As the legal landscape for landlords has changed so much over the course of the past couple of decades, the importance of constructing an inventory has never been greater. Prior to the introduction of greater protection for tenants, the power was effectively in the hands of the landlord to decide deposit disputes. With full control of the deposit return, landlords were accustomed to having their decisions go un-challenged. Yes, there was the opportunity for tenants to take the matter to the courts, but with the cost of the case and no guarantee of victory, tenant challenges were rare. Tenants simply could not afford to make challenges for small deposit amounts.
However, the climate has altered so radically over the course of the last few years. Tenants have been offered more protection by various acts such as the Housing Act of 2004. Now deposits are required to be held in deposit protection schemes with clear instructions for disputes and with arbitrary bodies. The process has become a much fairer system which Westpine Property Lettings is fully supportive of. We recognise the need to adapt to those changes and protect the interests of both our landlords and tenants.
Under Westpine’s Full Management, Rent Collection or Let Only services, landlords can rest assured that we carry out full inventory construction at no extra cost to either the landlord or tenant. It is quite frequent that letting agents will charge one party or the other for this service, or even both! At Westpine we believe it is our responsibility as a management agency to construct a detailed inventory list to protect the interests of both our landlords and tenants. Too often disputes can arise during a deposit return over incorrect details and insufficient information on inventories which could have been easily avoided had a property inspection been completed at the start of the tenancy. The importance of a detailed inventory in black and white for all to see can end conflict before it arises.
So how do Westpine carry out the inventory process? Quite simply with detail, organisation and photographic evidence.
It is imperative that the inventory includes a full description of all the contents of the property, as well as cosmetic information on the condition of the walls, floors, ceilings, windows and doors. For example a fridge should be listed with manufacturer, colour, internal contents and condition. Is this a fridge freezer? Are there any ice-cube trays, glass shelves etc? Best practice involves not using emotive words such as “lovely” or “beautiful.”
A schedule of condition on all items should be produced ranging from excellent, very good, good, fair, poor etc. This is essential for assessing reasonable wear and tear and potential tenant damage at the end of a tenancy. It is necessary to prove the condition of the item in question when the tenancy started. The best way of ensuring this is through photographs for costly and major items and to ensure that the tenant signs and returns the inventory, or is made aware that if they do not return the document signed, it is an indication of acceptance of the condition of the items. Photographs taken should have dates/times. This can then be accepted should any legal dispute occur.
Westpine recognise the need to pick up on potential issues during interim property inspections which we carry out during the course of the tenancy under our Full Management service. This can prevent further damage being done to the property and can identify issues before the tenancy ends and before the deposit is due to be returned. A detailed inventory which is organised from room to room and listed clockwise on door entry can help an agent when carrying out an inspection look for any missing items.
It is also vital that any exterior items are listed on the inventory. This can include items left in the garden, shed, garage and which the tenant has access to. Meter readings should also be read and included on any inventory to ensure that a tenant is aware of the utility company and their responsibility to make payments whilst they are a tenant. Unless this information is included and agreed by the tenant, it is not possible to enforce and the responsibility for payment could ultimately fall back to the landlord.
The inventory is absolutely vital for any landlord/management agency when it comes to the check-out of the tenant. Unless the information is detailed and photos were taken at the commencement of the tenancy, there is a risk that the contents can be substituted for lesser quality items. For example if an item was listed as “black television” a tenant could substitute his own black television. The listed television may have been brand new and 50” but may have been replaced with a 10 year old 32.” It is unlikely to be proven in court that this television was swapped during the tenancy. However, had size, manufacturer, serial number etc been listed and a photo taken, it is likely that a court would have ruled in the favour of the landlord over such a dispute.
Just as items can be removed during tenancies, furniture additions can also be left at a property. It can be very frustrating for landlords when old and useless furniture is left in properties and the former tenants treat the property as a dumping ground for items they do not wish to take with them. It can prove very costly to dispose of such bulky furniture. Without an inventory, there would be no way for the landlord to prove this furniture was left by the tenant. A detailed inventory signed by all parties would remove any doubt over items that were in the property at the time the tenancy commenced. A landlord would then be able to relay reasonable disposal costs of the items to the tenant and this would be expected to be able to be deducted from the deposit.
Westpine recognise that a detailed inventory listing can be time-consuming for a busy landlord. Our service is catered to include this process at no charge. We understand that it is vital for the landlord, tenant and agent to have the inventory in place to settle disputes and protect the interests of all parties. Our advice is – use an agent which you can trust to carry out a detailed and thorough inventory, it may just save you a lot of money in the long-run.
Westpine can be contacted on 01204 694121, www.westpinelettings.com or at 87 Winter Hey Lane, Horwich, Bolton, BL6 7PA.