An inventory is an essential tool for landlords in the efficient and effective management of the property they let. Indeed, so important is such a document that it may need to be drawn up and agreed between both landlord and tenant not only at the beginning of any new tenancy but also at the end of it – and updated regularly in between.
The reason for such importance being attached to inventories may become clearer by taking a brief look at just what is an inventory.
In essence, the inventory represents an agreement between the landlord and tenants on the current condition and state of repair of every item in the let property. Some newbie landlords and many tenants may be mistaken in thinking that an inventory is restricted to items such as the furniture in the place or the amount and condition of crockery, cutlery and pots and pans. In fact, it covers everything from floor to ceiling:
- the flooring and floor coverings such as carpets or linoleum;
- the condition of any windows and the curtains or blinds at those windows;
- the walls and any coverings on the walls, such as wallpaper;
- the ceiling;
- the condition and serviceability of any gas or electrical appliances;
- furniture – including chairs, tables, sofas, beds and other items; and
- kitchen appliances, such as cookers, fridges, microwaves, washing machines, any other appliances and such items as crockery, cutlery and pots and pans.
A simple model inventory is suggested by the housing charity Shelter, but such documented agreements may be considerably more detailed and complicated.
Many tenancies may last more than a few years, of course, and any initial inventory is likely to become outdated through normal wear and tear of the premises and any damage or breakages caused by the tenant.
For the avoidance of any eventual doubt and in order to monitor the way in which the tenant may be using the let property, therefore, it is in both parties’ interests for the inventory to be updated on a regular basis – say once a year. You might need to remember, however, that you need to give the tenant reasonable notice of any request to visit the premises in order to conduct an inventory.
When creating an inventory, it may be useful to take photos before the start of the tenancy of any large items, so that there is proof of what the item looked like. These can be attached to the inventory so that the tenant can agree the condition of the item or items.
More important than ever
The introduction of deposit protection schemes for the safekeeping of tenants’ deposits against possible damage and breakages has made the need for inventories and for up to date inventories more important than ever. The argument is taken up in more detail in an article published by the National Landlords’ Association.
When the deposit is first taken it is important for tenant and landlord to agree on the state and condition of the premises from the very start, since the deposit is intended to be security against any change in that state of affairs.
For tenancies that started after the 6th of April 2007, the deposit needs to be placed for safekeeping with a third party deposit protection scheme – on pain of the landlord being ordered by the courts to repay to the tenant up to three times the amount of the original deposit.
At the end of the tenancy, the inventory is likely to be used by tenant and landlord in agreeing the proportion of the deposit to be returned to the tenant and any amount to be retained by the landlord to cover the cost of breakages or damage. If agreement is not reached, the dispute may be taken to the arbitration service offered by all of the deposit protection services and a critical document informing their decision is likely to be the inventory.