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A Tenant’s Guide To Inventories

Inventories are a significant part of your tenancy. They hold the key to you getting your full deposit back or only some of it when you move out, and they can help to prevent disputes with your landlord or letting agent.

Having a full understanding of what inventories are and how they work is important to you as a tenant.

What is an inventory?

The inventory is an in-depth report on the rental property and its contents. Inventories are created for all types of rental property, from furnished and part-furnished through to unfurnished accommodation, and they list the furniture, fixtures and fittings in every room, along with a description of their condition.

They’re often created by independent, third-party inventory clerks, such as ourselves who walk through the property and compile the report. In some cases, you may find that your own landlord has carried out the relevant checks.

While the report format may differ slightly from one inventory supplier to the next, the fundamental information included will be the same, whatever type of property you’re renting. For example, one inventory may go into detail about the exact condition of the sofa, carpet and walls and include photographs, another may just use a simple traffic light system to indicate the condition.

Why is an inventory important?

An inventory is important because it’s a written and  recorded account of what everything looked like when you moved in. By reading and inspecting the report before you sign will put yourself in a good position when your tenancy comes to an end.

If everything is detailed for everyone to see, you’re less likely to find yourself in a dispute with your landlord about the condition of the property and you’re more likely to get your full deposit back.

Without the inventory, you have no proof of the property’s condition when your tenancy began and could be challenged about damage you haven’t caused or asked to pay for repairs that had nothing to do with you. You could find that you lose some, or even all of your deposit because you have to foot the bill for something that wasn’t anything to do with you or your tenancy.

If there is a detailed inventory, or if there is no inventory at all, the adjudicator whose job it is to deal with any disputes is highly likely to reject a landlord’s claim. Therefore, while it’s not a legal requirement for a landlord to provide an inventory of their rental property, it’s in both their and your best interest to supply this detailed look at its condition. 

Which part of the inventory are tenants responsible for?

If it’s possible, try to attend the initial inventory and check-in by the clerk, landlord or letting agent. This is a great opportunity for you to see first-hand what is being reported and note any pre-existing damage before it’s written down in the document.

Even if you can’t make the inventory check, as the tenant you have a key part to play in the inventory process. You will be given the report and asked to carefully check through it during your first few days in the property and to add your notes to the tenant comment field which will be taken into consideration at check out.

What should you do with the inventory report?

When you receive the inventory report, take some time to walk through the property and examine every piece of furniture, wall, carpet and fixture in each room. Be as thorough as possible and, if you’d like to, take some pictures as you go along for your own reference which can be included in the report. If you are taking pictures, try to make sure they’re clear and date-stamped. 

What should you look for?

The inventory report might already have a structure to it for you to follow, but if you’re unsure where to begin when double-checking the information listed, here is a brief overview of some of the things to look out for as you move from room to room:

  • Damage to walls and floors, including stains, scuffs, dents, holes.
  • The reliability of the walls, floors and ceilings. Are there any broken floorboards or holes in the ceiling?
  • Curtains and carpets: are there any stains, holes or marks?
  • Mould and mildew marks: If you see any stains or tide marks indicating mould being wiped away, you are allowed to query whether the property has a mould and damp issue and request that your landlord addresses this.
  • Windows and doors: Are there any chips? Is there damage to the sealant? Can you see any rot or mould?
  • For furnished properties, what condition is the furniture in? Note things like rips in the fabric of the sofa and scratches on the coffee table.
  • Cupboards, doors and wardrobes: check for warped, sticking doors and broken hinges.
  • What do the electrical and gas appliances look like? Are they regularly tested? Are the sockets ok? 
  • Run the taps to check for pressure, as well as the quality of the water.
  • Are there any cracks in the sink or chips in the tiles?
  • Head outside and check the roof and gutters. Any missing slates or roof tiles? Do the gutters need cleaning?
  • What do the external walls look like? Any cracks? 

This is just a starting point for your own inventory checks, and you may find that this process takes some time. You don’t know the property that well yet and even the smallest flats take time to thoroughly check through, but it’s worth it in the long run.

Should you spot anything that you think might need repairing soon, this is your chance to bring it up with your landlord.

Are there any discrepancies?

You may find that the descriptions don’t match up or that there’s a mark on the wall that’s been missed. Whether you can’t see the stain the report is referencing, or you see an additional scuff on the kitchen table, feel free to update the inventory if you think something isn’t quite right – you are within your rights to make amendments by adding your comments to the tenant comments column.

if any items have been missed off the list, be sure to add them longside a description of their condition. For example, if a side table hasn’t been included, this needs to be included in the report to avoid inconsistencies when you move out.

Only sign the inventory when you’re completely happy with the descriptions of the property contained within the inventory and check-in report. 

Who should sign the report?

For additional peace of mind and to be absolutely certain that you’re covered, it’s worth asking your landlord to acknowledge the faults you find with the inventory. To do this, ask them to countersign anything you’ve spotted that might have been missed. Providing photographs at this stage will support your case and will also protect you later on check out.

In addition, if they agree to make any repairs or updates to the property, get this in writing from them or the property manager. This should protect you if these repairs don’t take place and damage occurs as a result.  

What happens if no inventory report is provided?

Most landlords will provide some form of inventory, however if they don’t offer one at the start of your tenancy, you’re allowed to make your own version. With your copy, you can go into detail and take photos to document how things look before you move in.  

You can then invite your landlord to check through it and sign in order to confirm that it accurately describes how the property looks. If they don’t want to sign the report, you are allowed to ask an independent witness to sign.

Mid-Term Inspections

While you won’t be expected to check and sign any inventories while you live in the property, your landlord or letting agent may conduct mid-tenancy inspections. These are designed to ensure everything is being well maintained. The condition of the property and its contents are assessed and any notes to make repairs are made.

These inspections are a great opportunity for you to address any issues, such as redecorating or DIY that’s needed. Your landlord may have follow-up actions for you to carry out, which you should be given in writing.

This is all useful for when you come to move out of the property as these inspections and the resulting repairs can crop up. Keep hold of any correspondence with your landlord or property manager regarding the inspections and repairs. Whether these are texts, emails or letters, if they detail the steps they want to take to address any issues or repairs, you can use this in the event of a dispute.

End of Tenancy: The check out report

When you decide to move out, a formal check out report  is drawn up. This checkout report tends to be a lot more straightforward than the first one as it’s a comparison of items and conditions that was agreed within the inventory and check-in report.

The inventory clerk, landlord or letting agent compares the previous items and conditions listed and creates a final report to included the existing items and agreed or changed conditions. if you can be present for this check out process, it can be easier to resolve any issues in the moment.

If any discrepancies are discovered deductions may be made from the tenancy deposit. It’s worth taking pictures before you move out to compare with the ones from when you moved in.

If you spent some time carefully checking through the initial inventory and check-in report and you’ve kept communications with your landlord or letting agency about repairs and updates throughout your tenancy, it’s unlikely that there will be any deductions made without good cause and consideration.

Fair wear and tear

During the checkout, your landlord must account for general wear and tear. You won’t be able to leave the property exactly as you found it because carpets get worn and tiny scuffs and scrapes are to be expected. You can’t be charged for anything that can be considered wear from everyday use, your landlord or letting agent should not deduct from the deposit should any changes fall into this category.

If something is damaged

If some damage is flagged in the checkout report that isn’t being put down to fair wear and tear, and deductions are being made from your tenancy deposit to cover the costs, you’ll need to decide if you agree with this decision or you want to contest it by raising a formal dispute with the registered deposit scheme such as TDS or DPS. If unsure, just ask your Landlord or Agent, its compulsory that all tenancy deposits are registered at the beginning of the tenancy,and within a certain time frame, if not, you may be entitled to compensation.

Should you think something isn’t quite right, you’ll need to gather together your copy of the initial inventory report and check out report, your own photographs, receipts from any repair work and anything else that could be used as proof. Next, go through the landlord’s report and respond to each claim, referring back to the inventories and other details as you go.

Your landlord should drop their claim if they see you have proof that you haven’t damaged the property in any way. If defending yourself in this way doesn’t work, contact the relevant deposit protection scheme which holds your deposit, they should be able to help you resolve the issue.

In this case, an adjudicator will look through everything and take both sides into account. Keeping on top of everything during your tenancy will help the final decision, should you raise a dispute.

if you are unhappy with the conduct of your letting agent, a formal complaint can be raised with their redress scheme, such the PRS or Property Ombudsman. It is compulsory for your letting agents to be members of one of the redress schemes, if unsure, just ask them.

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