What is an inventory and why have one?

I was once speaking to a landlord at a forum for lettings agents and landlords and we got onto the topic of inventories - the subject being my stock in trade. He remarked that he never has one done. "Each time I re-rent a property, I throw away damaged furnishings and get replacements from the local British Heart Foundation shop". Well if that works for him then well and good. I wouldn't recommend that as a viable strategy. It's not that difficult to get one done. There are plenty of resources available to do a decent job.

"What is the point of an inventory?", you might ask. Briefly, an inventory is a statement-of-condition report for a property at the point at which rental commences. It is also a record of all the items in the property and a place to verify the correct functioning and testing of safety devices such as smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors. Its principal purpose is to help protect the deposit from a tenant's perspective and the condition and contents of a property from a landlord's perspective. Ideally, it should be carried out by someone independent of both parties but that is not something mandated in law. The main objective is that it should be a fair reflection of the condition and contents, without any bias, and a document that can be used by a third party to arrive at a decision should a dispute arise.

To make that decision process as easy as possible, the report should contain a sufficient level of descriptive information - text and photographs. Any significant observations should be highlighted and be easy to review. The level of detail is important as often one work or phrase description can be easily interpreted differently. Whether an item is in "good condition" or not is be open to individual interpretation. So, it helps to have a glossary of terms as to what is meant by each level of condition, to provide some basis for the use of a term. "Good condition" might be defined as "an item or content that is not new, that has been used, but is still usable as intended and free from damage or contamination, or free from marks and scuffs in the case of walls, doors etc.". A good inventory will have a glossary with such terms and more defined.

It helps to have identifiable sections for meters, keys etc. Always look for images that time-stamped so there can be little doubt at check-in and ultimately at check-out. That brings us to the topic of multiple reports - Inventories, Check-ins and Check-outs. Something for next time. Till then, adios...

Ben, 24 July 2018