Why Inventory Checks Are So Important

In 2020-2021, according to the Tenancy deposit scheme, around 35,000 tenancies ended with a dispute on the return of the deposit. Disputes arose for reasons to do with cleanliness, damage, redecoration, gardening and rent arrears as the main factors. Deposit disputes can take time and cause stress to both the landlord and tenant, which can be easily avoided by carrying out a really robust inventory check at the start and end of the tenancy.

What is an inventory check?

Inventory checks are a detailed inspection of the property which is then written up in a very detailed document which has both photos and detailed descriptions of the condition of the property as well as the contents in the property. This includes the garden and any outhouses. Inventories can be carried out on both furnished to unfurnished rental properties.

What is checked in an inventory?

At its most basic, everything is checked, photographed and documented:

  • Light switches
  • Electrical sockets
  • Smoke and CO alarms (which also have to be tested)
  • Windows and doors along with their handles
  • Walls, floors and ceilings
  • All furniture that is provided
  • All crockery and cutlery that is provided
  • All cupboards, worksurfaces and drawers
  • Any white goods provided along with ovens, hobs and extractors
  • Baths, sinks, toilets, showers
  • Gardens and driveway
  • Shed, summer houses and any other outhouse
  • Light fittings
  • Curtains and blinds
  • Utility meter boxes and readings

The inventory should have both photos and a detailed description of condition. Quite often photos alone don’t really show the condition of an item properly so the description is also needed to supplement that. When carrying out an inventory check, ensure that the tenant is present and agrees with the condition report. When detailing furniture and other provided items like crockery, cutlery or window coverings, if you can, also state the make and model/style as well as condition and quantities.

It is important to get the check-in report correct and agreed with the tenant and signed by both parties. This is then the basis for comparing the check-out report. It is important to remember that when looking at the property at check-out, fair wear and tear has to be taken into account. This is often a grey area as there is no legal definition of what fair wear and tear is and this will depend a lot on the length of the tenancy, how many people were living in the property and the quality of the item being used.

At the end of the tenancy, using the check-in report as the basis, the property should again be inspected with the tenant present and the current condition of everything logged and documented as per the contents in the check-in report. Any issues should be discussed at the time and documented, if possible with remediation costs where applicable. The check-out report should then also be agreed and signed by both parties.

Although it can be time consuming and generate a rather large report, the inventory checks are an important part of any tenancy to ensure that, subject to fair wear and tear, the property is left in the same condition at the end of the tenancy as it was at the start. The more detail that can be put into the report, the less chance there is for disagreement at the end of the tenancy and the less chance of a dispute.