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The Tenancy Inventory Check

Inventory reports are some of the most important documents related to your rented property. They are extremely important for successfully claiming back your deposit when you leave the property. Read more below to learn about inventory reports and your responsibilities as a tenant

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Fast facts

  • Inventories are reports that accurately describe the condition of a rental property, so they can be used to assess claims for damages at the end of the tenancy.
  • Tenancy inventory checks are essential for resolving deposit disputes at the end of the tenancy.
  • Formal adjudication relies heavily on the inventory to decide if tenants have caused the property to lose value.
  • It’s always recommended to use the services of a professional inventory company or a trustworthy letting agent for producing the inventory reports.
  • Inventories should be as detailed as possible and always include photo or video to remove all doubt.
  • Tenants should request a copy of the inventory after it is completed and verify it’s accuracy ASAP.
  • When the inventory is not accurate or complete, tenants need to note all issues and submit them to the relevant party for inclusion in the report.
  • You are always welcome to make your own inventory even when your landlord has made another version.
  • Tenancy inventory checks are widely used and recommended, but not legally required.
  • In cases where no move-in inventory is produced, tenant are often exempt on damages claims. It’s the landlord’s responsibility to prove that the tenant has done damage to the property and thus that deposit deductions are due.

What is a tenancy inventory

The inventory report is a document, 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.

The inventory reports are the third most important document related to your tenancy. The tenancy agreement and receipts of rent payments are obviously number one and two.

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 their property that needs to be inventoried. The task can be performed by the landlord, letting agent, a professional inventory company or even the tenant. It can happen without the tenant’s presence, but it’s recommended to be signed by both parties or its legitimacy might be questioned 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.

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 notified before the final inspection, so you can have a chance to clean up and do repairs.

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 problems and issues are listed and even photographed.

Letting agents and professional inventory companies

Landlords and tenants are good at inspecting properties, but they are not property professionals. They don’t receive training on property inspections and are prone to error, as well as to rigging the results in their favour.

Both have an interest in manipulating the reports. Landlords would benefit from hiding problems during the move-in report, so they become the tenants’ responsibility and thus discounted from their deposit. On the other hand, on the move-out report, tenants would benefit from hiding as many problems as they can, so they can claim their deposit in full.

Of course, all parties are strongly recommended to participate in the drafting and amending of either report to avoid situations like the above. However, in real-world scenarios, it’s often difficult to make edits to an already prepared inventory and things can easily slip by, only to resurface when it’s too late to fix.

Letting agents typically fill in the voids between the two. If you can trust your agent to do a good job, then the inventory is best left to them. Typically, letting agents that are accredited by any of the big industry bodies – ARLA, NALS, UKALA – can be trusted to do a good job.

However, just like landlords, letting agents have financial ties in the property and often this dictates their attitude.

The Tenants’ Voice recommends to hire the services of a professional inventory company. Indeed, it’s logical to use an impartial party to verify the condition of the property, just like you entrust your deposit to an impartial deposit protection scheme.

Inventory clerks have no merit in manipulating the report and will produce an objective description of the property at the time of the inspection. They receive specialist training and inspect properties for a living, so one can reasonably expect them to do a better job than anybody else, including the letting agent.

If you can arrange it with your landlord, it’s always best to use an inventory company. Since both parties have interest in receiving the most accurate inventory, it’s fair to split the bill, or have one party pay for either of the two reports.

Just like with letting agents, you don’t want to use just any inventory company or you won’t be guaranteed quality results. Always trust inventory companies which are members of the Association of Independent Inventory Clerks (AIIC).


How to check if an inventory is correct

If you missed the initial inspection, you must make sure to obtain the report and verify that it’s accurate up to the condition of the property as you have received it.

Don’t take the inventory for granted. Even if it was produced by an outside company, that doesn’t mean that everything in there is correct or complete.

Remember: You’re interested in seeing every problem in the property reflected in the inventory, not vice versa.

You want to inspect the property room by room, identifying problems and looking for them in the inventory. Take a note and, if possible, a photograph of everything that is missing, or that is incorrectly described in the inventory.

Send the list back to whoever provided you the report and ask for these amendments to be included in the inventory report and to receive a new copy.

It’s important to do this ASAP, in order to make the amendments valid. Make sure to get the landlords written agreement to your amendments and if possible get the latest copy signed by them.

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 initialed

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.

It’s best if you and the landlord cooperate and work on amending the same document until every involved party is satisfied. However, sometimes this is hard to achieve.

In such situations, you need to realise that every day you stay in the property there is a chance for you to alter the state of the property. Thus, you have less chances to validate the condition of the property as you received it.

In such situations, it’s best for you to perform your own inventory.

It’s important to know that just making your own document means nothing. You have to get a copy of it to your landlord and make sure to obtain written consent and if possible a signature that this is the correct version and all items listed are true. Unless you obtain some kind of agreement from your landlord, the inventory you perform is practically weightless in any dispute resolution service or in court.

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.

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This article is provided as a guide. Any information should be used for research purposes and not as the base for taking legal action. The Tenants' Voice does not provide legal advice and our content does not constitute a client-solicitor relationship.

We advise all tenants to act respectfully with their landlords and letting agents and seek a peaceful resolution to problems with their rented property. For more information, explore the articles in our All advice category.

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