The importance of having an independent inventory cannot be misjudged, especially as a poorly recorded or written report may leave the landlord with no foundation for a claim in the event of a dispute with tenants during or at the end of a tenancy, according to a leading inventory provider.
Disputes can sometimes end up involving a formal Alternative Dispute Resolution service that generally tends to side with the tenant if the landlord 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.
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.
Since the introduction of mandatory deposit protection schemes, an accurate schedule of condition has become increasingly more important, and that is why the Association of Independent Inventory Clerks (AIIC) wants to see independent inventory reporting become a compulsory requirement.
Mandatory or not, Ronny Svang, director of Emphasis Inventories ltd is convinced of the “real value” of having a professional inventory, midterm and check out done.
As well as being used as evidence in a dispute, Svang believes that 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.
He said: “For a landlord regardless of background checks it is not possible to really know your prospective tenants, and how they will treat your property. For a tenant it is not possible to know the landlord nor the property.
“Even if all works well there is still the possibility of disagreements. So it is in the interest of all parties to have a detailed, independent inventory done, with regular midterms and a check out.”
Despite the temptation to try and save money, it is crucial that landlords avoid cutting corners, and potentially costly deposit disputes, by having comprehensive check-in and check-out inventories in place.
Svang says that inventories produced by a landlord or letting agent, even when signed and fully photographic, can cause conflicts which could make it harder for the landlord or agent to make a successful application to the tenancy deposit protection scheme holding the tenant’s deposit with a view to deducting money from the tenant to repair or replace damaged goods.
An independently compiled schedule of condition, on the other hand, could make disputes that may arise at the end of a tenancy potentially easier to resolve justly, as it may appear to be far more impartial.
Svang continued: “The inventory needs to be independently done, not just seeming to be, to stand up to scrutiny. So not done by the agent, who have a hundred other things to attend to, possibly at the same time as doing the inventory. Not by a company run by the lettings agent, and certainly not by the landlord nor the tenant themselves.
“For the inventory to be relied on it needs to be truly independent.”
“The report also needs to be specific to the property, with an accurate description of rooms and items not using more or less fitting options from a drop down menu. This needs to be backed up by a full set of pictures, so that any potential future issue can be easily settled.
“This should be done by a clerk who has had proper training and gets regular feedback to improve. There should be quality control of the report before it is sent out on a timely basis.
“Inventories, midterms and check outs provides value for money for agents, landlords and tenants alike when done like this.”