What is the difference between a “Home Inspection” and a “Rental Safety Inspection”?

In general, the main difference between a home inspection and a rental safety inspection is that ‘a home inspection is done by a professional to check the structure and permanent features of a residential property prior to people occupying it, and a rental safety inspection is done after furnishings and non-permanent features have been added to the rental home, such as mirrors, carpets, hot tubs, electronics, etc.’ The ‘Standards of Practice’ between a rental safety inspection and a home inspection vary greatly.  Rental safety inspections are new with the growth of home sharing / AirBnb® rentals around the world.  In comparison, home inspections have been around for decades.   Until recently, it has been up to the Rental Dwelling Owner, with guidance from some laws and regulations in some areas of the United States, Mexico, and Canada, to employ safety practices in their rental property(ies).


YES! At Dwell Safe®, we recommend every rental dwelling have a “home inspection” completed every five years or before it becomes a “rental dwelling”. There are a couple of good reasons to hire a professional home inspector. One, they have specific knowledge of home construction materials, methods, and building codes, not to mention the experience to spot trouble from the smallest of indicators. According to a recent article in Consumer Reports, a basic home inspection takes about 2 to 3 hours and costs from around $300 to $1,000, depending on the home’s location and size, the inspector’s experience, and the scope of the inspection itself.

Why else should you have a home inspection done at your vacation rental dwelling? In Ocean Isle Beach, NC in 2013, a deck collapsed when 24 family members gathered on it to take a photo. After falling 14 feet, they all required medical attention, and two people were in critical condition. It happened again in 2019! The cause of both the collapses? Rusty nails. A professional home inspector would have identified this issue before it happened. If you have any exterior structures at your rental property such as stairs or decks, please be smart and have them inspected by professional home inspector at least every 5 years.

Furthermore, professional home inspectors who are members of the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI), the North American Association of Home Inspectors (NAAHI), or the International Association of Home Inspectors (NACHI) generally carry errors & omissions (E&O) insurance—a kind of malpractice insurance for professional services. If you are financially harmed because they overlook something they reasonably should have caught, their E&O insurance policy can protect you against financial damages from a renter suing you. If you try to do it yourself, you get no such protection. If your home is new to the rental market, it should have both a home inspection by a professional, then you should conduct your own rental safety inspection using the Dwell Safe® certification criteria. To find a Home Inspection Professional, check the professional association websites (ASHI, NAAHI, or the NACHI) for members by location, or ‘Google’ for an association in your State. You’ll find details about their experience and certifications and the services they provide. Other resources include the Better Business Bureau, Angie’s List, and Consumers' Checkbook in the seven metro areas it covers.

WHAt are more specific differences between a rental safety inspection and a home inspection? 

 A rental safety inspection is a “visual and hands-on examination of the accessible areas of a rental property, conducted by the rental home owner or his/her agent to identify safety defects that may cause injury or death at the property”.   This inspection covers items not addressed in a home inspection such as address markers, tree hazards, playground and exterior amenities like kayaks, bikes, etc., outdoor grills and placement, first aid kits, cleaning chemicals, pool fences and gates, fire extinguishers, smoke detector types and ages, domestic water temperature, dryer exhaust vents, etc.

 According to the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors and the American Society of Home Inspectors:

home inspection is a non-invasive, visual examination of the accessible areas of a residential property (of the Roof, Exterior, Basement, Foundation, Crawlspace & Structure, Heating, Cooling, Plumbing, Electrical, Fireplace, Attic (Insulation & Ventilation, Doors, Windows & Interior), performed for a fee, which is designed to identify defects within specific systems and components defined by these standards that are both observed and deemed material by the inspector.” 

The vacation rental inspection checklist from Dwell Safe® pretty much covers everything a home inspection does not.

(While some inspectors do offer these and other additional services)

A home inspection:

  • will not deal with aesthetic concerns, or what could be deemed matters of taste, cosmetic defects, etc. 

  • does not include items not permanently installed. 

A home inspector is not required to determine:

  • the presence of mold, mildew or fungus.

  • any manufacturers' recalls or conformance with manufacturer installation, or any information included for consumer protection purposes.

The home inspector is not required to operate:

  • any alarm systems. 

  • moisture meters, gas detectors or similar equipment.

The inspector is not required to:

move any personal items or other obstructions, such as, but not limited to:  throw rugs, carpeting, wall coverings, furniture, ceiling tiles, window coverings, equipment, plants, ice, debris, snow, water, dirt, pets, or anything else that might restrict the visual inspection.

  • inspect decorative items. 

  • inspect intercoms, speaker systems or security systems.

  • inspect any system or component that is not included in the Standards set forth by the ASHI, NSHI, or the NAHI.

 When it comes to the exterior of the house, the inspector is not required to:

  • inspect or operate screens, storm windows, shutters, awnings, fences,

  • inspect recreational facilities or playground equipment. 

  • inspect seawalls, breakwalls or docks. 

  • inspect swimming pools or spas.  

 When it comes to the plumbing system of the house, The inspector is not required to:

  • measure the capacity, temperature, age, life expectancy or adequacy of the water heater. 

  • inspect clothes washing machines or their connections. 

  • inspect or test for gas or fuel leaks, or indications thereof.

 When it comes to the Electrical systems, the home inspector shall inspect:

  •  “for the presence of smoke and carbon-monoxide detectors.” – but there is no requirement for them to make sure they are placed properly or are of quality, and within industry recognized standards of age (smoke detectors less than 10 years old, CO less than 7 years old).

 When it comes to electrical systems, The inspector is not required to:

  • operate or test smoke or carbon-monoxide detectors or alarms. 

  • inspect, operate or test any security, fire or alarm systems or components, or other warning or signaling systems. 

  • inspect exterior lighting. 

When it comes to the fireplace, The home inspector is not required to:

  • inspect the interior of chimneys or flues, fire doors or screens, seals or gaskets, or mantels. 

  • determine the need for a chimney sweep. 

  • perform a National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)-style inspection.

When it comes to Doors, Windows & Interior, The inspector is not required to:

  • inspect floor coverings or carpeting.

  • inspect security systems or components. 

  • inspect or move any household appliances. 

  • verify or certify the proper operation of any pressure-activated auto-reverse or related safety feature of a garage door. 

  • operate or evaluate any security bar release and opening mechanisms, whether interior or exterior, including their compliance with local, state or federal standards. 

  • operate or examine any sauna, steam-generating equipment, kiln, toaster, ice maker, coffee maker, can opener, bread warmer, blender, instant hot-water dispenser, or other small, ancillary appliances or devices. 

  • inspect elevators. 

  • inspect appliances. 

  • inspect items not permanently installed.

  • inspect pools, spas or fountains.


Can we just hire someone from Dwell Safe® to come inspect our rental property?

At Dwell Safe® we offer a complete inspection certification checklist to make sure your rental property is safe to prevent death, injuries and avoid litigation. The reason this checklist hasn’t existed in one place before is that it has been too difficult to add on the inspection criteria we suggest to a typical home inspection and most municipalities, counties and states don’t have the resources to conduct these inspections. In order to make the Dwell Safe® inspection affordable, comprehensive, and relatively easy to complete, we have designed it so that the rental home owner or their agent can conduct the inspection on their own and submit it to us for review to “certify” that it has been completed with good intentions. If you are hiring a professional home inspector to complete a home inspection of your rental property, you may be able to ask them to complete the Dwell Safe® safety checklist as well then submit it to us for review. They most likely will charge you an additional fee - but it could be well worth it. We only require that someone over the age of 18 submits the completed inspection checklist for review.

In summary, we are not “inspectors” ourselves at Dwell Safe® - we simply provide the resources for others to complete the inspection and have their rental dwelling certified as “safe” for renters to occupy.