Imagine sending two landlords into the same property and asking each of them to compile an inventory. They’ll come up with different results. One may produce something quite detailed, documenting every single item, while the other takes a more superficial approach, listing just the key features. It’s obvious that the second landlord’s technique might cause problems, but is that of the first one adequate?
Let’s look at a specific example from our hypothetical property. The kitchen floor is tiled. The thorough landlord records the fact, but not the condition of the tiles themselves.
Months down the line, at the end of a tenancy, it’s discovered that some of the floor tiles are badly damaged and beyond repair. The tiles are no longer available, and it looks like a substantial re-tiling job to restore the kitchen floor. Has our thorough landlord done enough to protect his interests?
Well, not if the tenant can argue that the tiles were damaged at the start of the tenancy – and in the so-called ‘thorough’ inventory, the condition of the tiles isn’t mentioned. An independent adjudicator called in to sort a dispute over the deposit has nothing to go off.
DIY or professional?
Just like in our scenario above, many landlords rely on DIY inventories, but they carry a risk. Often, they have nowhere near the level of detail required. They don’t include photographs of the state of the property or its furnishings and where any detail of an item’s condition is included in the documentation, it’s from the landlord’s own point of view. One person’s definition of clean and in good repair isn’t the same as someone else’s.
A professionally prepared inventory might seem like a step too far, but in the event of a dispute, it can protect landlords from having to pay out for damage caused by the departing tenant. The professional report includes not just the information and photographic evidence required to settle a dispute, but it also carries more weight than a DIY version simply because it’s an unbiased, professional record of a property’s condition. It may be an extra expense, but try thinking of it as an insurance policy that will allow you to retain the deposit to cover essential repairs.
Going it alone
If you’re still convinced you can do the job yourself, then be careful. Maybe look at some professionally compiled inventories to see the level of detail required – inventories can easily run to 20 or more pages. Work through the property methodically, remembering to list not just the presence of something, but also its condition. Take good quality photographs, several of each room, and don’t forget the outside spaces. Include the state of the décor, carpets and curtains, the level of cleanliness. Compile the inventory as close as possible to the moving in and out date and make sure that it’s agreed, signed and dated.
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