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As a landlord, when you put a new tenant into the property you want them to return it in a fair condition. But how do you prove that the property was or wasn't returned in a fair condition? That is where an inventory report is INVALUABLE!
Take a look at this example Check-In Report, the exact one we used for the property in the video shown above!
Also known as:
An inventory simply records the condition of the property at the time a new tenant moves into the property.
When a tenant moves out and the property isn't returned in the same condition, you need evidence to show if damage had genuinely occurred during their stay. The best evidence you can hold is an Inventory Check-In Report but an Inventory Check-Out Report is equally important, we will speak about that shortly. Usually, disputes are easy to solve directly with your tenant, but if you aren't coming to a solution then it may be best to turn to an adjudicator.
An adjudicator is an unbiased third party that decides if to award your claim or to reject your claim if he deems it baseless. All adjudicators are legally qualified and very well-versed to come to a fair decision. His decision is final, so if you make a claim again your tenant it is critical that you get your claim robust the first time around. You want to be able to prove to the adjudicator very clearly what the condition of the property was like before and after so that it is very clear that the tenant is responsible for any damage caused during the time the tenant lived there.
There so many different ways landlords and letting agents choose to document the condition of the property. Such as, but not limited to:
I've seen all sorts over the years when new clients wish to move over to us and from inspecting their paperwork before they come onboard. If a landlord doesn't know the infinite things that can possibly go wrong, then it's difficult to protect them from it again. Knowledge is key here, so let's go over the inventory essentials that you cannot afford to overlook.
This cannot be emphasised enough. I've see it year after year landlords and letting agents making very basic, yet easily preventable mistakes, which cause them to fail to prove to an adjudicator the condition of the property before and after the tenancy. After all, an inventory is there to protect you in case the property isn't returned in an acceptable condition.
1. Property Address
Seems obvious, but it's surprising how easily this can be overlooked. If it's not mentioned, or worse the wrong address is written, then you'll have a very hard time proving your case to the adjudicator.
2. Tenant Name
Easily missed, the inventory report must relate to the tenant. Otherwise, it could have been for a previous tenant.
3. Embedded photographs
Words are great, but a picture is worth a thousand words. A small scuff crack may still be small even though it's gotten bigger, but with a picture it's very clear the exact extent. The walls being in a reasonable condition could mean almost anything, but if a picture is present then the exact condition is evident.
Equally, the photographs should ideally be embedded into the document so that is it is clear these are the relating photographs.
Often, and easily missed:
It's easy to become lazy and not be as thorough. But you never know what you might need to claim for, so you must cover all areas.
Is the property furnished or unfurnished? If so, what belongs to who? Imagine this scenario; you have a new tenant moving in soon and they buy the dining table and sofa from your old tenant. You had given the property unfurnished, but when you took the images the sofa and dining table were in the images. 3 years later the tenants move out but leave the sofa and dining table behind. How do you prove the table and sofa didn't belong to you and wasn't provided at the beginning of the tenancy? Having a picture alone doesn't prove anything as it doesn't explain the ownership, hence a description is very handy here as it makes that very clear.
If it's not mentioned, then it is assumed that it belongs to the landlord. If you are giving furniture then it would be a good idea to write down the condition if possible, and to ensure you take clear photos showing the condition.
5. Utility Meter Readings
Keep a record of the electric, gas and water meters. What were the readings when the tenant moved in? If you get this wrong, you may end up paying for bills that weren't yours to pay. Best practice is to take a photo of the reading as that makes it clear that it was an accurate reading.
6. Date And Time Stamps.
If the date here doesn't match the date the tenant moved in, you'll have a problem. Or worse, if the date is missing completely. How will the adjudicator take the evidence to be reliable without a date?
One of the common ones I've seen is the letter box key missing from the inventory, and not returned to the landlord. So be sure to keep record of what keys are given such as, but not limited to:
8. Safety Alarm Testing
When testing the safety alarms, smoke alarm, carbon monoxide etc. When doing that, it would be good to take a picture of you doing the test by holding your hand against the test button.
This is also a good time to check any white goods provided are working such as fridge freezer, cooker, washing machine. Also, to check the toilet flushes and the water runs in all the taps.
Two reasons why this is important. Firstly, is that it gives the tenant and opportunity to read the report and be sure there is no misrepresentation of the condition. For example, if the walls are in a bad condition but from the report and photos, they look perfectly fine, the tenant is justified to ask you to amend the report as it's not an accurate representation of the condition it was given in. Secondly, a signature means they've acknowledged, read, and agreed with the content of the report making it binding. This shuts all the doors to any excuses a tenant could make in the future such as not receiving a copy, or the report being misrepresentative.
If you are producing a paper-based inventory then all the pages should be initialled, if it's an electronic report then a single signature at the end will suffice.
If you are in a dispute, you want there to be no shadow of doubt regarding the condition of the property before and after the tenancy. If an adjudicator is involved then remember that you are trying to convince someone who doesn't know anything about the property, it is a fresh pair of eyes, and is only deciding based on what they can see, and not based on what they are told.
Great, so you've got a good idea of what is important in an inventory, but an 'Inventory Check-In Report' is TOTALLY USELESS without an 'Inventory Check-Out Report'. So, it is equally important to know what a strong checkout report looks like. Having said that, you may or may not know what constitutes as Fair Wear and Tear and end up wasting a huge amount of time preparing a claim for something that you cannot claim for.
Hence it is very important to know how to correctly produce an 'Inventory Check-Out Report' and to have a strong understanding of "Fair Wear and Tear".
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