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Are You a First Time Landlord? The Importance of a Property Inventory …

After the Assured Shorthold Tenancy Agreement, it could be argued that the inventory is the most important document for both the Landlord and the Tenant(s) relating to the letting of a residential property.

Inventories are normally carried out by a Letting Agent, a Specialist Inventory Clerk or maybe a Landlord, and should be compiled prior to the start of any new tenancy. A good quality inventory is essential as it can be used to establish whether or not any claims for damages at the end of tenancy are justified.

The written inventory should confirm the date it was conducted (usually a day or so before the tenancy begins) and contain a thorough descriptive list of the contents, fixtures and fittings and general condition of everything within the property prior to the new Tenant(s) picking up the keys. A full photographic record should also be included to support the written document. It should detail the interior decoration (ceilings, walls and floors) the condition, colour and quality of the carpets, the light fittings, door furniture and should be listed on a room by room basis. Any defects such as marks, paintwork, stains to carpets and scratches to surfaces should be described and photographed as well as the good parts. Unlike a set of sales particulars, the inventory is not designed to highlight only the good parts of the property. It should be a “warts and all” record and provide an accurate representation of the property as it stands.

Tenant(s) are given copies of the inventory at the start of the tenancy and are required to sign and return a copy to the agent or Landlord stating they agree with the content. They will usually have the opportunity to make any amendments they feel are necessary so that both they and the Landlord are satisfied.

Most Tenants will pay a deposit at the start of their tenancy which should be held in a Registered Deposit Scheme until the tenancy finishes. At the end of the tenancy, a final inspection is carried out and the signed inventory is used as evidence to check for any discrepancies that may have arisen relating to damage or neglect caused by the Tenant(s) since the start of the tenancy. There has to be an allowance made for “fair wear and tear” particularly if the Tenant(s) have lived in the property for a long period of time.

Should the Tenant disagree with any decisions made by the Landlord or Letting Agent in respect of retaining monies from the deposit to pay for repairs, they can dispute it (and so can the Landlord) through an appointed Adjudicator representing the company protecting the deposit. This is usually done online and at this point, the Adjudicator would request all relevant documents and evidence from both parties. The original inventory along with notes from the final inspection should provide the Adjudicator with a sound basis from which to make a decision. If there is no inventory or clear photographic evidence available it would not be possible for the Landlord to pursue it any further.

Often, disputes can be won or lost on the basis of insufficient photographic evidence to substantiate a claim. A visual record of gardens (including lawns and flower beds), hobs and ovens, bathroom sealant and tiles should be logged with the inventory as these are usually the most common cause of dispute.

For both Landlords and Tenant(s), a quality signed inventory document is worth its weight in gold!

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