For a long time, fair wear and tear has been a grey area for landlords and letting agents alike, and because it tends to vary from case to case, it is among the least understood areas of the lettings process, and one which can create much ambiguity and cause a high level of disputes at the end of a tenancy.
Disputes can sometimes end up involving a formal Alternative Dispute Resolution service that generally tends to side with the tenant if the landlord or agent is unable to provide suitable evidence to support their claim. This is because the adjudicators’ starting position is the tenants deposit belongs to the tenant, so if a landlord wants to claim for any part of the deposit, they have to prove the condition the property was in at the start of the tenancy, as well as the end.
Many landlords feel tenants are not held to account when damage is caused and that there is little they can do to protect their property. But clear property damage and poor cleanliness or anything that is different from the property’s original state, is far easier to identify if there is an inventory management report and schedule of condition in place, enabling the landlord to use the tenant’s deposit to compensate.
As students return to university for the start of the new term over the next few weeks, the Association of Independent Inventory Clerks (AIIC) is actively reminding landlords and letting agents of the importance of independent and professionally compiled inventories.
As well as being used as evidence in a dispute, a detailed and precise inventory completed at the start of the tenancy, and again when the tenancy ends, also underlines exactly what is expected of the tenant, while it can also help landlords avoid a disagreement in the first place.
To help enjoy a risk-free tenancy, it is generally good practice for a landlord to have an inventory, which records the condition of the property with written notes, photographic evidence, as well as details of the contents, including fixtures and fittings.
Emma Glencross, joint Chair of the AIIC, explained: “Student rental properties are often left empty for up to three months during the summer period - as well as over the Easter and Christmas holidays - and so the presence of an independent and impartial inventory is crucial for all sides of the rental agreement.
“An independent and unbiased inventory details the condition of the property at the beginning and end of the tenancy, helping to ensure a fair move-in/move-out process for all parties.”
“It allows landlords, agents and tenants parties to make a fair comparison of the property's contents and condition when a tenancy finishes, therefore reducing the chances of a formal deposit dispute taking place.”
While some landlords may wish to conduct their own inventories, it is strongly advised that they use an independent inventory firm to compile a factual report and detail of the schedule of condition to ensure that it is impartial and objective, with the cost of this service starting from less than £100.
Danny Zane, joint chair of the AIIC, commented: “A booming student lets market is positive for the wider rental industry and if landlords take the necessary steps - including providing a professional inventory - they can benefit from the potentially high yields on offer with the peace of mind that their investment is protected.”