A Landlord’s Guide To Property Inventories

If you want to avoid end of tenancy disputes with a tenant over deposits and damages, it is vital to have a property inventory.  As an agent, we always recommend an impartial inventory clerk carry out this job however; some landlord’s do choose to do their own.

Are inventories mandatory?

While landlord’s must protect a tenants deposit by law using an approved scheme, they are not legally required to produce a property inventory. However, it is best practice to do so as this protects both the landlord and the tenants. This detailed record of the condition of the property and any contents will help avoid future disputes between landlord’s and tenants.

It is also important for a landlord to check with their insurance policy terms as some providers require a property inventory, without one, a landlord could be breaching the terms of their insurance.

What is it for?

To put it simply, an inventory is a list of everything within a rental property with details about its condition at the check in, it is sometimes called a schedule of condition.

The most comprehensive inventories will contain photographs of everything inside a property.

Whilst some people consider inventories only necessary for furnished properties, it is equally important to document the condition of unfurnished properties by recording the condition of the walls, doors, carpets, kitchen cupboards, bathrooms, gardens, garages and sheds.

An independent inventory clerk vs DIY

As with many aspects of renting property, using a professional service via your letting agency has many advantages. They are experienced in developing inventories and are less likely to miss things,  they use specially designed software which would be expensive for an individual to purchase and use, it is much less time consuming and using an independent clerk keeps it impartial should a dispute arise in the future.

When should the inventory be done?

An inventory should be produced once the property is fully tenant ready with any recordation and repairs complete, any furniture in place and all cleaning finished.

How does a tenant agree that the inventory is correct?

On the day of the move in, a tenant will be provided with an inventory, this may be the landlords own or it may be an inventory clerks document. The tenant should have the opportunity to read the document, review the photographs and then sign to say they are in agreement ideally within 7 days of their move in date.  

The end of tenancy check:

At the end of the tenancy, a check out meeting should take place at the property. Where possible the tenants need to be present and have their entire belongings removed ready for the final check. At this appointment, the inventory becomes vital; the property condition can be checked against what was listed on the inventory.

Be clear on the rules about damage and wear and tear

If at the end of the tenancy, you wish to charge a tenant for damage, you must be sure that it has been caused by carelessness or neglect – not routine wear and tear. You cannot charge a tenant for the inevitable results of day to living, such as worn carpets or scuffed walls. Where there is genuine damage, an estimate for the repair should be sought and provided to the tenant.  If both parties agree to deductions, the deposit scheme should be notified.

Deposit Disputes:

If a dispute occurs, the inventory provides crucial evidence to resolve matters swiftly in any dispute resolution process.

Landlords can only deduct money from a tenants deposit if they can prove they have incurred financial loss, for example repairing damage to a property or cleaning costs. Usually landlords and tenants will reach an agreement on how much of the deposit is to be returned to a tenant however if an agreement cannot be reached the tenancy deposit schemes all offer free dispute resolution services.

As experts on landlord and tenant law, they will usually instruct an independent adjudicator to review the case. Their decision is final and binding and will be based solely on the evidence submitted by the parties involved. Therefore it is essential that you have a thorough inventory and check out report on file.

As you can see, the property inventory is one of the most important documents a landlord will have. It allows a landlord to protect their investment and prevent disputes with tenants over the deposit.