sanitary conditions

  • Housekeeping (Inspectors are not interested in dirty laundry, but will write up an apartment for housekeeping when the situation is such that sanitation of a unit could pose a potential health hazard)
  • Hoarding

Exterior area maintenance

  • Sheds, garages, etc.
  • Trash/debris/etc.

Other Considerations

When To Call A Professional

When working on rental property, you must use licensed contractors for certain types of construction and repair work including:  electrical, mechanical, and plumbing.  In addition, keep in mind that if you’re not confident in your skills or abilities in a certain type of repair, you may be “money ahead” to hire a professional to avoid additional costly re-inspections.

Permits Required For Work

Keep in mind that some construction and repair work require building permits.  If you are unsure if the work you plan to do requires a permit, please consult with your inspector or contact Building Services at

We Want To Help

If you have any questions about rental licensing requirements or an inspection, please contact us so that we can provide assistance.

City of Dubuque
Housing & Community Development
350 W 6th St. Ste. 312
Dubuque, IA 52001