Is it worth paying for an inventory?
Yes, in theory. Inventories are supposed to accurately record the condition of properties and all of their contents and they should be used to create check-in reports, which both landlords and tenants sign at the outset to confirm that these are an accurate description of the properties.
At the end of the tenancy, you have a check out report, which you can compare to the check-in to decide whether any deductions from the tenant’s deposit are necessary.
There are plenty of companies offering inventories and check-in and check-out reports. Costs in London range from about £120 for an inventory and check-in report for a studio, rising to about £175 for a 4-bed property. Furnished properties cost more. A check-out report costs slightly less.
Usually the cost of inventories paid by the landlord and the tenant and landlord split the cost of the check-in and check-out reports.
Both landlord and tenant can use the reports as evidence if they end up in a dispute at the end of a tenancy about the condition of the property or its contents. A good inventory clerk will note on the check-out report any damage, stating whether it is the tenant’s or landlord’s responsibility or whether it’s simply ‘fair wear and tear’.
ARE INVENTORIES A LEGAL REQUIREMENT?
It’s not a legal obligation to provide inventories and check-in reports, but it is advisable. It can help avoid disputes at the end of the tenancy, it can be produced as evidence if you do get into an argument with the tenant, and it tells them that you care about your property and its contents.
Given that they’re not expensive I’d be inclined towards using a professional company to prepare inventories as they do involve a lot of effort.
Make sure the original inventory is sent to you as a document that can easily be updated when you add or remove furniture or carry out any furbishments – some firms provide PDFs that can’t be altered, which means you have to get a new one prepared every time you add or remove furniture or the condition of the property is significantly altered. Clearly a check-in report shouldn’t be tampered with, but you’ll want to amend an inventory between tenancies.
If you do use an inventory outfit I wouldn’t leave it until the last minute to get one prepared – leave yourself plenty of time to bring to their attention any errors they need to rectify because I’ve found that most are a little bit slapdash and they always make some mistakes.
Make sure you are present for the preparation of the inventory, check-in and check-out so you can point out any matters you want included in the report. Many don’t automatically include gardens or balconies, but you’d be surprised how much damage can be cause outside (my tenants once dug up the lawn to turn it into a vegetable patch, plus their kid kicked holes in my fence), so you should make sure they are added to the inventory.
The tenant doesn’t have to be present for the check-in or check-out reports but you should give them the option in case any disputes arise later.
You should ask your tenant to read the check-in report, note any changes they wish to make and sign a copy of the report to show that they accept it is an accurate description of the property and contents.
If you’ve got time, you could prepare the reports yourself. As long as you get tenants to sign them to say they are accurate, these should stand up in court. Take lots of timed and dated photos for the tenant to sign when they move in to say they are an accurate representation of the property, contents and their condition. A video’s not a bad idea either.
Make sure gardens are balconies are included in the inventory.
Don’t leave it till the last minute to get one prepared, the clerk is bound to make mistakes that need to be rectified.
Also, the clerk might spot some problems you’d overlooked, which you can sort out before the tenant moves in if you’ve given yourself time.