Landlord Advice: Why do we prepare an inventory?
Why are inventories so important?
I understand why a good inventory and schedule of condition is so important. Having been employed as an adjudicator in tenant and landlord disputes, I have first hand knowledge of ‘the good, the bad and the downright ugly’ attempts at producing these documents by landlords and agents across the country.
So what is it?
An Inventory and Schedule of Condition is a contemporaneous record of a property’s contents, condition and cleanliness. That means it is literally a snapshot of a property at a given time; the start of the tenancy. It is often confused with a simple ‘inventory’ but this only details the contents of a property and not its state of cleanliness and condition.
Why is it so important?
In 2007 tenancy deposit protection legislation came into force. Alongside the protection element of the new legislation was the ability to initiate free dispute resolution in the event of a dispute at the end of the tenancy. There is no doubt that this was a huge change to the private rented sector, but I think it was a change for the good. It promoted a fair and equitable approach to the handling of a tenants’ deposit, and therefore an evidence based process to justify any deduction.
Without evidence to demonstrate any deterioration in a property’s condition, contents or cleanliness a claim will not be successful. The most reliable form of evidence to protect a landlord and tenant alike, is a detailed Inventory and Schedule of Condition. It literally paints a picture of the property at the start of the tenancy and is used as a comparison tool when producing the outgoing inspection report.
Who prepares it?
There is no reason why a landlord or agent cannot produce the document, however a tenant must be provided with a copy at the start of tenancy, and be given the opportunity to comment on any inaccuracies.
We at Davies & Partners took the decision many years ago to employ the services of a third party independent inventory company. The cost of the service has traditionally been shared between the landlord and tenant, although this might change once the tenant fee ban into force sometime in 2018/2019. 
How is it prepared and used?
The inventory clerk will visit the property once all work has been completed between tenancies and as close to the start date of the tenancy as practically possible. Their report will be a blend of both written text and photographs and will typically include the following as a minimum:
- The address of the property
- The date the report was prepared
- Details of the person preparing the report
- A disclaimer detailing any restrictions, e.g not checking under heavy furniture or not checking the functionality of a washing machine.
- A room by room description of the property, listing the condition and cleanliness of every item from the flooring to the ceiling and everything in between!
- The number of keys provided to the tenant
- Photographs of all rooms and items where appropriate
- A signature from the clerk to confirm its accuracy
On the day the tenant moves into a property they come to our offices at a pre-arranged time to sign the legal paperwork and then go directly to the property to meet the clerk. Both will then walk through the property checking the content of the inventory before the tenant signs the document as a true reflection of the property’s condition, cleanliness and contents. A copy of the inventory is always given to the tenant and we in turn keep a signed copy in the office. This system might sound a little over the top but we very rarely encounter disputes at the end of the tenancy as a result. Complete transparency from start is definitely the best way.
If you have any questions about inventories, their content or a property deposit dispute please feel free to contact me.
Alex Britchfield | Partner | Davies & Partners