Whether you are a tenant looking to move into rented accommodation or a landlord looking to protect your investment, a property inventory is a vital document to have. While most landlords will be aware of its importance, many tenants have a laissez-faire attitude towards them. This is a mistake, and one that can prove costly later on.
What is a property inventory?
Before we get into the reasons why property inventories are important for both tenants and landlords alike, it’s probably a good idea to explain exactly what they are. Property inventories are simply documents that report on the state of the property and its contents at the time of assessment. These assessments are carried out twice in an identical fashion: once at the beginning of the tenancy (the inventory), and again at the end (the checkout).
The most important part of the initial inventory assessment is the Schedule of Condition. This details the state of every part of the property, such as the décor, floors (for example, wooden floors should they be present), walls and ceilings. Many landlords are under the false impression that inventories are solely for fixtures and fittings, but the Schedule of Condition offers protection against any structural damage that may occur during the tenancy, too. Therefore, it is always prudent to have an inventory taken, even if your property is actually unfurnished.
Having the two documents to hand allows both parties to see exactly how the property has changed across the duration of the tenancy. The checkout report will detail any areas of attention that need highlighting, and these will usually be segmented into ‘landlord’ and ‘tenant’ sections to determine who is responsible for what.
Having these documents lessens the likelihood of disputes and make the process of exiting a tenancy simple and straightforward. However, it is vital that both parties thoroughly check the reports to ensure that nothing has been missed. This is especially important for the tenant at the inventory stage, as any existing damage or defects picked up at checkout may then become their responsibility.
As a tenant, you have the right to be present during the checks. This can help ensure that the person conducting the check doesn’t miss anything, but it’s still a good idea to give the document a thorough read through once it has been compiled. Spotting errors and omissions as soon as possible will allow changes to be made to the report without fear of blame being passed to you.
Who conducts the inventory?
Inventories can be compiled by either the landlord themselves, a letting agent, or an independent inventory clerk. Independent inventory companies should be a member of a professional association to ensure you are dealing with a reputable firm.
Inventory reports are usually compiled on move-in day and both parties are required to sign the document in order to confirm that they are in agreement with its contents. The amount of detail within the report will largely depend upon the value of the property’s contents and may include photographic evidence as well as written documentation.
Landlords should be aware that conducting their own inventory could cause issues should a dispute arise. Protection schemes such as the TDP (Tenancy Deposit Scheme) will always favour inventories conducted by professionals over those carried out by the owner of the property.
Reasons why both landlord and tenants need a property inventory
1. Conducting an inventory will give both parties an accurate assessment of the current state of the property.
2. The property inventory will highlight any areas that need addressing and stipulate exactly who is responsible for their repair.
3. Having the document to hand will assist tenants on exactly how the property should be returned to the landlord and provide a guideline as to how the home should be maintained.
4. Inventories easily distinguish between damage and fair wear and tear.
5. Property inventories help protect both the landlord’s investment and the tenant’s deposit.
6. Conducting a thorough inventory lessens the chances of disputes arising once the tenancy has run its course.
7. Should a dispute arise, however, having an inventory in place will help ensure the right result is reached.