Inventories: a landlord's Achilles heel?

Inventory list

8 years ago, deposit protection was introduced to help settle any disputes between landlords and tenants when tenancy agreements come to an end. The scheme made it clear that only hard evidence can be used in settlement deposit disputes and it laid down the rules for both parties.

So, why, 8 years on, are disputes still arising between landlords and tenants at the end of a tenancy agreement? The answer is simple, poorly constructed inventories which fail to document the condition of a property prior to tenants moving in. We've previously discussed the importance of watertight inventories, but advice set out by the Association of Independent Inventory Clerks (AIIC) has revealed that landlords make a couple of glaring mistakes when it comes to inventories which puts them on the back foot in deposit disputes.

Biggest inventory mistakes

Failure to create one

Believe it or not, there have been documented cases of landlords failing to produce a property inventory. By not producing said document, a landlord is leaving themselves vulnerable, as unless a tenant leaves the property completely uninhabitable, it's unlikely the TDP will rule in their favour as there is no proof of the original state of the property. There has even been a case of a tenant removing all the high quality John Lewis furniture from a property and replacing it with cheaper IKEA products, but because there was no inventory, there was no proof that the John Lewis furniture actually existed!

Lack of detail

The AIIC also noted that many landlords just create a brief shopping list for an inventory and fail to include appropriate photographs as well as a written description detailing the condition of a property and its contents. The most commonly missed parts of an inventory are the condition of bathroom fittings such as toilets, showers, bathtubs and sinks. Many inventories also fail to document the full condition of kitchen units, the garden (where applicable), floor coverings and interior décor such as paint marks.

AIIC inventory advice for landlords

Without a detailed inventory, landlords and even letting agents could face expensive repair bills when the tenant moves out. Thankfully, these bills can be easily avoided with a professional inventory and the AIIC has offered landlords some useful advice.

Always have one and don't do it yourself

It goes without saying that every tenancy agreement should be accompanied by an up-to-date inventory, but the AIIC recommends that landlords leave the creation of one to professional letting agents. Professionals know how to draft a specialised inventory and more importantly, know where major issues commonly appear and can take the necessary precautions to ensure landlords aren't left out of pocket. Although it's cheaper for landlords to draft their own inventory, if a tenant has caused unnecessary damage to the property, the final repair bills will likely be higher than the cost of hiring a professional to draft an inventory in the first place!

Make sure the property is fit for letting

Landlords should ensure that their property is thoroughly inspected and cleaned before new tenants arrive. If the property is in a poor state at check-in, it's not likely to improve come check-out; what's more, if the poor state of the property is documented in an inventory, landlords won't be able to easily claim for further damage later on!

Be present at the check-in

To make sure the inventory is as accurate as possible and reduce the chances of further complications down the line, landlords should be present on the moving-in day for tenants. This allows all parties to go through the inventory, ask questions and sign the agreement with a mutual understanding. It is also best for tenants and landlords to both be present on the check-out day to make sure any problems that do arise are properly explained.

Communication is key!

Even though an inventory is there to protect landlords, it's not there as a money-grabbing document! Landlords must expect their property to suffer from general wear and tear and account for it. However, with good communication most issues can be resolved with ease and a property will then likely be kept in as good a condition as possible.

Are you a landlord looking to rent out your property? If so, the team at CPS Homes can help from sourcing you tenants to creating professional inventories that will protect your interests as well as those of your tenants. To speak with one of our team, please visit us in one of our three branches across Cardiff or drop us a message on Facebook, Google+ or Twitter!

10 June 2015

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