Having an inventory (sometimes also called a statement of condition) is essential if the property is let furnished, and a very good idea even if it is unfurnished. An accurate and current inventory will help to protect the position of both parties and can provide evidence to prove the condition of the property at the time it was let.
Care should be taken when preparing an inventory. Make a detailed list of all the belongings and furniture provided when a tenant first moves in. It is also essential to record the condition of such things as walls, doors, windows, and carpets etc. The inventory should be agreed with the tenant before they move in and a separate copy of the list held by each party. This should then be checked again at the time the tenant moves out. The inventory will only provide protection if it is agreed by both parties and if it is thorough and detailed. If the inventory simply records ‘four chairs’, that says nothing about whether they match, or about their quality or condition. The condition of the furniture, including existing damage to the furniture and fittings, decorations and other contents should be noted on the inventory and agreed with the tenant.
Photographs are often a good idea, particularly with high value furnishings. With some properties, landlords and agents are now also taking videos but this has more limited value in dispute resolution as they are much harder to work with.
When taking photographs ensure not just the mark or stain being complained is photographed close up. A further photograph at a distance to show the mark or stain should be taken to show context and size.
A thorough and detailed inventory will help avoid disputes, particularly those involving the return of a deposit. It is advisable to keep all receipts and to make a record of the meter readings in the inventory. Remember that if there is a dispute over the condition of the property and this goes to court or a deposit scheme adjudicator, it will generally be for the landlord to prove the claim.
The tenancy deposits schemes (see next) have produced a useful joint guidance titled ‘Tenancy Deposits, Disputes and Damages’. This has useful guidance about producing inventories amongst other things. It is available to download here: http://www.depositprotection.com/documents/guide-to-deposits-disputes-damages-2013.pdf.
Taking an inventory is a long job and many landlords now use professional inventory clerks to do this for them. The advantage of this is that, if a dispute over the condition of the property ever happens, they will be able to give independent evidence to the judge. If a dispute about the condition of a property goes to court or to a deposit scheme adjudicator, generally it will be for the landlord to prove the claim that the deposit (or part of the deposit) should be withheld. Inventory clerks can be found via the website of the Association of Independent Inventory Clerks at www.theaiic.co.uk.