It’s the landlord’s responsibility to prove the condition of a property and its contents at the start and end of a tenancy. This becomes especially important if the landlord wishes to make a claim from the tenant’s deposit for something damaged or neglected. Without a detailed inventory and condition report agreed by the landlord and tenant at the outset, it is very difficult to justify why a claim has been made, and the landlord could be left quite literally paying the price.
What is an inventory and condition report?
An inventory and condition report is a written document (usually with supporting photographic or video evidence) of the condition of a rental property and its contents at the start of a tenancy. It will be detailed down to every light bulb and should include every item left at the property and its condition.
My property is unfurnished – do I need one?
You still have walls which are decorated, flooring (carpet/Lino/tiles), and fitted items such as bathrooms and kitchens which can be damaged or left unclean at an end of tenancy, so, yes, you should still have one!
Should I do my own inventory?
Many professional landlords opt to undertake their own inventory, check in and check out meetings and reports, however they are very time consuming and not always as detailed as they need to be. Another pit-fall of doing your own inventory is that it would not be independent of your interest in the property as a landlord. In this instance, it is vital that the incoming tenant signs the report to agree its condition.
What if I get my letting agent to do an inventory?
Some letting agents will do ‘in house’ inventory services which are offered to landlords as an extra fee. Landlords must ensure that the agent undertaking the report has been properly trained in doing inventory reports, and that you get a copy at the outset of the tenancy to ensure you are happy with its contents. As you are paying an extra fee for the service, you want to make sure it is accurate. Don’t accept photographic-only inventories as they are not worth the paper they are printed on!
What are the benefits of using the services of a professional inventory clerk?
Whilst there is a cost to getting an inventory drawn up in the first place, it is very cost effective in the long term. The main benefit of having a professional inventory clerk do this for you is that the report is guaranteed to be independent (the best possible type of evidence to have legally), and it will be compiled in a format that is widely accepted within the industry in a dispute situation. Most inventory clerks will also conduct formal check in meetings, where the tenants are walked through the property with the report and asked to agree the condition at the end (there is usually a 7 day grace period should anything be missed for the tenants to highlight). Meter readings will be taken and added to the report for the avoidance of any doubt on that front, too.
Usually, the external condition of the property and any pathways, gardens and garages are also noted in the report.
Similarly, at the end of a tenancy the inventory clerk would attend the day after the tenants had vacated to complete a check out report. This report will note the differences in the property from the check in condition. This makes it very easy to see what could be a potential deduction from the tenants’ deposit. Tenants should be present for this check out meeting, however it’s not essential.
When presenting any deductions to a tenant, the independent reports are now worth their weight in gold as both check in and check out reports were done independently of the landlord, making it easier for a landlord to objectively discuss the deductions with the tenants and make their claim.
Should the tenants choose to dispute any proposed deductions, then all evidence must be submitted to the independent arbitrator, so having a professionally compiled report saves a landlord the stress and hassle of making sure it’s all in the format that is required.
… I’ll just video my property
Whilst video can be submitted as evidence, it is very difficult for an independent adjudicator to freeze a specific point within the video that refers to the part of the property that is in question, especially for instance if it is a stain on a carpet. They also won’t be happy about having to sit through a feature length film on your property!
Our advice is stick with good quality, high resolution photography to support a written document and use rulers or points of reference in the photo to give perspective to the image. Ultimately you want to make sure it’s as easy as possible for an independent adjudicator to see why you are making a claim on the tenants’ deposit.
In conclusion, an inventory and condition report is an essential part of any letting process and should be regarded as just as important as having a contract. It sets the tone for the start of a tenancy by showing good faith that as a landlord, you care to avoid disputes at the end of the tenancy.
For more information about why having an inventory is so important when setting up a tenancy, give McCartan Lettings a call on 01792 430100