In this article:
- 1 What is a tenancy inventory
- 2 Who has to do the inventory report
- 3 How to perform an inventory report
- 4 Deposit disputes and the importance of the inventory
- 5 Where to go for help
What is a tenancy inventory
The inventory report is a document, sometimes accompanied with digital media, that documents the property, its contents and their condition. Two identical inventory reports are performed during every tenancy – one before the tenant moves in with their luggage and another one when the tenant moves out with all their belongings. These reports are imperative to both landlords and tenants because they legally benchmark the quality of the property for future reference.
After your tenancy agreement and receipts of rent payment, there is nothing more important than your inventory, as far as documentation goes.
Note: Other synonyms you might encounter are: move in / move out inventory, check in / check out inventory, “schedule of condition“, tenancy inventory, etc. They all mean the same thing with some referencing the specific edition of the inventory report.
The inventory reports are important for both the landlord and the tenant. Both have an interest to get the property’s contents and condition documented for future reference. The two reports, when conducted properly, will clearly show how the property’s changed during your reign. If you and your landlord go into a dispute over damages, hygiene or other matters, the inventory will be the most significant piece of evidence. The adjudicator that will review your dispute will exclusively use the inventory to form their judgement.
Knowing the standard of the property at the start of your tenancy helps to set clear expectations of the maintenance required of you. Inventories also help safeguard tenants against unfair deductions from their deposit when moving out of a property.
Who has to do the inventory report
Inventory duties are typically the landlord’s, as it’s his property that needs to be inventoried. The task can be performed by the landlord, letting agent, a third party supplier or even the tenant. It can happen without the tenant’s presence, but it needs to be signed by both parties or its legitimacy might not hold in a formal dispute.
Inventories are required to have a clear and easy to follow structure. They must represent accurate information about the condition of the property and should be agreed to by the tenant to be officially recognised as evidence.
What good inventories need to include
- Full names and addresses of the landlord, tenants and letting agents, if any
- The date when the inventory was conducted and the person who conducted it
- A thorough list of the interior and exterior, décor/fixtures and fittings
- The condition of these items (e.g. ‘small scratches to surface’ or ‘brand new, never used’)
- Meter readings/serial numbers/key lists
- Embedded photographs (if these are not embedded in the document they should be signed and referenced to the corresponding part of the inventory)
- Any relevant receipts (e.g. end of tenancy cleaning performed before the tenant has moved in)
- Signatures from the landlord and tenant/s including date/s agreeing to the inventory
- Pages should be initialled
The first of two inventories (move in) should be performed right before the tenant goes into occupation. Ideally this should happen before you move your luggage and furniture in, when property will be in its top condition.
The second inventory (move out) should be performed right after the tenant has moved out their luggage and before returning the keys to the landlord. This is also called a “final inspection” for obvious reasons. It’s important that you’re given a chance to clean up and do repairs before the final inspection.
As a tenant, it’s in your best interest to attend both of the inventories and to take active participation. If any damage is missed out on the check in report, you might find yourself in an infuriating situation where you’d pay for damage you have not caused. That’s why you need to be careful and look for any controversial items alongside your landlord. Make sure everything is included and don’t sign anything before all items are listed and even photographed.
How to perform an inventory report
It’s not very often that renters need to compile an inventory report, but some occasions might require it and you will only have one chance to do it right. If you missed the initial inspection, you must absolutely perform your own inventory. Also get your landlord to sign it the same way you would.
The way you would approach the inventory is room by room and item by item. You want to arm yourself with a good quality digital camera and pen and paper and just document everything while you go.
What to look for during the inventory
- Integrity of the walls, ceiling and floors
- Surface damage – stains, scuff marks, dings, dents, nail holes, mould and mildew
- Condition of windows and frames – worn out sealant, chipped paint, cracks in the glass, rot on the frame, mould in and around
- Condition of the furniture – rips and tears on the upholstery, visible impacts on the wooden surfaces, broken legs and other missing features, fire safety requirements
- Cabinets and wardrobes – deformation, hanging doors, squeaky hinges
- Condition of the carpets and curtains – stains, cigarette burns, tears and rips, fiber deterioration, discoloration
- Condition of the electrical appliances, power grid, sockets, fuses and light switches
- Condition of the gas appliances and gas supply
- Water flow through all taps and outlets, colour and quality of the water, slow or blocked drains, poor sanitation facilities, limescale and rust
- Heating and hot water working properly
- Cracked sinks, baths, tiles
- Mouldy or crumbling grout or sealants
- Door and window locks – squeaky hinges, hanging doors or not closing properly
- External walls – cracks, missing render or insulation
- Roof – missing roof tiles, deformation, rotten supports and joists
- Gutters – blockage, rust, holes or other damage
This list is in no way everything you need to check, but should give you general guidance where and what to look for. The second report is easier than the first – you simply need to re-do it and note any changes in the condition.
Hot tips for preparing the inventory report
Use a spreadsheet format to list all items and grade their condition (bad, good, brand new, etc.). Keep all detailed descriptions on the side and reference them in the spreadsheet.
Take high resolution, well light photos of the subject matter. Try to stay clear of art compositions and instead make the clearest possible photo with the damage in question. Of course, shoot multiple angles.
Use a newspaper in the photo as proof for the date and also turn on the timestamping option in your camera. Neither of those are direct proof for the time and date at which you’ve made the photos. However, having them both makes them that much more believable.
Take a few broad photos of each room to catch the general feel and condition. Focus on the details and expensive pieces such as electrical appliances, furniture, windows, etc.
Often unnecessary, but you have the option to make a video inventory. Don’t put in too much effort, but if you have a Gopro lying around, you might as well turn it on, while you do the walkthrough.
Print the most significant photos and try to get your landlord to sign them off. Also include a reference to them in the inventory report.
Write detailed description for each issue encountered and listed in the inventory. Reference specific photos in your writing.
Make sure both sides have been supplied with copies of all your documentation and photographs from the inventory.
Ask your landlord to sign the inventory you’ve made. If they refuse, get an unbiased person to sign it and provide a statement if requested later on.
Deposit disputes and the importance of the inventory
Doing inventories of somebody else’s property might just be one of the most boring activities you can do as a tenant. However, the check in / out report can both save and completely destroy you deposit and financial security.
The tenancy deposit is by law the tenant’s money. It’s not a property of the landlord and by default should be returned in full after the tenancy ends. It’s the landlord who needs to initiate and request deductions from the tenant’s deposit. Therefore, the common rule is applied and the tenant is innocent unless the landlord can prove otherwise.
When the check out report is completed, the landlord will cross check the two inventories and make a list of deductions. Collect all your carefully conducted inventories and photographs and muster for battle.
Contact your landlord with a detailed response to each item they want to deduct money for. Reference both inventory reports and provide your own materials to back your position. If you’re well prepared and you legitimately haven’t caused any damage or deterioration to the property, most landlords will just back down and accept defeat.
If they don’t, the deposit protection scheme, where your deposit is held needs to get involved and provide resolution to your dispute. When landlord and tenant cannot agree on the deposit, the deposit scheme can provide a free Alternative Dispute Resolution service. It’s essentially a small court like process that will hear both sides and provide judgement over the deposit. You will get contacted and must provide all relevant documents, inventories and materials.
The adjudicator will take their time to digest the landlord’s claim and all documents and materials on the dispute. Afterwards, they will provide a resolution attributing the entire, part or none of the deposit to the landlord. The remainder will be returned to the tenant.
In cases where the claim is vague and the photographs unclear or completely missing, adjudicators mostly rule in favour of the tenant simply because of the lack of legitimate evidence. However, you should NOT rely on this alone and always prepare for a potential dispute early on in the tenancy, when you have the chance to do so.
Where to go for help
If you’re missing or have never received the move in inventory report, contact your landlord or letting agent. This document needs to be made available to you and must get your signature to be officially recognised.
If you have any problems with your inventory reports, you need to contact your tenancy deposit scheme and ask them for information. They will be the most reliable source of information, since they will be reviewing the inventory in a dispute.
This article is provided as a guide. The Tenants’ Voice is NOT a legal advice specialist site and our content authors are NOT housing law specialists.
The Tenants’ Voice advises tenants to act courteously and reasonably in all communications and dealings with regard to their tenancy. If you suspect an infringement of your rights then seek advice and support from a regulated professional. The Tenants’ Voice recommends Shelter https://www.shelter.org.uk/ 0808 800 4444
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