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Inventories: the ins and outs Currently there is no legal requirement or industry standard that check in and check out reports/ and/or inventories should be conducted independently or in a set format. This can be confusing for both tenants and landlords.
Tenants often attempt to claim bias when an agent conducts an inventory rather than an independent inventory clerk or claim they have been wronged in some way yet the fact is that it is perfectly legal for an agent to prepare an inventory.
Independent inventories are certainly favoured by many agents and this trend continues. This eliminates claims of bias and inventory clerks are properly trained to prepare inventories rather than lettings staff doing it “on the side”.
Landlords and agents can easily locate an independent inventory clerk and a good starting point is to visit the website of the Association of Independent Inventory Clerks (AIIC).
The key to any inventory is that it should be detailed and thorough. Imagine a blank canvas and you’ve got to accurately paint the picture of each room in detail
The key is to look at the overriding purpose of an inventory – it is a detailed description of the condition and cleanliness of a property in relation to all aspects of the property which is provided to the tenant when they move in and move out as a factual record of the condition and cleanliness of the property at the start of the tenancy and at the end of the tenancy.
Time and time again, the biggest area of tenant deposit disputes is cleaning and damage so it essential that an inventory is detailed here. Just to say an item is dirty or not clean is not adequate – a description of how it is dirty is needed. Equally this applies to using descriptions such as “poor” or “adequate” alone with no further comment.
A thorough inventory should:
Check each room and each item thoroughly Check all electrical items are working Check light bulbs present and working Check no damage under furniture Check all appliances – inside and out Open all taps to ensure sinks/baths etc. are not blocked in any way Flush toilets to check they are working and not blocked Check number of keys and access materials provided and returned Provide detailed descriptions Photos and Videos
Photos outside the inventories can sometimes be useful as secondary evidence but in many instances have little or no evidential value. Photos can be taken at any point and possibly of any property. Digital photos can be manipulated and digital dates amended.
Photos embedded into inventories are always useful but do not substitute a detailed description. The same applies to video inventories.
When a check in has not been completed but a check out has been completed, it is a waste of time and money and vice versa! Each document is used as a comparison tool as the “start point” compared against the “end point”.
Without a detailed start point and end point, it is hard to imagine any landlord would be successful in deductions from a deposit even if the tenant has messed up!
The key is a detailed check in AND check out inventory, preferably independent. Without both, a landlord really needs to ask the question, what is the point of taking a deposit?
An area of debate is whether independent inventories should be made compulsory or whether all inventories need to be in a set format as it could be argued, what is the point of deposit protection when the foundations are not in place when a dispute arises?