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Landlord errors and how to avoid them - Not having an effective inventory

Posted 1/09/2023 by Reeds Rains
Categories: Landlords/Lettings
Taking an inventory


Why do I need a property inventory?

Although taking an inventory is not a legal requirement in England, it’s something every landlord should do, for every tenancy and we carry them out for all the properties we manage. A comprehensive list of the property and its contents, together with a schedule of condition, should be made before a tenant moves in and then updated at the end of the tenancy to evidence wear and tear and any damage caused by the tenant. This then gives you as the landlord (or your agent, on your behalf) the basis for applying to retain some or all of the tenant’s deposit to cover the cost of any necessary repairs or cleaning.

Since deposit protection legislation came into force in 2007, it’s important to be aware that the onus is on you as the landlord to prove that damage was caused during the tenancy. Without check-in and check-out inventories to support your claim, if the tenant contests it, the deposit scheme adjudicators are unlikely to decide in your favour, as they work from the position that it’s the tenant’s money and that landlords are only entitled to make deductions if:

  1. The tenancy agreement contains the proper clauses
  2. They can show, on the ‘balance of probabilities’ that the tenant is liable, and
  3. The sum claimed is reasonable.

In short, without an effective inventory, you risk being unable to retain any of your tenant’s deposit and may have to bear the whole cost of any repairs yourself.

What should a robust check-in inventory include?

There should be a detailed description of every room and area in the property, including its fittings and contents: what’s there, the condition and the overall cleanliness.

There’s no set rule for describing the condition, but landlords and inventory clerks generally use either a scale from ‘new’ to ‘very poor’, or a green/amber/red ‘traffic light’ system. Then, along with the written description and condition rating, there should be photographs or a video showing the general condition of the room and close-ups of any existing wear or damage.

The report should also include:

  • Confirmation that electrical appliances, fixtures and lights are working
  • Smoke and CO2 alarm test results
  • The condition of the garden, driveway, gates and fencing
  • Any garden furniture or fixtures, along with checks and evidence that garages and sheds are empty and tidy
  • Meter readings
  • Details of keys that have been supplied to the tenant

Then, when the tenant checks out, a copy of this check-in report should be updated with any change in contents, condition and cleanliness. The more detailed the inventory, the clearer any changes in condition over the tenancy will be; so, although you can do it yourself, we’d recommend you use a professional inventory clerk who is a member of the Association of Independent Inventory Clerks (AIIC). They know exactly what to look for and will be able to complete the report efficiently – and, because they are an independent third party, the tenant can be assured there’s no bias.

At Reeds Rains, we work with Vibrant, one of the UK’s largest property service companies and a leading supplier to the residential lettings sector, and offer inventories as an optional extra within our Fully Managed service. So, if you’d like to discuss us handling the inventory on your behalf, just get in touch with the team in your local Reeds Rains branch, who will be happy to help.

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The Reeds Rains Content Marketing Team

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