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Should Landlords Go DIY or Instruct A Letting Agent?

Anyone involved in the world of renting, whether landlords, letting agents, or tenants, knows how crucial it is to have a robust, accurate inventory. 

They are vital when it comes to supporting a swift resolution of disputes at the end of a tenancy, and many insurance policies require them to be carried out. 

But the big question is: Should landlords carry out their own inventories or call in a professional? If they opt to do it themselves, what tips should they keep in mind and what potential pitfalls should they be aware of?


A professional, independent inventory is not a quick task as it warrants the weight it holds in disputes. If the decision is to save a few pounds now, it is worth bearing in mind that a professional inventory can save landlords and letting agents more money in the long run. But if you are going down the DIY route there are steps you can take to ensure you boost your chances of a good final document.”

Tips for DIY Inventories

Despite the risks, many letting agents and landlords continue to do their own inventories. Here are some handy hints if you are going down that route.

Before you go down the DIY route you need to understand the basics of what an inventory is. Inventories benefit everyone involved. They help solve, or even prevent, disputes at the end of a tenancy and provide peace of mind for everyone concerned. They may also be part of a landlord’s insurance policy.  Moreover, they protect the property from damage by establishing at the word go the state of repair of a property, allowing fair wear and tear to be determined, and ensuring tenants get their deposits back without unjust deductions.

A good inventory will also reduce the risk of misunderstandings during the tenancy, as everything will have been recorded beforehand and by checks throughout the tenancy. Inventories aren't a ‘nice to have’ - they are essential and it’s vital they are carried out correctly. 

The More Words, the Better

Photos should back up the points made in the inventory, not form the core of it. Writing everything down in as much detail as possible makes for the best inventory. Words provide the details needed, and photos can support any claims made.

Be Clear

Inventories should provide clarity. Everything needs to be recorded clearly. This ensures landlords, letting agents, and tenants are better covered. An inventory is there to prevent disputes, not create them.  When it comes to your property, you can never be too thorough.

Details As Well As Facts

An inventory isn’t a list of key features. If a floor is carpeted, note the carpet's condition, any stains, dirt, ridging, indentations or wear. Facts aren’t sufficient without details to back them up.

The Devil’s In The Detail:  There’s no point in an inventory which lacks detail. This is a document which could be used to argue a case in a dispute where relatively large sums of money are at stake. It’s not just a list of large fixtures and fittings printed off on a laptop - it’s an official document. According to the Association of Independent Inventory Clerks, many landlords are submitting inventories at deposit scheme adjudications that are next to useless. The result? They lose their case, and the deposit.  

The Benefits of Hiring A Professional Expert

Hiring a third party has undeniable benefits, such as:

Helping get signatures, as an independent third party has a duty of care to both sides, eliminating any conflict of interest;

Delivering expertise in providing an unbiased report. Landlords can be confident that the risk of disagreements or deposit disputes is dramatically reduced and it can help to solve disputes before they occur. A professionally compiled inventory will identify any disputes at the beginning of the tenancy. If left until the end, it’s too late.

Providing a safety net. For landlords, tenants, and letting agents, a professional inventory is like a safety net. They carry more weight than DIY versions thanks to the third-party expert. Think of them as an independent adjudicator.  In many aspects of our lives, we choose professional services. Why not apply the same principle to inventories? And an added bonus, the cost can be offset against any profit on the rent!


A professional, independent inventory is not a quick task as it warrants the weight it holds in disputes. If the decision is to save a few pounds now, it is worth bearing in mind that a professional inventory can save landlords and letting agents more money in the long run. With the many different tasks and priorities letting agents and landlords have, inventories often fall to the bottom of the to-do list. As a result, it’s easy for some details to be missed which could render the document useless. If a job’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well and if you don’t have the time or expertise, it makes more sense to call in a professional. 

* Handan Rolande of Exact Inventories has been working in the property business for over 20 years *

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    I do my own inventories on a spreadsheet, not because I will be able to rely on them to reclaim loss or damage from a tenant's deposit, but because they might just act as some sort of incentive to return the property and contents in at least a semblance of the condition at the start of the tenancy.

    I have NEVER tried to retain any part of any deposit for any reason, no matter the temptation or justification to do so.

    Based on the above, any payment made to have an inventory "professionally" prepared would just be a waste of money which is better put towards offsetting any loss or damage at the end of any tenancy.

    I use the same logic for not insuring contents, not buying extended warranties or rent guarantees and deliberately choosing high voluntary excesses on all insurance policies.

    Over the years I reckon this philosophy has saved me between £30,000 and £40,000 in unnecessary insurance premiums whilst only once costing me £600 in one excess payment on one minor bump whilst reversing out of a parking space whilst distracted by squabbling grandkids.


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