What is an inventory?

An inventory is the itemisation of goods and their condition.

Who needs one?

Every landlord should have an inventory for each property.

Why ?

Because this outlines not only what is in the property, but also what condition it is in.

The property is unfurnished - do I still need an inventory ?

Yes, because the inventory will also point out the condition of the walls, curtains, carpets, bathroom, kitchen appliances, garden and the property as it stands. 

The trouble is that many landlords believe that if their property is unfurnished, then they do not need an inventory, because there is very little that can be stolen, broken or damaged.  However, just think about your beautiful magnolia walls being painted pink and purple ( I have nothing against pink or purple - just not my cup of tea) and the tenant leaves them in that state.  You deduct monies from the tenants' deposit and the tenant sues you for the money.  Now prove to a judge that you had an inventory prepared by an independent third party and that the state of the property had been noted prior to the tenant inhabiting the property.  You can't, the judge sides with the tenant and you not only have to give the money back, but also have to pay costs as well and for the tenant.  Not only that you have to pay for the redecoration of the property!

Every property should have an inventory.  All inventories should be prepared by an inventory clerk.  Inventory clerks are the independent persons who will go through your property with a tooth comb and note everything,  Even for a 1 bed flat, the inventory can still run into many pages surprisingly.  If you prepare an inventory yourself and the tenant disagrees with the inventory he /she may refuse to sign it.  You need an signature on the inventory to prove that it is valid.  A tenant is unlikely to disagree with an inventory clerk though, because they are dealing with a professional person who is qualified in that particular field.

A judge will not look favourably upon an inventory prepared by a landlord, because they will see it as an amateur attempt to fulfil a duty.  Judges are notoriously favourable to tenants and they will tend to find in their favour every step of the way unless there is absolute solid evidence pointing the other way.

Take for example a case that happened to me back in 1990.  We had a professional inventory prepared and the time came for the check out.  The landlord rang and said that the inventory clerk was not available and that he would pay for one of us to do it instead.  A big landlord with a lot of property with us, we were not going to argue.  So I duly went to the property had a chat with the tenants, checked through the inventory and left.  When we compared the check in report with the check out report it was apparent that there had been quite a lot of damage and that the property had not been professionally cleaned as stated it should be in the tenancy agreement.  We deducted just over half the deposit.  The tenant kicked up a fuss and we pointed out that we were only comparing the inventories and that was what we had based our judgements on.  The tenant took us to court and a year or so later we sat in front of a judge who asked who had done the inventory report.  When told I had he asked me how long I had been doing inventories for and what qualified me to do them.  I duly answered that I do not usually do them but had had little choice this time.  As for qualifications and training I pointed out that I had neither.  When he asked me how I could give impartial advice it mattered not what I said as he pointed out that I was paid by the Landlord as his agent and therefore could not possibly be impartial.  The case failed against us and we spent more money than we wished refunding the tenant.

An inventory clerk will make an inventory, give a check in report and do a check out report.  These are three vital documents that a landlord should have for each property.  Making the inventory will normally only happen once, though I do suggest a new one every 5 years.  The inventory manual is then used for all check ins and check outs.

As to the cost of an inventory, in our agreements, the landlord pays for the make and check in report whilst the tenant pays for the check out report.  As the tenant has signed the agreement, they are agreeing to pay for the check out report.  If they refuse to then you can take the monies out of the deposit.

So, in conclusion, always have an inventory made and checked by an inventory clerk.  If you can not get hold of one, ring a local estate agent who does lettings and you should be able to get the name and telephone number of one.  it is vitally important to have an inventory.  Although another expense, it could actually save you money in the long run.


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