A detailed, comprehensive property inventory is an essential document for both landlords and tenants. The inventory primarily serves as a means of reference and fact-checking, should a possible dispute arise between tenant and landlord. An inventory should help to promote a positive relationship between the tenant and landlord, and this is necessary throughout the tenancy but is especially important at the outset.
The inventory is a document, or essentially two separate documents, which details the contents and condition of each room in the property, usually with accompanying photographs. A ‘check-in’ inventory will be drawn up before the new tenant moves into the property. This will outline the property’s condition at the start of the tenancy and note the property’s fixtures, fittings, furniture and state of its décor. The check-in inventory will set expectations for the tenant on how they should maintain the property during their tenancy, and the tenant will be required to read and sign it.
A second ‘check-out’ inventory will then be drawn up when the tenant is due to leave the property, which will detail the property’s condition at the end of the tenancy. The check-out inventory will be compared with the check-in inventory. If this comparison throws up any discrepancies or any disagreements arise, liability will need to be established (again, the inventories will be used for this).
The two signed inventories will be used in evidence by an adjudicator should a dispute arise between the tenant and landlord about the property’s condition, so it is vital that both inventories are thorough in detail, unequivocally-expressed, and accurate.
The main reason why an inventory is necessary is its ability to help landlords and tenants avoid disputes. The inventory should state who is responsible for maintenance and repair. For example, if the bathroom door handle is loose at the start of the tenancy and it breaks off completely during the tenancy, the landlord is liable to fix it. The inventory will help landlords and tenants avoid a disagreement over who is liable for repairs and maintenance and allow for clarity on what can be classed as wear and tear.
Wear and tear is inevitable during a tenancy, but because an inventory details the condition of all items in the property and the property itself at the start of a tenancy, if items are broken or need to be replaced, then the landlord can refer to the inventory. The cost of replacing any items can then be deducted from the tenant’s deposit, compensating the landlord.
The two inventories effectively safeguard the tenant’s deposit. If the tenant leaves the property in the same condition as they found it (save a little wear and tear) then this should be reflected in the inventory and the tenant can expect their deposit to be returned in full. The inventory also acts as a guide for the tenant, so as they approach the end of their tenancy, they can use the inventory as a checklist to ensure the property is returned in the same condition as it was found.
An accurate inventory which is agreed by the tenant and drawn up by the landlord or letting agent is crucial in helping to ensure a smooth tenancy. It should save both the landlord and tenant a great deal of worry and stress and promote harmony in their relationship.