Active Inventories

How to carry out a residential property letting inventory

By Tony Catchpole

A General guide
Before reading on it may be useful for the reader to understand why an inventory is required.

Whether you’re a landlord or tenant it is important that an inventory is taken of the contents and condition of a property to safeguard landlords and tenants interests and to minimise the risk of disputes during and especially at the end of a tenancy.

The object of the exercise
What you are trying to achieve with an inventory is to capture an accurate and true list of the contents and condition of a property. An advantage is that tenants may take better care of a property as they will be aware that the landlord is serious about the condition and contents of a property. Knowing that there is a detailed inventory, and to protect their deposit tenants may be positively encouraged to return the property in the condition that they found it in at the start of their tenancy.

Before the inventory inspection
Prepare the property so it is ready for tenants to move in to in all respects. This may involve carrying out any repairs that may be necessary, cleaning the property and possibly having curtains and carpets professionally cleaned. The reason for this is that it will make commenting on items of the inventory less complicated and lead to less ‘check in’ comments by tenants. A landlord should ensure that they are complying with all their legal responsibilities and have all the relevant safety certification, safety labels, appliance manuals and tenants information pack ready and visible so that these can be mentioned in the inventory.
Tip: If you have carpets and / or curtains professional cleaned mention this on the inventory so that your tenants will be expected to return the property in the same condition if necessary. Keep receipts and show these at ‘check in’.

Personal Safety / Insurance
We suggest you fully research personal safety procedures and be aware of any related issues when carrying out inventories. It is beyond the scope of this guide to provide information on this issue other than to suggest that full precautions should always be taken to protect your personal safety. We suggest that you are fully insured for all eventualities in all respects to cover any activities you may undertake in carrying out inventories.

Image or video evidence
We suggest you take extensive images or video to detail all aspects of a property as evidence to back up an inventory report. If this is done we suggest also supplying all parties with copies such as on a CD or DVD disk.

Inventory inspection general
Expect to spend 15 to 30 minutes for each room if this is your first inventory. The first room usually takes the longest to complete. After this many aspects of a properties items such as flooring, wall and ceiling decoration may follow through from room to room allowing you to make comments such as ‘continues in style and finish from hallway’ etc. The same may apply to window design, internal door design and fittings, skirting boards, ceiling coving etc. Although this may be the case each area items need to be examined for damages and wear etc. Whilst you are completing the inventory you should be looking for any damage to room list items and cleanliness.
Tip: It is better to be honest about recording the true condition of items and condition as discrepancies may be picked up by the tenant when they check the inventory and will lead to time wasting.
Tip: If you can only spend a short time at the property it is a good idea to take photographs of each room or area to refer to later. Typically, with a digital camera, we photograph every room from each corner plus the ceiling and floor.

The inventory inspection procedure
Start your inspection by having a quick walk around the property and rooms to get a general overview of the property.
Tip: Fill in the ‘General Comments’ form (decorations, flooring, cleanliness and other) at the end of the inventory as at that time you will have a thorough overview of the property.
Tip: All the room forms follow the same pattern / order of inspection. i.e. Door, Ceiling, Walls, Floorings etc.

Entrance
Starting from the front door or porch tick items that are present on the relevant form. If necessary make brief concise comments that describe an items condition as you go. For instance ‘Door Furniture’, Brass door knocker. Brass tarnished. Cross through any items that are not on the forms lists.
Tip: Add any items you find that are not on the room form list in the ‘Other’ section at the end of the room list form.

Hallway and beyond
When you have recorded all the outside entrance detail continue on the inside the property following the order of the room form items making necessary comments as you go. Remember many properties have ceiling, wall decorations and floorings etc. that continue throughout a property so that once you have commented the first time if there is a reoccurrence in another room you can make simple comments such as ‘continues in decoration, style and design from hallway’ etc. Follow the order of the forms and fill in the details for all the rooms. The kitchen will probably be the most complicated room to complete. Follow the form items order to make sure you capture all the items.
Tip: If for instance carpet or flooring threshold strips are present in the hallway to rooms leading off mention them on the hallway form. You can then, as they have been mentioned once, ignore them for subsequent rooms leading of the hallway. Tip: If all the windows in a property are of the same type and design you can describe the first one you find as you follow the forms in full detail. All subsequent windows of the same type can be referred to in a simple fashion such as ‘Same as Living Room in style and design. This can apply to any number of items in the property that follow a similar pattern such as ceiling and wall decorations etc. This will make the inventory easier to complete and read.

Prepare the inventory for tenant check in
When you have completed all the rooms and areas for your inventory you will need to make copies. One each for the tenant, landlord and managing agents. (If you have one.) Thus at the ‘check in’ stage every party to the tenancy has the same inventory document. File the copies in to rigid ring folders so they are easy to handle by the users. This will also make the inventory harder for the tenant to loose.

Check in
A copy of the inventory as previously prepared should be presented to a tenant at the time of their checking in to the property at the start of the tenancy and / or at the same time the tenancy agreement is signed. We suggest that a landlord never give the keys to the tenant before they have signed the check in declaration and initialled all the pages of the inventory document.

Check in practicalities
A tenant may be unwilling to sign the check in declaration and initial agreement to all the pages of an inventory the landlord or his clerk have prepared until they have had a chance to thoroughly examine the property and compare this to the inventory document and to make any required check in comments. The templates contain check in and check out declarations on the Tenancy Details section to cover this eventuality. If the tenants return their commented upon inventory copy the landlord can go over any aspects not agreed with and resolve these before both parties initial any changes. At this stage both landlord and tenant should be in agreement, happy and comfortable that at the end of the tenancy both parties can rely on the inventory in checking for damages, dilapidation, missing items and the condition of cleanliness etc. In any event we suggest that the inventory should be signed and initialled as detailed above before handing possession to a tenant.
Tip: Make sure that the tenants and landlords copies or amended copies of the inventory are exactly the same at this stage and file in a safe place in readiness for the tenants ‘check out at the end of their tenancy.

Check out
At a reasonable time prior to the tenants vacating the property write to them politely requesting that they reinstate all the inventory items to their original positions and clean the property to the standard that they found at the beginning of their tenancy. Hopefully your tenants will comply with this request as they will be keen to regain their deposit.
Tip: Offer them a copy of the inventory for reference in the event that they have lost their copy
Tip: Invite them to report any damage to items that they may be unable to repair so that the cost can be calculated at the earliest opportunity.

Check out inspection
Using the inventory signed and initialed at check in carry out a thorough inspection of the property. You will need to take in to account fair wear and tear of any items that have deteriorated during the tenancy. Bring to your tenants attention any items that you feel are damaged or missing inviting them to comment, With their comments in mind present your tenants with a written list of items that are damaged and / or missing noting the cost of replacement / reinstatement.
Tip: At the time of ‘check out’ we recommend good open communications with the tenants so that they are confident you are reasonable and approachable. Hopefully this attitude will be reciprocated

Important considerations
All applicable items of safety should be in place before the tenancy commences.
⊙ Gas Safety Certificate for the property.
⊙ Electrical Safety Test certification for the property.
⊙ Electrical Portable Appliances Tested and marked with valid inspection stickers.
⊙ Instructions / user manuals for appliances and equipment installed.
⊙ Furnishings labelling that state compliance with safety regulations.
⊙ Smoke Alarm batteries replaced & tested.
⊙ Any installed fire equipment checked.
⊙ Any other items of health and safety or other items not mentioned here.

Scope of these instructions
All of the above details represent a general guide to carrying out residential property letting inventories in England. This guide and any information contained therein should not be interpreted as legal advice, health and safety advice or a definitive list of any statutory legal or health and safety regulations that may apply to the reader’s obligations. In our view it is a landlord’s sole responsibility to ensure that all legal and statutory requirements are complied with in relation to any tenancy created or in force for their properties.

Scope of these instructions
All of the above details represent a general guide to carrying out residential property letting inventories in England. This guide and any information contained therein should not be interpreted as legal advice, health and safety advice or a definitive list of any statutory legal or health and safety regulations that may apply to the reader’s obligations. In our view it is a landlord’s sole responsibility to ensure that all legal and statutory requirements are complied with in relation to any tenancy created or in force for their properties.

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