What is an inventory?
The Inventory is a listing of all the contents of a property and a record of the condition of the property. It’s also referred to as a “schedule of condition“. The form is designed to help monitor the condition of the property/items before a tenant moves in and just before a tenant leaves, so it can be made clear what damages, if any, need to be paid for out of the deposit.
This is a step often skipped by landlords’ and tenants’, when it really shouldn’t be. An inventory can prevent a lot of disputes between tenants and landlords, so it’s extremely useful.
How is an Inventory prepared?
The Landlord, Letting Agent or an Independent Inventory Clerk should prepare the Inventory which should be agreed with the tenant on move-in day. The Landlord/Agent and tenant(s) should sign the Inventory and initial every page to signify agreement.
Photographic or video evidence of the property contents and condition is optional but often a wise safety net. How thorough you want to be can often depend on how valuable the items in the property are. Obviously the more valuable items like a cooker and washing machine should be captured with imagery, so there is no question of their condition.
Update (23rd May 2012) – I’ve retrospectively written an elaborate blog post on how landlords should prepare an inventory and take supporting images – I would highly recommend reading that before compiling your inventory.
When Should the inventory be cross-checked?
It is common, and advisable, for landlords or agents to make regular inspections when managing a tenancy. Inspecting on a quarterly basis (every 3 months) to compare the inventory with the current condition should be perfectly acceptable to both parties. It’s important to remember that a tenant needs 24 hour notice in writing before an inspection is made.
The final inventory check at the end of tenancy
Ideally, on move out day the landlord should do a final inventory check. The inventory must be checked and agreed with the tenant before the deposit being returned.
It’s imperative that the inventory is checked immediately before the tenant leaving, so there can be no argument about any damage occurring after the tenant has gone. The deposit should only be handed back with in 7 to 14 days if there are no outstanding issues when the inspection is complete.
What happens if items have been damaged?
If there’s a general consensus between the parties on what has been damaged, then estimates should be drawn up for repairs/replacements. The tenant should be informed of all the costs in writing and amounts of deductions from the deposit.
A tenancy deposit scheme should be holding the deposit, so they should be made aware of what has been agreed, so they can distribute the deposit accordingly.
If the deposit doesn’t cover the amount needed to carry out the repairs, an invoice itemising all costs involved for additional payments should be sent to the tenant. If the tenant is insured, this evidence should be provided for the insurance company.
If items need to be replaced then it’s the landlords obligation to consider betterment. This means that the original age and condition of the replaced item should be taken into account when estimating the replacement cost.
What if the parties cannot agree?
If the parties cannot reach agreement as to which items have been damaged, the severity of the damage, the repair or replacement costs etc, then great care should be taken in:
- recording the state and condition with photographs
- obtaining estimates and repair or replacement costs
- informing the tenant/landlord in writing
All disputes will be handled by an independent and free Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) service provided by the scheme the deposit is secured with, which will aim to resolve any disputes quickly and without the need for court action.
Each scheme will contain an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) service, so both tenant and landlord will need to contact the appointed scheme. If both landlord and tenant agree to use the service, they will have to agree to accept its decision and will not be able to apply to the courts. If you or your landlord do not agree to use the Tenancy Deposit Scheme service then the dispute will usually go to the county court.
Should I bother creating an Inventory for an unfurnished property?
The short answer is yes. Even if a property is deemed as unfurnished, there will still be items that can be damaged and costly to replace e.g sinks, carpets, condition of walls etc. Consequently, it is still crucial to have a detailed inventory.
Hiring an inventory clerk
Hiring an independent inventory clerk to conduct and document the inventory can save you time and problems. They’re professionals, so they’ll ensure everything is accounted for properly in the inventory at the beginning and end of the tenancy.
The cost for an independent clerk can vary depending on the size of the property, and whether it is furnished or unfurnished. As a rough guide, you could be looking at approximately £100 for an unfurnished property, while £130 for furnished properties. In any case, it’s always worth shopping around for the best rates.
If there is a disagreement at the end of a tenancy between landlord and tenant, which needs the assistance of a tenancy deposit protection schemes dispute resolution service, the independent inventory clerk’s report will be a vital piece of evidence to help resolve the situation fairly and quickly. This is where the initial cost of an independent clerk can be a very wise investment.
Does anyone use an Inventory Form, if so, has it been helpful?