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Landlord lessons: preparing a property inventory

Wednesday 11 March 2015

Up until 6th April 2007 a tenant who felt they had been treated unfairly by their landlord over the amount of deposit they had been returned at the end of a tenancy had to go to court and argue their case with a judge, but this all changed when the tenancy deposit scheme was introduced.

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At present landlords have to protect tenants' deposits under government-backed schemes within 30 days of receiving it and serve set, prescribed information on their tenants about the process, also within 30 days.

Alongside this, the system used to resolve deposit disputes has also changed. It is no longer necessary for tenants to go to court with a grievance. Disagreements are now dealt with through independent arbitration – a much more flexible and less costly proposition.

Why should landlords use a property inventory?

The establishment of the tenancy deposit protection scheme in 2007 had the effect of emboldening tenants to take issue with theirs landlords' decisions over claims for the condition of a rental property much more frequently. For this reason it is essential that landlords prepare a property inventory or statement of condition.

What is a property inventory?

A property inventory, also known as a statement of condition, is a description of the condition of a property being let, which is signed and agreed as an accurate account as part of a tenancy agreement.

Should landlords prepare property inventories themselves or use lettings agents?

The key to preparing an inventory which will stand up during arbitration is thoroughness – one which will survive the burden of proof required by law will take more than 20 minutes to prepare. For those who do not have the time or simply cannot be bothered lettings agents will handle the job.

Another option is to use a specialist inventory clerk, which can cost between £100-150, depending on the size of the rental property.

How to prepare an inventory form

A good property inventory should divide the rental property into a series of rooms such as kitchen and lounge and common features such as conservatories, gardens and garages and then list the condition of each by describing the state of its doors, floors, light fittings and appliances, etc.

How to prepare a schedule of condition

The schedule of condition can be completed at the same time as the inventory and describes the state of a rental property’s contents. So, a coffee table may be described as newly-painted cream and unmarked.

The schedule of condition is vital as arguments over what constitutes fair wear and tear are frequent in tenancy. Landlords should take note here of the importance of retaining receipts in order to prove the condition of a property’s contents at the time when the tenancy was commenced.

Should I use photographs and video in a property inventory?

Using photos and video can be complicated. The amount of photos required can run into the hundreds, and landlords and tenants must each sign a copy. And less visible marks do not always show up on camera.

Another issue is verifying the date the evidence was taken. If a dispute were to go to court, then a landlord would have to prove the photos or video had been taken on the date stated. This should be done by writing them onto a CD ROM, as these cannot be rewritten.

What is fair wear and tear?

This is a slippery definition and one which leads most frequently to deposit disputes.

It is not easy to give an objective description of the line between excessive use over the course of a couple of years and reckless damage, but guidelines include an item’s original age, quality and condition at a tenancy’s commencement and its average lifespan to value ratio.

To read more about wear and tear visit the Association of Residential Letting Agents website.

If you found this guide useful then please visit the Simple Landlords Insurance News section for more helpful tips and advice.

 
 
 

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