How Landlords Should Take Photos For An Inventory

Landlord Guide On Professional Property Photography

I’ve already written a few posts that cover the what, when, and how’s of landlord inventories, but today I want to focus on one particular aspect of an inventory – the photography. Arguably, one of the most important aspects of creating a reliable inventory.

Most sensible landlords will use photo evidence to supplement their inventory form because obviously, visual proof strengthens the case and gives a clearer picture (pun intended), but only when done the right way…

Photo Inventory Tips published by the ‘Landlord & Buy-to-let Magazine

Thanks to a regular reader of this blog, Jools, I was informed of an interesting article published in a well publicised industry magazine, Landlord & Buy-to-let Magazine, covering “Photo Inventory tips”

Photo Inventory Tips published by the ‘Landlord & Buy-to-let Magazine’

  • Ideally, ‘before and after’ photos should be taken with a clear narrative as to what the photo is showing e.g. colours, item description, marks on surfaces
  • Photographs should include something to show scale within the photo and they should clearly show the condition of the property at any given time
  • Even if the photographs are just to be incorporated in the inventory for reference, they need to be a decent size [and quality]
  • Photographs should be dated – check the camera is set to automatically put the date on the picture or should be embedded into the dated inventory document either on the relevant pages or as an addendum page
  • If the photographs are going to be printed out, the printer used needs to be good quality. Too often cheap printers distort the colour
  • Even good printers give false colours, when cartridges start to to run out

    Certainly good tips!

    When photo evidence failed (and why it’s important to do it the right way)

    So, now we’ve arrived at the motivator behind this blog post.

    While I believe the tips published by Landlord & Buy-to-let Magazine are worth considering when taking pictures for an inventory, it seems as though verifying the date-stamp isn’t entirely straightforward.

    Alas, an avid reader of the magazine followed the tips to the tee, and was devastated by how the tips proved to be unhelpful in the real world. Below is a letter which was later published in a following edition of the magazine:

    Dated Inventory photos
    I write as a warning to others, following the article in the October 2011 issue of Landlord & Buy-to-let magazine, about using good quality inventory photos with dates.

    I had done exactly as suggested in the article and, following a dispute for damages, the Dispute Service adjudicator rejected my photos with dates imprinted by the camera, commenting that such dates are not proof, as they could have been added at any time as the camera date is user settable.

    Naturally, I was devastated. With over £7000 worth of damage (replacement value) following – at best – carelessness, and a flood leaving me with mouldy carpet and water damaged furniture – presumably from a overflowed bath – I was allocated only £300 or so. The arbitrator’s decision is final, so I am well out of pocket.

    The current tenancy also shows dated photos, but this time there is a newspaper front page clearly showing the date in each photo.

    I am rather hoping this cannot be dismissed, but as yet it has not had to be tested.

    I advise other landlords to act as I did latterly.

    Best regards,
    Paul Simmons

    Ouch! You gotta’ feel sorry for Paul, especially since he followed the guidance of a well published Landlord magazine.

    As said, I do think the tips provided by the magazine are good and worth considering. And to be honest, it’s difficult to know if ALL adjudicators would have made the same assessment over the date. However, the adjudicator did have a valid point, in that the date setting on the camera can be EASILY manipulated, so this case could set a new precedent on how landlords should (and shouldn’t) take photographs for future inventories.

    Tips on how to authenticate inventory photographs

    • Print off the photographs, and ensure they’re signed and dated by both landlord and tenant on the day of check-in.
    • Email the inventory/photos to the tenant and get them to reply to the email confirming the photos are legitimate.
    • Add a statement to the inventory form, confirming that the tenant has authenticated X amount of images that were taken on move-in day. The form should be signed by both parties.
    • Regardless of which method(s) is used, ensure both parties have copies of the complete inventory e.g. if photographs are used (signed and dated), both landlord and tenant should have copies.
    • Photographic evidence should be accompanied by a comprehensive written inventory that can be easily matched [with the photo evidence].

    I don’t have a definitive answer on what an adjudicator would accept as solid evidence to prove damage has been caused (or not caused), but I’d like to think the above tips would be pretty indisputable.

    Using a professional and impartial inventory service

    Another way to go about it is by using a professional inventory service to not only strengthen your case, least of all because of the impartiality factor, but also alleviate the legwork. Pretty decent investment, in my opinion. (one of three Government approved deposit schemes) actually states the following:

    The adjudicator will use the inventories to compare the property condition at the beginning and end of the tenancy and without it, they’re highly likely to reject the landlord’s claim.

    Those considered to be the best evidence will usually:

    • have been prepared by a third party such as a professional inventory clerk
    • contain dated photos
    • have been signed by the tenant offers a service which you can easily order/book online (side note: it is an affiliate link)…

    Professional Inventory and Condition Report
    SupplierNotes / IncludesFrom Price
    Notes / Includes

    • A must have report for deposit disputes
    • Photos, readings & smoke alarms
    • Approve digitally with ease
    • Make a deposit claim easy
    • Inventory clerks are accredited by the Association of Independent Inventory Clerks (AIIC)

    *The cost of the landlord inventory service is determined by the size of the property, the number of bedrooms and whether the property is to be let furnished or unfurnished. Cost starts from £89 (with discount code).

    *£89Inc VAT
    (Normal price: £99)
    Visit website

    £10 Discount Code: PIP10

    Please note, I try my best to keep the information of each service up-to-date, but you should read the T&C's from their website for the most up-to-date and accurate information.

    Hope that helps!

    21 Join the Conversation...

    Guest Avatar
    Aunty P 10th May, 2012 @ 13:59

    I've read that inventory photos should ideally be signed and dated by the tenant and landlord (or representative) on the day of check-in. I think the ICE would find signatures hard to dispute.

    The Landlord Avatar
    The Landlord 10th May, 2012 @ 14:49

    Hi Aunty P,

    Yeah, that sounds like a good idea.

    Will that be enough though? What's stopping the tenant from disputing the authenticity of the signature (their signature will be on the tenancy agreement to copy)?

    Guest Avatar
    YesAdam 10th May, 2012 @ 16:16

    Adjudicator accused guy in your example as a fraudster, nice!

    Its good to get inventory signed by tenant, sure LL they can say its not their signature - but along with dated photographs it adds extra evidence.

    One idea though, maybe an App that instantly uploads photo with time and geostamp from phone's may be a good idea. Getting a 3rd party involved mitigates chance of manipulation. I thought about this before, but myself I use proper camera not phone for photos.

    The Landlord Avatar
    The Landlord 11th May, 2012 @ 07:54

    Most people have said that the best thing to do is get the photos signed and dated by both landlord and tenant. I also just received this email:

    "Take pics - as suggested - date stamped - as suggested.

    Print copies off - 4 pics to a sheet, copy for you and copy for tenant. Get the tenant to sign at the bottom to agree that the pics you have taken are a true representation of the condition of the property. You can include this as part of the inventory document."

    Ha, that does sound like a good idea for an app. But like you, I also use a proper camera, and I think most people still do for inventories because they still take much clearer and sharper images. Plus, I think getting the tenant to sign the photographs is crucial.

    Thanks for the comments, folks!

    Guest Avatar
    Sian 11th May, 2012 @ 07:55

    This will always be an on going issue as it really is down to what the adjudicator will except.

    We produce inventories using HD video with a daily paper clearly shown at the beginning of the footage but you could quite rightly argue that it is not total proof. We also provide embedded digital photographs that attach directly to a template so we cannot actually manipulate the dates ourselves as once it has gone to the server the pictures cannot be altered.

    I think the key point to be made is that any photographic / videoed inventory needs to be accompanied by a very comprehensive written inventory that can be matched (easily) with the video / photo evidence.

    The issue that we find is that letting agents are more interested in the cost of the inventory rather than its ability to protect the landlord and tenant. If you pay less you will get less!

    Guest Avatar
    fredo 13th May, 2012 @ 10:00

    Almost anything can be faked with photos, and including today's paper isn't even a difficult one.

    The way to get your evidence accepted is either to have it verified by a reliable third party or by the tenant themselves. Having secret inventories which the tenant has never seen turning up later is always going to raise questions in a dispute situation (I don't even know why you would do that anyway).

    If the tenant has signed the inventory which accompanied the tenancy agreement, and the two are cross referenced (or appears in the video) they are going to find it hard to claim later that it has been faked - although it is worth making them sign and date every page.

    If they claim it is inaccurate after signing a statement saying it is accurate and representative they will probably be hitting a dead end.

    I think all the advice about newspapers will carry only slightly more weight than the time stamp which was completely rejected. I don't recommend anyone relies on that alone.

    Guest Avatar
    Aunty P 13th May, 2012 @ 10:07

    The TDS accepted way is to have the photos clearly printed and to form part of the inventory. Every page should be signed to the tenant including the photos just like the AST. Not only would that would be pretty hard to dispute but would deter litigious tenants from going to formal dispute as good photos are much better proof of condition than a written inventory even if it's provided by an independent inventory clerk.

    Guest Avatar
    lucy 18th May, 2012 @ 23:59

    get the photos signed and dated by both landlord and tenant.

    The Landlord Avatar
    The Landlord 22nd May, 2012 @ 11:30

    I've just updated this blog post. Please read the updated email from an adjudicator - very interesting!

    Guest Avatar
    pab 22nd May, 2012 @ 17:42

    As a Scottish landlord who will soon be forced into this piss take come November I'm still formulating my strategy on how to handle inventories and the post from the Adjudicator is interesting. I was personally leaning towards doing a (ha, lengthy) video before a tenants entry since it allows you to cover everything without taking a plethora if individual photos and more importantly can be used to write up a detailed written inventory when you get home to a computer.

    In terms validation I thought a nice touch would be to upload the video as an unlisted video to youtube and have the link included on the written inventory or lease agreement before having the tenant sign&date - the upload date on the video would also be a nice confirmation on when the video was taken and as far I'm aware it can't be edited while retaining the same link. This also has a convenient feature of being an easy way to provide video evidence to tenants/adjudicators without burning dvd's etc.

    Assuming the video evidence is stored digitally though you can prove infallibly that the content hasn't been modified/edited by simply including the video's MD5 hash (or SHA256 hash if you want be a geek and anal about it) on the written inventory or lease agreement, which again is signed&dated by the tenant. A hash is simply a string of characters which can be thought of as a fingerprint and anyone who was given the video would simply have to hash the video for themselves and check it matches the one on the lease agreement to know it hasn't been altered between those dates. This has been standard practice on the internet for years btw when checking the validity of digital files. The difficulty here though would probably be making sure the adjudicator would understand why the hash is beneficial or indeed how he could check it for himself.

    Personally I think I'll be sticking to the lengthy video and a few wide shots of every room, all referenced on the written inventory which the tenant will have seven days to go-over then sign.

    Guest Avatar
    cardifflandlord 23rd May, 2012 @ 14:06

    Thank you adjudicator whomever you may be! Really excellent insight into whats required.

    Guest Avatar
    christian 15th June, 2012 @ 22:50

    The only absolutely undisputed way of date stamping something is to send yourself a hard copy of all the photos by recorded delivery.

    Keep the photos in the sealed envelope that is date-stamped by the post office and open the envelope only in presence of the judge/adjudicator on hearing day.

    You can of course refer to e-copies in the mean time.

    even newspapers are easily faked. there nothing stopping a clued-up landlord buying a copy and keeping it in a safe place, and past newspapers can be bought on the internet for about £15


    Guest Avatar
    Rory Duffy 2nd February, 2014 @ 15:39

    It really is simple....get an independent and impartial inventory company to compile the Check-in and Check-out Reports.

    I am an Adjudicator for a Tenancy Deposit Scheme and I have made over 1500 legally binding Decisions. Personally, I attach full evidential weight to photographs that contain a verifiable digital date and I would only ever reduce that evidential weight if the Tenant can provide substantive contradictory evidence......which is very often never the case. It is not for me to assume that the Landlord has intentionally manipulated the user settings of his/her camera; Adjudicator's assess their evidence on a balance of probabilities and I would always be satisfied on a balance of probabilities (especially when there is no evidence by the Tenant to the contrary) that digitally dated photographs were taken on that day.

    However, this would not be such an issue if the Landlord simply had independent and impartial inventory company (preferably the same one from the start and end of the tenancy) carry out a comprehensive and detailed report on the condition of the property at the start and end of the tenancy. The prices for having these carried out are very fair and reasonable (most companies are approximately £10.00 either side of £100.00) and if the Landlord inserts a clause in the Tenancy Agreement making the Tenant liable for this fee, then there is no out of pocket expense for the Landlord. I do not think any Adjudicator worth their grain of salt would dismiss the findings of an independent inventory save yourself the time and hassle of taking photographs, purchasing newspapers blah dee blah dee blah, and get a good and reputable inventory company to come in and compile their can even request and/or use companies to take digitally dated photographs in support of their findings.

    I would recommend any company registered with the AIIC (Association of Independent Inventory Clerks).


    Guest Avatar
    Sian 2nd February, 2014 @ 16:02

    It's good to have an adjudicators viewpoint on this but why only recommend AIIC clerks? Is an APIP registered inventory provider not considered equally as competent?

    Guest Avatar
    Rory Duffy 2nd February, 2014 @ 17:34

    Yes, please accept my apologies for that APIP registered company would be considered just as competent.

    Some Landlord's tend to go through their Agent but as an Adjudicator, I would attach restricted evidential weight to this, unless supported by further substantive evidence, as it has not been carried out by a wholly independent and impartial third party.

    APIP - AIIC, same difference. As long as it is completely independent, I would attach full evidential weight to the documents findings.

    To save expense, I have found it to be quite common to include the charge for this service to that of the Tenant!

    Guest Avatar
    Sian 2nd February, 2014 @ 18:19

    No need to apologise Rory!

    It's a hard fought struggle to get Agents and Landlords to see how important inventory reports are and that they have the capacity to win or lose a deposit or claim if not done correctly.

    Guest Avatar
    Benji 2nd February, 2014 @ 19:42

    Wow Rory!!
    That really is impressive!
    If only I had known what a fair and reasonable service was available!!
    I've just been knocking up an inventory and digital photos for about a quid and absorbing the cost myself. All along, I could have been charging tenants £100 for such an important service.
    If all your industry is as honest as you, it is sure to be a lasting success.

    Guest Avatar
    pab 4th March, 2014 @ 16:17

    "I have found it to be quite common to include the charge for this service to that of the Tenant"

    "if the Landlord inserts a clause in the Tenancy Agreement making the Tenant liable for this fee, then there is no out of pocket expense for the Landlord"

    ....Not lawful in Scotland.

    Guest Avatar
    C Payne 20th April, 2015 @ 17:07

    disgusted to find that without permission my daughters old landlord uploaded a video of her property to u tube complete with her name and address even though it was a police assisted move this cannot be legal?

    Guest Avatar
    Jenny 5th June, 2016 @ 00:56

    Hi. I'm After some advice an inventory check was done before I rented a place, without me present and then done without me present when I left by an independent 3rd party. They said I caused damage and are using a photo for evidence but it has no date stamp will this likely count as evidence?

    Guest Avatar
    Dave 24th November, 2018 @ 20:26

    I would recommend burning photos taken on the day of check-in to a white once CD. Then getting the tenant to view the photos on the read only CD then sign and date the CD using an indelible permanent marker pen.

















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