in Rental Properties in the UK
By Philip Suter
Inventory is essential for any letting these days be it furnished
or unfurnished. (If the property is unfurnished it still would
normally have carpet, windows, power points etc and all these
should be taken into account.) A few years ago it was not
heard of to use or even find a professional inventory clerk
“north of Watford” in England, but times have changed.
IS AN INVENTORY - An inventory is a binding legal document
that provides an accurate written record of the condition
and contents of a property at the beginning of a tenancy.
It forms part of the contract / Tenancy agreement between
a Landlord and Tenant. It is only effective if it is accurate
so, all defects and soiling must be noted. Some landlords
do not realise that although descriptions can appear uncomplimentary,
it is those descriptions that will allow them to prove whether
a tenant caused damage or is liable for cleaning costs.
individuals who let property think that a list of items will
suffice, however if you have a dispute with a Tenant and have
to go to court, this “shopping list” might be of little use.
you are having a professional inventory prepared, then normally
the inventory clerk will supply three copies of the document.
These should go to the Tenant, owner and a managing agent.
you are preparing this yourself you should list the items
in room order and give every item an individual number. You
should include the following details with detailed comments
are shown beside each description: (If you are using a professional
inventory clerk they should automatically do this anyway).
condition and decorative order, plus the fixtures and fittings
including: doors, windows, drapes/blinds, ceilings, walls,
and other contents, excluding items which the Inventory Clerk
considers as expendable, such as magazines, living plants
are described in layman's terms only. Garden statues, sheds,
outbuildings etc will be described as deemed appropriate.
cellars and similar areas are not normally covered.
points and telephone sockets etc
You should also include the keys and description supplied.
minimise costs, most inventory clerks include items which are
of little real value in general terms i.e. "a quantity of .etc..".
Examples of such items are books, tired bedding, used kitchen
utensils/tableware etc. You will find that if you are using
a professional inventory clerk, that naturally you will pay
more for the make if for example you have left your book library
in the letting, as every book would have to be listed.
a property contain anything considered an antique or of great
value the Inventory Clerk must be notified and if possible,
ideally, valuations should be provided.
Inventory Cleaning: It is recommended that a property is
cleaned to a professional standard for the start of a tenancy
paying particular care to carpets, curtains, upholstery, kitchens
and bathrooms. If an item is soiled at the start of a tenancy
a tenant can not be charged for cleaning it at the end. Landlords
are also advised to retain all receipts.
IN: At a Check in, an Inventory Clerk inspects the property
and compares it to the inventory. Any variations seen are noted
on the inventory. In many cases when an independent clerk is
used they will dictate the inventory and “make it” at the same
time as the check in. This is basically because in so man situations
there is not time to visit a property and “make” the inventory
and then have it typed up in time for the check in when a tenant
moves in. If you are making this yourself then you should have
time to prepare the inventory ready for the tenant checking
the property has been let before, then normally the same inventory
will be used, however if there have been significant changes
to the property since the inventory was last used it is likely
that a new inventory will be required or an up date.
'master inventory' (that agreed at the Check-in) should be kept
safe for use at the end of the tenancy or in the event of a
dispute. The tenant should be provided with a copy together
with a copy of their signature on the declaration page. One
copy of the inventory should be handed to the tenants at the
time of the check in. If the “make” is done at the time of the
check in, the Letting agent or owner should post the inventory
document to the Tenant asking them to acknowledge safe receipt
of it in writing and let them know in writing within so many
days if they do not agree with any of the comments.
- At the end of the tenancy a Check out inspection is carried
out. Notes are made on the 'master inventory' of any variations
since the Check in. An inventory clerk will then list the significant
differences on a Check out report.
is often a major area of dispute. Landlords and tenants are
advised to retain all receipts relating to cleaning and repairs
carried out before or during a tenancy. It should be noted that
an Inventory Clerk cannot comment usefully on any alterations
or additions made after the Check in unless he/she was instructed
to revisit the property in order to examine these changes at
the time they were made.
useful aide memoir is send a tenant a letter a couple of weeks
before the moving out /check out date with a reminder to make
sure the property has been properly cleaned.
Check-out report is the basis for most claims made by landlords.
A claim is most often viewed more favourably if compiled by
an independent and unbiased party such as an Independent Inventory
Clerk, particularly in a Court of Law.
area of major concern is “Fair Wear & Tear” - This has been
defined in part through the legal process. A tenant cannot be
held responsible at the end of a tenancy for changes to a property's
condition caused by what the House of Lords has called "reasonable
use of the premises by the tenant and the ordinary operation
of natural forces (i.e. the passage of time)."
professional inventory clerk uses experience and common sense
to assess the many factors present before reaching a judgement
as to how much should be allowable for Fair Wear and Tear. Amongst
other things they will consider:
quality of the supplied item (and that varies greatly)
condition at the start of the tenancy
condition at the end of the tenancy
is important to realise that the Law does not allow for betterment.
This means that a landlord can not expect to have old replaced
with new at a tenant's expense. A Fair Wear and Tear allowance
must be considered.
tenant has a duty of care to return the property at the end
of a tenancy in the same condition, Fair Wear and Tear excepted,
as that recorded on the Inventory at the start of their tenancy.
have an accepted life expectancy. However, there may be circumstances
where excessive wear and tear require a tenant to pay compensation
or charges to make good, e.g. numerous nail or picture pin holes,
torn wallpaper, gouges in walls/woodwork etc.
for cleaning, making good etc are often apportioned to account
for Fair Wear and Tear.
A tenant renting a property and the inventory from the Check
in inspection notes that the carpet in the living room had not
been freshly cleaned and had a few spot marks. At the end of
the tenancy, the Check out report notes the carpet as soiled.
In this scenario the landlord should not be entitled to full
compensation for the carpet cleaning costs. A fair solution
would be for the tenant to pay a percentage of the cleaning
costs which would be calculated by a professional Inventory
without an inventory report it may prove difficult for a landlord
to make a successful claim against a tenant for damage repair
or cleaning costs. Tenants should also be aware that if an inventory
does not include sufficient notes on the condition of items
at the start of the tenancy, they may be charged for damage
or cleaning that is not their liability. To ensure that end
of tenancy negotiations can be dealt with quickly and easily
it is best to make sure that:
full inventory is prepared before a tenancy starts; The inventory
is checked very carefully during the Check-in inspection and
agreed by both parties; The Check-out inspection is thorough
and any items that may lead to claims are witnessed.
you use a Professional Inventory Clerks, they are carrying this
out as their business and spend all day every day inspecting
properties to make sure that there is sufficient written evidence
to protect landlords and tenants. If you are not using a professional
inventory make your inventory as thorough as you can.
Suter is a Director of JML Property Services - http://www.jmlproperty.co.uk
- a UK based company offering Insurance products on line
and a holiday home advertising service and management training
with in the uk. He is a very experienced property consultant
with over 30 years work in the Residential letting business
and served in the national council of ARLA. He is a Fellow of
the National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA) and a Member
of The association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA)
Suter jml Property Services December 2005
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