Why Use an Inventory?
With the introduction of the Deposit Protection Schemes (DPS) inventories are now more important than ever. If you take a deposit from your tenants (most landlords and agents do) then by law you are obliged to protect it in one of the approved schemes. If there is a claim against the deposit for damage, then without a good inventory the landlord (or agent) does not stand a chance of securing a claim when it goes to a scheme adjudicator.
Deposit disputes need to be resolved quickly and cheaply so must disputes are handled by the deposit scheme’s adjudicator based on documentary evidence alone, so the inventory alone provides the most important evidence. Going down the court route takes much longer and is expensive, so most deposit disputes don’t’ involve the courts.
It might be better for a landlord to go to court if they have a big claim that goes well beyond the amount of the protected deposit, and also if they have a counterclaim from the tenant – say if they had to pay for boiler repairs because the heating did not work for several weeks. The schemes’ adjudication cannot deal with counterclaims.
Landlords or agents can process the inventory themselves (inventory forms are available free on this website or from various suppliers listed on our Classified Directory), or as an alternative, an independent inventory company can be used. Using a professional inventory company is always preferable as they are totally independent, their evidence should be to DPS standards, and will therefore give the landlord the best chance of success with any claim.
Using an independent is less expensive than most landlords think: starting at around £75 for a Check-In and less for a Check-Out. If you use them again, the check-out forms the basis for the next check-in, so the cost usually reflects this and is less. A good idea is to have the letting agreement constructed such that the landlord pays for the Check-In and the tenant pays for the Check-Out. This has the psychological effect on the tenant reminding them that everything should be in order before they leave – they are paying for the independent assessment of this!
What is an Inventory?
An inventory should detail the condition of all décor, fixtures, fittings and contents relating to a rental property. Contrary to popular belief, an inventory is not just a list of the items to be found in a rental property and is therefore not merely restricted to furnished properties.
Furnished or unfurnished, all properties are supplied to a tenant with floor coverings, wall coverings, fixtures and fittings and the state or condition of these needs to be noted before a tenant moves in if the landlord’s investment is to be protected.
This is a much-debated issue and a good inventory will include a glossary of terms which will define the exact meaning of the word for the purposes of the inventory document.
The glossary should feature at the front of the inventory.
The glossary should refer to: Brand new / unused condition: possibly still in original packaging, or with new tags / labels attached
Good condition: signs of slight wear, generally lightly worn
Fair condition: signs of age, frayed, small light stains and marks, discolouration
Poor condition: extensive signs of wear and tear, extensive stains / marks/ tears / chips but still functional
Very poor condition: extensively damaged / faulty items, large stains, upholstery torn / dirty, pet odours / hairs
The inventory will provide a detailed and comprehensive description – ideally supported by photographic evidence – of the property, with specific reference to the existence / condition of the décor, fixtures, fittings and contents.
Comments need to be made in relation to the colour, make, model and condition of each item – basically, there needs to be as much detail as possible to provide an accurate and objective assessment of the property.
As a rule of thumb, lofts and cellars are not normally included in an inventory, unless specifically agreed or used as part of the living accommodation.
Top tips for landlords:
- to prevent any discrepancies, it is always best to have a property professionally cleaned prior to the tenants moving in, and to gain a receipt for this service
- if the tenancy includes access to the garden make it clear from the outset as to whether or not a tenant will be responsible for reasonable maintenance of this area
- make sure all meters are read at the start of the tenancy
- include in the inventory, a list of appliance manuals / warranties (if they exist)
- Photographic evidence is hugely advantageous and is particularly useful for highlighting unusual or expensive items and areas of damage. If a photograph is taken of a mark / scratch, it is useful to incorporate a tape measure / ruler to give some sense of perspective.
Otherwise, if a scratch has been recorded but not measured, significant further damage can be inflicted with no course of redress.
The Check-In – Cleanliness
Occupancy – the length of occupancy will also need to be taken into consideration – the impact of a two-year occupancy may vary enormously to the toll of a 6-month occupancy.
Equally, when a tenant has enjoyed a five-year stay in the same property, it becomes very difficult to prove unacceptable wear and tear.
Consent for smokers or pets in the property will have implications on the expected condition of the property at the end of the tenure.
The tenancy agreement may contain specific clauses relating to the required care and attention of particular items / amenities which the tenant has access to during the term of his / her stay.
Disputes relating to fair wear and tear often centre on common themes which include:
What one person deems to be acceptable may be considered to be sub-standard by another. The important point to remember when it comes to assessing cleanliness is that agreement is reached at the check in stage.
For instance, if a property was noted as dirty at the check in and either the agent or landlord arranged for professional cleaning to be carried out after the check in, then the tenant is required to ensure that the property is vacated in a professionally clean condition.
The landlord or agent need to ensure the receipt for the professional clean at the check in is provided although the tenant must be given the opportunity to clean the property to a professional
standard themselves at the end of the tenancy should they wish to do so.
Fixtures and fittings
Tenants need to be made aware of the fact that if they choose to introduce new items, which need to be fixed to the walls, agreement must be received from the landlord in advance.
Failure to do this will result in the landlord asking for these items to be removed and making a claim to restore the wall back to its former state.
Most items in the property will have a pre-determined life span but this will also be influenced by the quality of the product, accepting that certain brands have an enhanced reputation for withstanding wear and tear, which is usually evidenced by an extended warranty.
If a landlord chooses to furnish the property with cheaper, non-branded goods, it is only fair to accept that these may not last the duration of the tenancy.
Typical examples of fair wear and tear v damage
If the landlord permits children and / or pets at the property, light scuff marks to walls, particularly stairs,
A final inspection of the property should be undertaken prior to the tenant actually moving out, once completed.
Tenants should not be allowed to re-enter the property unless specific arrangements have been agreed with the landlord or agent.
A copy of the original signed inventory should be used as the basis of discussions between the landlord or agent / inventory clerk and tenant.
Each room should be visited and the condition of décor/ fixtures / fittings and contents should be compared with that witnessed at the beginning of the tenancy.
If redecoration works have been undertaken, the Check Out report should note whether or not these have been done to a professional standard.
As per the Check-In procedure, all meters should be read and keys checked to ensure they fit the appropriate locks.
All keys should be returned at this point.
Where changes are noted in the condition of the property, it should be detailed whether or not these can be construed as acceptable wear and tear.
If they are not regarded as fair wear and tear, who should be responsible for making the necessary improvements to restore the property to its former condition.
A forwarding address for the tenant should always be confirmed at the Check-In and contact numbers secured.
If an item or fixture / fitting is damaged and a replacement is required, then the replacement cost is subject to a Depreciation Deduction. This means, that unless the item was brand news at the start of the tenancy, the landlord cannot charge the full cost of replacement for damaged / missing items.
- Carpets – 3-5 years
- Furniture – 3-6 years
- Lawnmowers – 2-3 years
- Kitchen appliances – 2-5 years
- Small electrical goods eg kettles, hoovers, food processors) – 1-3 years
- Painting / decoration – 3-5 years
Typically, any calculations on the replacement cost of an item should be made as a percentage of the replacement value. Here is an example:
A lounge carpet was in fair condition, with some worn areas and numerous light spot marks at the commencement of the tenancy.
It could be reasonably be assumed that the carpet was of medium / good quality and approximately 3 years old. The replacement price is estimated to be £500.
The carpet has been completely ruined by the tenants, with numerous cigarette burns and heaving staining to all areas. The only solution is to replace the carpet.
As the carpet was of medium / good quality the life expectancy would be estimated as five years. This would equate to £100 per year.
However, as the carpet was already three years old at the commencement of the tenancy, it is now four years old, meaning that it only has one more year before it reaches its anticipated life expectancy. Therefore the most the landlord can claim for in terms of replacing the carpet is £100 (I year expected lifetime x £100).
Failure to observe the above protocol may result in the break down of what should be a harmonious relationship between landlord and tenant – and most importantly, will also activate the inconvenience and enormous distraction of a potential dispute case.
This article was originally provided by Professional Inventory Company, “No Letting Go” www.nolettinggo.co.uk and has been reviewed and updated by Tom Entwistle
More suppliers of Inventories services (Inventory Clerks) throughout the UK can be located in our Classified Directory – https://www.landlordzone.co.uk/suppliers-directory/inventory-services/