How to compile a solid inventory

Warren Lewis
6th February 2015
To Let 2

Using technology in inventories appears to save time and money, but in reality it is not full proof.

More often than not, technology does not provide sufficient detail to provide indisputable evidence of the original condition of the property at the start of a tenancy.

The perception of inventories by some lettings agents is that they can be very long, time-consuming and laborious. As a result, several landlords and management companies opt for the use of technology in inventories believing it will save them time and money.

The use of technology in inventories claims to help landlords and management companies to complete inventories in a matter of minutes, with the ability to add large quantities of photographs, which can provide evidence in tenancy, dispute claims.

Danny Zane, Director of My Property Inventories explains:  “In many tenancy dispute cases, the adjudicators are likely to reject some technology-based inventories, as they cannot deliver the level of detail required which means that the landlord can lose hundreds of pounds in lost cases.

Many landlords and agents are using digital evidence to replace essential written descriptions in inventories, at check-in and check-out, leaving landlords exposed to potentially costly disputes over damage and other issues. The law clearly states that the deposit remains the tenant’s money and that they are entitled to get it back at the end of their stay, provided they have met the terms of the tenancy agreement, so the onus lies with the agent or landlord to provide proof of any proposed deductions.  

Without an accurate and properly detailed inventory, a landlord has no evidence to prove that the property has been damaged in any way during the tenancy and therefore will find it almost impossible to withhold any deposit money from the tenants.  

A glossy inventory that relies heavily on photographs will be of little use in a dispute. In fact, there is no point in producing a picture book for an inventory, with very little proper description and hundreds of photographs – inventories like these just do not provide enough detail.

Photography and video are great for large areas of damage such as carpet burns, serious damage to worktops and interior décor etc.  However, they are not so good for showing really fine detail - the sort of problems that occur most frequently on a check-out, such as small chips and scratches in sinks and baths, knife marks on worktops, scratches to halogen hobs.  All of which will cause financial loss to the landlord if negligence can’t be proved.

Inventory reports should contain a full description of a property and its contents, with detail on every bit of damage and its exact location at the start of a tenancy.  This can be supported with photographs and video – but these need to be of a high quality, so that any damage can be seen clearly.  As an inventory is a binding legal document that provides a complete record of the condition and contents of a property, it is only effective if it is accurate.

Danny continued: "The good news is that some agents and landlords are producing some excellent inventories with the right balance of detail, supported by photography and video.  But, more often than not, the photographs submitted in inventories are little larger than thumbnails and hence make it extremely difficult to see detail. To back up a damage issue, along with a detailed description, any photographs need to be of a reasonable size, so that the damage can actually be seen clearly.”

MyPropertyInventories has put together some guidelines below on photographs as additional evidence:

-Ideally, ‘before and after’ photos should be taken with a clear narrative as to what the photo is showing e.g. colours, item description, marks on surfaces

-Photographs should include something to show scale within the photo and they should clearly show the condition of the property at any given time

-Even if the photographs are just to be incorporated in the inventory for reference, they need to be a decent size  

-Photographs should be dated – check the camera is set to automatically to put the date on the picture.  Alternatively, the date should be embedded in the inventory document either on the relevant pages or as an addendum page.

-If photographs are going to be printed out, the printer used needs to be good quality.  Too often cheap printers distort the colour.  Even good printers give false colours when cartridges start to run out

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