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Landlords – Are you taking inventories correctly?

7th November 2018

Having a property inventory in place is vital in order to claim for damages, yet they’re surprisingly easy to get wrong. These important documents are not only useful in furnished properties, but should also be in place for unfurnished properties too.

A property inventory is a record of everything included within the interior of a rental property, including all fixtures, fittings, and décor. The more detailed you can be, the easier it will be to avoid any tenancy disputes at the end of a tenancy.

How to take inventory for your property

Previously, most property inventories would have been a written document, listing and detailing the situation and condition of all of the fixtures and fittings within the property. However, with most companies and individuals now having easy access to smartphones and digital cameras, it is well worth spending some time photographing everything as well. This gives you absolute proof of what the property was like at the start of the tenancy, and cannot be argued. In the absence of evidence such as this, it is practically impossible to prove damages.

A full inventory should be taken and signed and checked by the landlord and the tenant upon check-in, which ensures that tenants are fully aware of all items and their condition when they move in, and makes them accountable so that they have to pay attention to the care of the property and its contents during their tenancy. At the end of a tenancy, the inventory should be consulted when the check-out report is completed.

What you must include

All furniture, fixtures and fittings, including;

The condition of the walls, ceilings, and floors/flooring

All paintwork, including skirting, doors and windows/sills

Carpets and curtains

Any furniture and appliances which might be included for use by the tenant

Cupboards and units

Keys

Smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors (which should be in full working order)

Any damages, missing items, or things which don’t work correctly should also be noted and signed for on check-in. It’s best to take photographs of these too – even down to things like missing cupboard handles or marks on carpets. And make sure that tenants sign each image as a true statement of the condition of everything when they arrive.

It’s also required that you take a note of the meter readings (gas, electric) upon check-in. Again. Make sure the tenant signs as proof this is correct.

As digital images are difficult to prove in court, always ensure that photographs are printed, dated, and signed by both landlord and tenant.

Dispute statistics

Interestingly, recent research reported that a massive 57% of tenancy disputes last year were due to issues with cleanliness. This was closely followed by issues with fixtures and fitting, which accounted for 51% of disputes.

Arrears were the lesser concern, with only a 19% score. So you can see why it’s so important to have a detailed record of not only items, but the condition and cleanliness of the décor and furnishing within the property too. Without any evidence, you could find it impossible to prove should a claim need to be raised against the tenants deposit.

A note about claims

At the end of a tenancy, the landlord is not allowed to be in a position of betterment. In other words, the age and wear and tear of furnishings has to be taken into account if any claims are made, and only the value of that item in its current condition can be claimed for. A good example of this might be carpets within the property. The average lifespan of a carpet is 10 years. So if at the end of a tenancy the carpet is 5 years old, and the landlord is looking to claim for damages to that carpet, only 50% of the value of replacement may be claimed from the tenant’s deposit.

It’s also worth noting that the check-out report must be signed, otherwise any claims for damages cannot be made.

It is reasonable to assume that tenants should leave the property in a clean condition when they leave – this includes carpets, ovens, fridges, walls, floors, windows, and any other furnishings which were originally in the property. Most landlords use their own discretion, but if there is anything which is deemed unreasonably dirty on check-out, take photographs and compare with the original inventory, as it is within a landlord’s rights to claim for cleaning expenses.

DIY vs Paying for a property inventory

Landlords who are not confident in producing a detailed inventory do have the option of having an agency or professional do it for them. Look for someone who is up to APIP (Approved Professional Inventory Providers) standard, as they will know exactly how to put the document together.

DIY’ers should make the inventory as detailed as possible, with photographs. When listing, be specific – instead of detailing ‘set of 4 chairs’, back the images up by describing the colour and style, too.

Whichever way the inventory is done, do some research. It’s vital that the document is done correctly, otherwise you could find yourself unable to make any claims.

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